Mel Stottlemyre (considering the odds & not complaining)

My name is Howdy, and I’m still a paper wrangler.

Oh, I have e-files, too, of great letters, articles of lasting importance to me, and no doubt lots of ephemera that will make me wonder, Why did I hang on to that, again? In our move back from China, though, I also had the challenge of deciding what magazine tear-outs would make the luggage weight limit, and have come back to hundreds more in my big green Ottawa filing cabinet in the garage. So.

I ran across a column from Steve Rushin — he’s excellent, a very funny writer, though not in this piece — in the July 12, 2004 Sports Illustrated. (Paper hoarders sometimes get to remember useful things, and fine.) He was writing about cancer, multiple myeloma, because his big brother Jim had it and, more famously, so did a couple of superb ex-big-league ballplayers. Rushin began this way: We have ‘disillusionment’, but not an opposite word (illusionment) for when somebody’s even better than you thought. He was talking about Mel Stottlemyre, a former major league pitching star.

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1999, Stottlemyre was the pitching coach for the New York Yankees when the column came out; a former rival, power hitter Don Baylor, the hitting coach for the cross-town Mets, had been diagnosed in ’03 and was also featured in the piece.

I loved the contrarian, un-self-pitying, and humble tone of this short answer by Stottlemyre to one of Rushin’s questions:

“I’ve never asked, ‘Why me?’ I mean, why not me? I’m just another human being.”

Yes. It’s a fine column, and I wish I could link it for you. Stottlemyre and Baylor, as of this writing, appear to still be in remission from their cancer, and so does Jim Rushin. His little brother Steve, the writer, doesn’t do his back-page column for SI anymore (a minor pity for sports lit-wits, say I) but has several books and the occasional long-form column for the magazine.

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