Each month, More Hardball bestows our Hardball Heroes award to players who are not likely to be immortalized in Cooperstown, but whose athleticism and sportsmanship left an impression on us. This month, we honor Dave Dravecky whose All Star career was cut short due to the devastating effects of cancer. While his career stats will never be enough to warrant entry in the Hall of Fame, his inspirational comeback, and post-baseball career demonstrate his indomitable character.
Dave Dravecky made his Major League debut in 1982 with the San Diego Padres, and within a year, he had proven himself worthy of representing them in the All Star game. Dravecky was a solid southpaw pitcher who was equally comfortable as a starter or reliever. He spent 5 seasons with the Padres and was traded to the Giants during the 1987 season. In 1988, his pitching arm began to cause him trouble. Doctors examined his arm and found a cancerous growth. Although the cancer was not malignant, it was destroying his deltoid muscle and humerus bone. In October, Dravecky underwent surgery to remove half of his deltoid muscle, and was told that "short of a miracle" he would never play baseball again.
Through his faith and determination, Dravecky endured an arduous rehabilitation and by July of 1989, he was pitching for the San Jose Giants and, later, the Phoenix Firebirds. Against all odds, and to the amazement of baseball fans, Dave Dravecky returned to the Majors on August 10th, 1989. Beginning in the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds, Dravecky pitched a surprising 8 innings and earned a 4-3 win. Five days later, Dravecky was the starting pitcher against the Expos, and by the close of the fifth inning, he had allowed no runs. Sadly, though, he began struggling in the sixth, and allowed Damaso Garcia to hit a home run. He pitched two balls and two strikes against Andres Galarraga before hitting him with a pitch. His next pitch against Tim Raines would be the last of his career. Dravecky's arm had broken in two places on a wild pitch. His amazing comeback and his career was over. In his eight season career, Dravecky pitched 1062.2 innings, 558 strikeouts, earned 64 wins, 10 saves, 3.13 era, and 1.207 whip.
Dravecky's cancer had returned, and subsequent treatments resulted in an infection. By 1991, Dravecky bore the hardship of the amputation of his left arm and shoulder. While he faced depression, it was ultimately his faith that allowed him to begin a new life. That year, he and his wife founded the Outreach for Hope Foundation, a ministry dedicated to reaching out to those who had suffered cancer and amputation. Today, Dravecky is a highly sought after motivational speaker, author and editor of many Christian books. Dave Dravecky considers baseball as the starting point to his purpose in life; to help others.
"Do not deny the impact your life can have on others." ~Dave Dravecky