Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation.
I’ve written before on this blog about my open heart surgery in 2001 to repair a ruptured sinus valsalva aneurysm. What I haven’t written about is the role that baseball, the Red Sox, and former Sox catcher Scott Hatteberg (below) played in the whole surgery-recovery experience.
Early in the morning on August 6, 2001, lying on my back in a hospital and nervous about having my chest sawed open, I was wheeled into an operating room feet first. I recall looking up at the room number and suddenly feeling totally comforted about the outcome of the surgery. Why? It was room 37. That was my uniform number during the ten years I pitched for Avi Nelson Club in the Yawkey Amateur Baseball League of Boston. I just knew that was a sign. A good sign. (Hey, even us amateur baseball players never lose our superstitions….)
Fast-forward about 15 hours to 9:30pm. The successful surgery had been completed by noon and I had been unconscious in the intensive care unit all afternoon and night. My wife, pregnant with child #2, had gone home to put our two year-old son to bed and my parents were sitting by my side, watching the Red Sox-Rangers game on the TV, waiting for me to wake up from my drug-induced haze. The doctors had told them I would probably open my eyes by midnight. Exhausted themselves from a long day at the hospital, my parents finally decided to go home too – but before they left, they asked the nurses, “Please don’t turn off the TV. If Rob wakes up with the Red Sox game on, he’ll be happy.”
Now, shift to my perspective. This is what I remember as I regained consciousness: I began to open my eyes, the room was dark except for the glowing TV, and the commentator was yelling something: “… long drive, way back, GRAND SLAM SCOTT HATTEBERG, and THE RED SOX TAKE BACK THE LEAD!”
At the precise moment I woke up from my surgery and realized I was still alive, Scott Hatteberg hit a go-ahead grand slam, sending Fenway fans into a delerious frenzy. I was all alone in the room at that moment – just me, Scott Hatteberg, and the screams of the Fenway Faithful. Needless to say, I was pretty emotional as I lay there in my bed — out of gratitude for a “second birth” and also moved by the in-your-face-baseball-joy playing out on my TV. I remember that my whole body was pretty sore, and I remember being simply amazed that that euphoric Red Sox moment was chosen for me to return to consciousness. It will always be one of my life’s most incredible memories.
Hatteberg’s slam came in the bottom of the sixth inning, following the Rangers’ demoralizing five-run fifth inning, and neither the Red Sox nor the Rangers scored any more runs the rest of the game, resulting in a 10-7 victory for the Sox. (See box score here.) Interestingly, in Hatteberg’s previous at-bat in that game, he hit into a triple play, and his subsequent grand slam made him the first and only player in major league history to hit into a triple play then hit a grand slam in consecutive at bats. His bat from that game is on display at Cooperstown.
Upon hearing this story of my dramatic “awakening,” one of my teaching colleagues, Matt Parke, now a basketball coach at Guilford College in North Carolina, doctored and then emailed me this photo of Hatteberg’s Fenway curtain call (right).
Someday, when Hatteberg (now a member of the Cincinnati Reds) is retired, I hope to meet him and tell him about how one of the best moments of his life was also one of the best moments of mine.