Time flies, but tragic situations never leave the mind. Ever. Pardon me as I blend Cardinal baseball and a tragic stop in my family’s history. A personal dose for a beautiful October day, as I flash back to a less pretty day. October 7th, 2011.
Four years ago at this time, I was in a small hospital room at St. Louis Children’s hospital. My son, Vincent, was taken to the emergency room earlier that afternoon because he was pale white and not breathing normally. It would be later announced that he was suffering from SVT, which is superventricular tachycardia, which is caused by Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. Basically, there is an extra pathway sending signals towards your heart causing it to speed up. One pathway is enough so this extra route causes more action and jumped the kid’s heart rate into the 200’s. In other words, not good. We were shoved into a small room at first with about 20 nurses, doctors and surgeons.
Eventually we were moved into a slightly bigger room with less people. Family came and went. Sad faces. After they electric shocked Vinny’s heart(causing my wife to crumble), he was stabilized but he had a breathing tube shoved down his throat. We were miserable but he was worse. There’s nothing worse in life than feeling defenseless as a parent in a hospital. Anyway, let me tie this to the Cardinals before you click away.
October 7th was Game 5 of the NLDS between the Cards and Philadelphia Phillies. Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay would oppose each other in Citizens Bank Ballpark that evening to see which team moved on to the NLCS. After a hard fought series that seemed like 16 games instead of four, two buddies were duel for the next series. What a game to take in with your son clinging to his life?
On a small 19 inch hospital television, my dad and I watched the game. My mom and wife tried to but the kid being in bad shape held their attention more. I’d be lying if I told you I wanted to stare at my poor kid for three hours while he lied there helpless. I wanted to watch baseball. I’m not a doctor and never sought out to be. I was at the mercy of doctors, nurses, fate, and whatever you want to slide into the emotional blender. I needed baseball. At our lowest moment, sports can be the greatest painkiller. A time travel special. A glorious distraction that turns our bodies away from the harshness of life.
Skip Schumaker put the Cards ahead 1-0 in the first inning, and I could have swore the Phillies would break through for at least a run against Carpenter. Here was a guy who refused to lose that fall. He was Lee Marvin in the Dirty Dozen. Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter. Chuck Norris in Delta Force. Rambo in First Blood. Chris Carpenter didn’t care if he was pitching in a hitter’s park sandbox. He didn’t care about the noise. He didn’t care about the odds. All he did was pitch the game of his life or another gem. After all, he pitched two complete games and three straight gems to finish September. After the Phillies got to him on October 2nd, Carp wanted revenge and he got it. He didn’t allow the Phillies to score that night. He allowed three hits, struck out three and induced 19 groundball outs. He didn’t just beat the Phillies. He took away their dignity and in the end, their best hitter in Ryan Howard, as the slugger crumbled to the ground after making the 27th out.
This win was much needed. My dad and I smiled at each other throughout the night; Two men appreciating the game like it was our first one together. Between innings, doctors came in and gave us updates on Vinny. Nurses came and went. A few family members said hello and left. I was a six foot tightened case of emotions that night. The thing about hospitals is you are never in control. You enter them and all bets are off. The docs can tell you everything is okay but the next day it may not be. When I needed a lift the most, Carpenter, Skip and the Birds gave it to me.
The rest of that postseason is fine history. The Cards beat the Brewers in six, and after falling to their knees against Texas, fought back in arguably the greatest playoff game of all time. Championship #11 belonged to St. Louis. Health returned to Vincent. He left the hospital only to return a short while later for a stomach procedure but has been healthy since. These days, his weight and height are in the high 90’s when compared to other kids. He’s a beast for all intents and purposes.
It’s a date I’ll never forget. I refuse to forget. You can’t forget where you came from because the moment you do, you leave yourself very vulnerable for what’s coming ahead. Four years ago, Chris Carpenter outdueled a Doc on the field, and the real docs helped keep my son alive. That’s baseball and life rolled into one night.
Thanks for reading.