By David Everett Fisher
On September 3rd, 2014, the Oakland Athletics were 79 and 60, four and a half games behind the Los Angeles Angels in the AL west, and were about to start Jon Lester against King Felix Hernandez at the Coliseum when I felt like I was having a heart attack. I worked in a rock and roll bar in NW Portland, but everyone knew that if I was working behind the bar, baseball would be on, but today I was trying to figure out if I had a pulled muscle, was having a panic attack, or if my heart was quitting. I told the cook that I had to leave and go to the hospital.
It turned out that I had stage 3 testicular cancer. I felt it in my chest because the cancer had metastasized into my lungs. Three days later I was less one testicle and beginning an intense first round of chemo therapy. I was scared, alone, and confused.
I spent a month off and on in the hospital the next three months. Lying in a hospital bed and trying to get out of my head so I don’t dread my own mortality was difficult, but for two to four hours a day there were baseball games.
The Okland A’s were taking winning seriously in 2014. Some say they took it too seriously when they traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester and party boy Jonny Gomes, but at least it was a trade towards trying to win then the usual rebuilding strategy. All Oakland had to do was get one of the wild card spots.
The singe wild card game gave one more team a chance to play in the post season. Before that, the wild card would be the fourth team that had the best record that wasn’t the divisional leader. This gave some teams that couldn’t compete before a chance to compete. Plus, a single game that had the feeling of a game 7? That brought some entertaining drama to baseball.
I was sick, and I was having a pretty hard time everyday, but my beloved Oakland A’s were pushing towards the post season as I went to several chemotherapy appointment a week, cat scans, blood work, and just the uncomfortable fatigue that chemo brings you. These A’s were giving me some hope and joy.
On September 30th the Oakland Athletics met the Kansas City Royals in the American League wild card game in what can only be described as one of the best baseball games ever played. I am saying this even though Oakland lost. I am saying this even though Oakland blew a lead. I am saying this because this game had all the drama and uncertainty a baseball game could have in 12 innings.
Oakland had a comfortable 7-3 lead at the 7th inning, but in the eighth Kansa City played my favorite kind of baseball: small ball. Kansas City used pinch runner Jarrod Dyson to get around the bases every which way a guy can. Sac bunts, stealing, and a sac fly. That Dyson Jarrod, in hindsight, was the very turnaround of that game.
Kansas City ended up winning the game in the 12th inning 9-8. Oakland made some error, and it cost them the game. The outcome of that game was not what I had wanted, but I couldn’t be mad. Both teams played beautifully, but Kansas City won that game with better strategy.
Meanwhile, San Francisco beat Pittsburgh in the NL wild card game and both wild card teams met up in the World Series, and due to it being an even year, San Francisco beat the Kansas City Royals in a 7 game series.
I don’t know if it is because I way lying on a couch with cancer that entire post season, but it turned out to be one of the most exciting post seasons. It was what I had needed. Baseball is the escape that I needed when most of the time my chemo brain kept me prisoner. While I was unsure how I would feel day to day, baseball gave me hope and a small degree of relief.
The irony is that my cancer came back this year. Nowhere as strong as 2014, so my chemo treatment is much lighter and manageable. I didn’t get the exciting Oakland A’s wild card game, but I did get two game 163 tie-breakers, a 13 inning NL wild card game, a post season that includes a dominating Milwaukee Brewer team, and who knows what the near future has in store with the rest of the NLCS Brewers versus Los Angeles Dodgers and the ALCS Boston versus Houston series, who could go on to win back to back World Series.
Baseball is healing in times of trouble and helps keep joy in times that are good. Baseball has helped me out of some dark places before, and baseball will be there if I need it again.
“Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.”
-Ernest Lawrence Thayer