Ben Petrick's inspirational story
September, 26, 2012
By Buster Olney | ESPN Insider
By the time Ben Petrick walked away from baseball at age 27, he left behind the vivid memories that he created for others, cemented by the revelation that Petrick had been playing with an incurable disease.
As "E:60" put together its piece on Petrick, which aired for the first time Tuesday and can be seen here, we heard so many stories about the former catcher. Brandon Inge was Petrick's roommate years ago, after Petrick had been traded to the Tigers, and while sitting at table in Lakeland, Fla., last March, Inge recalled a difficult moment.
"I remember the spring training he had a couple of throws from the outfield," Inge said. "I'm pretty sure Kirk Gibson was one of our coaches. [Petrick] came up and he was throwing to home plate -- and he throws the ball not even to home, not even to third but halfway in between. Like it wasn't even a base. And I remember coming back in and he's all mad and Kirk Gibson is jumping on him. 'What are you doing, where are you throwing the ball?'
"And he doesn't say a word, he doesn't make an excuse, he doesn't say anything and we ended up getting all over him."
Tears glistened in Inge's eyes as he continued. The following year, he said, he heard that Petrick had retired -- and that Petrick revealed, for the first time, that he had been playing with early onset Parkinson's disease.
"I roomed with this guy an entire spring," Inge said, "and played with this guy an entire year, that guy never told me one time that he had Parkinson's. He didn't want the Parkinson's to be an excuse for why he was playing bad. He never wanted to make an excuse.
"I mean, how easy of an excuse it would be to say, 'I have Parkinson's, that is why I made a bad throw,' which is a legit excuse. But he never said it once -- not once."
Within a few years, the symptoms of Parkinson's had overcome Petrick, and beyond the physical impact of the disease, he struggled with the embarrassment of going from an extraordinary athlete to someone with tremors, with the shaking that comes with the disease. He reached out to actor Michael J. Fox, after reading his book, and asked Fox about this.
"[Expletive] vanity," Fox told Petrick, words that have helped Petrick.
Ben and Kellie Petrick now live on the same street as his parents and his brother Rian -- Petrick Lane, really -- and through the making of the "E:60" piece, I received the gift of meeting them and witnessing their mutual support and love and humor. He and Vern Petrick, Ben's father (diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1999), share Parkinson's jokes -- such as when his father talked about going to a urinal, while shaking, and saying to the man standing next to him that he bet he made him nervous.
I was along for the ride in this. Producers Vin Cannamela and John Minton did the heavy lifting, and we all plowed in the wake of Steve Wulf's exceptional written story, published earlier this year.
• Freddie Freeman generated one of the great moments of the year, hitting a playoff-clinching home run. "Sunday Night Baseball" colleague Terry Francona noted in spring training that the Atlanta Braves had really seemed to do a great job in moving past their 2011 collapse -- learning from it, making the necessary adjustments. And now they'll have a chance to climb baseball's mountain this fall.
Chipper Jones plans to play through this entire homestand.
From Elias Sports Bureau: The Braves have won the past 22 starts by Kris Medlen, matching the all-time record of consecutive team wins in a pitcher's starts. Medlen tied Whitey Ford (1950-53, Yankees) and Carl Hubbell (1936-37, Giants).
• The closest race left now is in the AL Central, where the Detroit Tigers moved into a first-place tie Tuesday behind a dominant performance from Anibal Sanchez. The Tigers are in the midst of two weeks of games against the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox still have series remaining against the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians.
The White Sox's season is still waiting to be defined, writes David Haugh.
• Oakland is like a struggling marathoner in the final mile: The Athletics are staggering a little bit, having lost so much during this race -- Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson -- but the finish line is within sight, and every stride is a victory. The Athletics pulled out a win in Texas Tuesday, with a George Kottaras home run, and it seemed monumental.
The Los Angeles Angels, running two games behind Oakland in the wild-card race, also won; that Mike Trout guy scored two more runs, and Zack Greinke was The Man. The status quo isn't what the Angels need these days, writes Bill Plunkett.
Meanwhile, Yu Darvish was scratched from his next start, an ominous development.
