The World Series provides a chance to spotlight the case of a big-league manager who's survived a harrowing cancer battle this year, thanks to the good work of his physicians.
“The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.”
I’ve got baseball on my mind a lot lately. I’m a long-suffering but deep-loving New York Mets fan. This week the team will play in its first World Series in 15 years (it’s been 29 years since they won it all). It will consume me for days. But still, I’m thinking about baseball beyond just the Mets.
It’s in the news—John Farrell, the 53-year-old manager of Boston Red Sox’s, is a cancer survivor. And he’s alive and well today thanks to the medical profession. John, who managed the Red Sox to the 2013 World Series championship, recently gave all the healthcare credit to his physicians. And he’s strong enough to return to his Major League Baseball managing duties for the 2016 season.
For sure, cancer is no longer a death sentence—and the nation’s oncologists (indeed, all healthcare professionals) deserve so much credit.
According to a post at Boston.com, John “considers himself fortunate that the cancer (non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) was caught early, during hernia surgery. He underwent eight weeks of chemotherapy, a program that was accelerated because of the aggressiveness of the cancer. But the manager said he didn’t lose any weight and he never vomited from the treatment. He thanked his doctors and the Red Sox owners and organization for supporting him.”
A school mate of mine and close friend when we were young guys (growing up in Monmouth Beach, NJ), John was destined for great things. In the beginning he won with his ability and later he succeeded with his drive. John had what one could describe as a notable playing career. First of all, he made it to the Big Leagues and pitched for parts of eight pro seasons—so few men make it to “The Show.”
Among his on-field claims to fame were getting a win in his first major league appearance (August 18, 1987), stopping then the fifth-longest hitting streak in major league history (Paul Molitor, whose 39-game streak was ended, gave his game bat to John), throwing 8 2/3 innings of no-hit, no-run baseball, being named American League Pitcher of the Week, and starting, pitching masterfully, and winning a game on national TV in Yankee Stadium (he struck out Wade Boggs, a rare feat). Perhaps my favorite memory of John’s career was the night my boyhood sports idol, Mets pitcher Tom Seaver, complimented him on his pitching during a game that “Tom Terrific” was announcing on TV.
John really has a most impressive pro baseball resume. He was the pitching coach for the Red Sox when they won the World Series in 2007. He got his start in coaching from former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who in 2004 famously broke the “Curse of the Bambino,” guiding Boston to its first World Series title in 86 years. Francona, John’s former teammate and close friend, joined him for his first chemo treatment this summer.
In addition to his great success with the Red Sox, John was a much-respected judge of professional baseball talent. He left a top player development position with the Cleveland Indians to go back onto the field as a Boston coach. The GM in Cleveland once said that John had a “PhD in baseball.”
Noted for his competitive drive, toughness, and spirit as a baseball player, John was an All-State pitcher for New Jersey’s Shore Regional High School (he graduated two years after me) and an outstanding Oklahoma State University pitcher (an OSU Hall of Famer who made four appearances in the College World Series). John has three sons who are fine ball players themselves. His son Luke is also a cancer survivor.
Many locals I know believe that John acquired his get-up-and-go from his father, Tom, who was a top left-handed pitching prospect for Cleveland Indians in the 1950s. Tom went on the support a wife and six children working as a lobster fishermen — an activity John liked to do for play, but not for life.
Best wishes and good health to my buddy John Farrell and thanks to the doctors for keeping him around. And Let’s Go Mets!!
Image courtesy of Keith Allison / Creative Commons License