Calling the Pen: Eager to stay off the injured list - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Calling the Pen

Calling the Pen: Eager to stay off the injured list

Photo Credit: Jack Gibbons

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As the editor of BaltimoreBaseball.com, I read a lot of stories about Oriole players going on the injured list, their rehab assignments and their return. There are usually estimates on how long they’ll be out. Most want to beat those estimates, which reflects their competitive nature. Some keep getting hurt, and might be referred to as injury-prone or hear that they’ve had an injury-plagued career.

I don’t live in their world, although I used to dream that I might. The first time I paid attention to the injuries baseball players suffer was when Sandy Koufax, my favorite pitcher, retired on November 18th, 1966, just over a month after losing to 20-year-old Jim Palmer in the World Series and after winning 27 games that season. Koufax had an arthritic left elbow.

Another injury close to home caught my attention the following year. Frank Robinson, my favorite player, got hurt after sliding into the knee of Chicago White Sox second baseman Al Weis in an effort to break up a double play. Robinson succeeded on that front, but he didn’t know it because he had been knocked out. Weis had to be helped off the field after tearing knee ligaments, and Robinson came to just before they would have taken him off on a stretcher. He had a concussion and double vision.

I still sometimes think that I’m that sophomore in high school, running home after the final bell to ensure I wouldn’t miss any of the 1966 World Series, which was played in the afternoon. I got home in time to see the Robinson brothers, Frank and Brooks, hit back-to-back home runs against Don Drysdale, Koufax’s teammate, in Game 1. I had bet a man my dad knew a hot chocolate for a coffee that the Orioles would sweep the Dodgers. Still my most satisfying cup of hot chocolate.

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My passion for baseball keeps me connected to my youth, although my body has been giving me hints that I could no longer make that dash from school to home as quickly or as easily. And, that just maybe, I might get hurt doing it.

This is my ninth year running for Athletes Serving Athletes, a nonprofit group that uses folks like me, although mostly younger and stronger, to push joggers that carry athletes with disabilities in mainstream races. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had running, the joy surpassed only by how gratifying it feels. The only part I don’t like is getting up so early, but it’s always worth any sleep I lose.

The biggest obstacle for me, though, has been staying healthy. Four years ago, I broke my left heel while running on the NCR trail. The following year, I broke a toe on my right foot trying to sprint up the stairs when I heard something fall in the room of one of my grandchildren. Last year, it was prostate surgery and this year it was hernia surgery. By the way, I thought I had a good joke just before my prostate surgery, which was on March 1st. The nurse asked when was the last time I had anything to eat. I said, “I haven’t had anything to eat since last month.” She just looked at me, and went on to the next question. My wife, Barb, just shook her head.

I didn’t attempt any lame jokes before the hernia surgery, but I did listen to the nurse who was checking my vitals. She saw on my chart that this was my second surgery in about a year and encouraged me to take the larger number if they said 4-to-6 weeks. Today was 6 weeks, and I ran for the first time — walking, doing an easy mile, walking and doing a second easy mile.

It felt good to be back, and I’m hoping it’s for good. Or at least for a while. I miss running, especially with my ASA family. I don’t like being on the injured list any more than those players I still enjoy watching.

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