• Bernie Miklasz writes that Yadier Molina's season is as good as anything he has seen from a player in the last 25 years, including all of Albert Pujols' work in St. Louis.
It seems very possible that two of the top four spots on a lot of NL MVP ballots will include catchers -- Molina and Buster Posey. Right now, the top of my theoretical ballot would look like this (I don't have a real vote):
Fangraphs' NL WAR rankings are here, for those wondering.
• It turns out that Dusty Baker suffered a mini-stroke the other day, the Cincinnati Reds say. Baker's health is a concern, given the stress of managing, writes Paul Daugherty.
I talked with Dusty briefly the other day in the runway leading from the home dugout to the Reds' clubhouse, and he mentioned that he needed to leave before the start of Sunday's game, because "they" -- his doctors, presumably -- had told him that it was too soon for him to return to his old post.
• Cincinnati's postseason rotation appears set.
• The scene in Atlanta must have been surreal, when teammates cranked up the volume on Ozzie Guillen's response to Heath Bell. Bell wore the black hat in this situation, writes Linda Robertson.
• The San Francisco Giants will formally announce that Melky Cabrera is persona non grata.
• Todd Helton wants to come back next year.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. It looks like Davey Johnson will be back in 2013.
2. Roy Halladay would like to make one more start this season.
3. Jason Varitek is close to working out a role with the Boston Red Sox, writes Rob Bradford.
4. Walt Jocketty transformed the Reds, writes Tom Groeschen.
5. The blame for the Pirates' collapse goes to the very top, writes Ron Cook.
6. Jack Wilson is retiring.
Dings and dents
1. Brett Gardner was activated from the disabled list.
2. Randy Wolf's season could be over.
3. Carlos Quentin could be done as a regular in 2012.
By The NumbersFrom ESPN Stats & Info
10: Straight losses for the Astros against the Cardinals.
16: Wins for Cole Hamels, setting a new career high.
19: Wins for David Price, tying his career high set in 2010.
20: Strikeouts for the Angels' pitching staff; ties most by team in nine-inning game in MLB history.
26: Wins in one-run games for the Twins, tied for second most in AL behind the Orioles (27).
1,418: Career hits for David Wright, tying the Mets' all-time hits record with Ed Kranepool.
• The New York Yankees missed a chance to expand their lead in the AL East.
• The Baltimore Orioles were shut out and remain 1.5 games out of first place. Meanwhile, Jason Hammel keeps trying to make it work.
• Tampa Bay is still alive and kicking, although the Rays' margin for error is almost entirely gone. David Price was excellent again, as Marc Topkin writes. Jose Molina is out with a quad strain. Tampa Bay is running aggressively, as Roger Mooney writes.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Price dominated the Red Sox:
A) Price threw 41 percent fastballs Tuesday, his lowest percentage in his career. According to the Associated Press, Price said catcher Jose Molina told him in a mound visit in the third inning to start mixing in more changeups and curveballs.
B) He threw 59 percent fastballs through three innings and allowed six hits; he threw 32 percent fastballs from the fourth inning on and allowed one hit while striking out 10 of the 19 batters he faced.
C) Price threw a career-high 37 curveballs, 31 of which came after the third inning. Price induced 12 outs on his curveball without allowing a hit, including six outs via strikeout. Both are career bests.
Pitchers to throw 13 K, 0 BB complete game vs. Red Sox (all time)
David Price: 2012 Rays (at Fenway)
Mike Mussina: 2001 Yankees (one-hitter at Fenway)
Roger Clemens: 2000 Yankees
Rube Waddell: 1906 Athletics
• The Red Sox lost again at home, which has been a serious problem this year.
• Aaron Laffey did great work for the Toronto Blue Jays.
• The Royals had to have been impressed by a prospective employee, as Bob Dutton writes.
• Vinnie Pestano got some revenge, as Paul Hoynes writes.
• Chris Perez was short in his answers with reporters, but again made it clear he prefers a different situation. In this Hoynes piece, he relays the questions and answers with Perez after he got the save Tuesday:
- Reporter: How did it feel to play the spoiler today?
- Perez: "I could care less. I'd rather be playing for something."
- Reporter: How have you managed to stay sharp between save opportunities?