Extra Innings - Fred Claire's Journey to City of Hope and Finding a World Championship Team is an amazing read.
22 miles northeast of Los Angeles is Duarte, California. This is where City of Hope Medical Center rests on 100-plus acres. World changing cancer research and treatment takes place there, and has been for many years. Thanks to Claire telling his story to author Tim Madigan in Extra Innings (mascotbooks.com), the word is out to so many more people on just what a medical jewel City of Hope is.
For many, as is the case with myself, it's Claire's background in professional baseball that has brought to light about the lives City of Hope touches everyday. For 30 years, Dodger Stadium was Claire's workplace. Hired in July of 1969 as a member of the Dodgers' public relations department, Claire worked his way up to being named the club's general manager in April 1987.
Claire held this position through the 1998 season. The highlight of his being the man calling the shots for the club came in the fall of 1988. Dodgers and Oakland A's square off in the 85th World Series. By most accounts Los Angeles wasn't favored. However, moves that the rookie GM made heading into the season is what led to an improbable championship.
The Series of 1988 is best remembered for the Game 1 heroics of Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit walk-off home run, as the Dodgers defeated the A's. Claire, manager Tommy Lasorda, and a talented bunch of Dodgers including Orel Hershiser, Rick Dempsey, Mickey Hatcher, and John Shelby contributed to bringing hope and happiness to Dodgers fans everywhere.
Just one season earlier, Los Angeles finished in fourth place in the National League's Western Division. Seemingly out of nowhere, Claire and the Dodgers found a way to win, and make believers out of doubters.
Fast forward to being 17 years removed from working for the Dodgers. In 2015, near 80-years-old, married for 30 years to his wife Sheryl, Fred Claire learned that he has a form of skin cancer. The disease began on Claire's left side of his lower lip. A biopsy confirmed that the former championship general manager had squamous cell carcinoma.
The cancer spread to Claire's jaw and neck. This is when the Claires gained a new team, complete with a lineup of all-star healthcare providers and support staff. They found City of Hope.
Award-winning journalist Tim Madigan does a smashing job in weaving together highlights of Claire's life at Dodger Stadium, and those in the game who touched him, and the great treatment offered to him and so many others in Duarte. Just shy of 200 pages, after completing Claire's story, City of Hope could easily become your new favorite benefactor of charitable contributions.
"I've been blessed," said Claire during a recent telephone conversation from his Pasadena (CA) home. "I'm extremely thankful, and I try and help others like me."
Extra Innings introduces readers to clinicians, administrators, researchers, nurses, volunteers, and support staff at City of Hope. These are the caring souls what make a difference in lives of total strangers, who become like family.
Longtime Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke, who contributes the foreword in Extra Innings, best sums up the former baseball executive's battle in a few words - "Fred Claire is a fighter."
With each passing page in Extra Innings, new meanings of courage is learned. Claire, and other patients at City of Hope, refuse to quit on life.
To some in the medical field, City of Hope may be a place they have little or no knowledge of. They conduct clinical trials. Those among many making differences in people's lives at City of Hope include Dr. Erminia Massarelli, Dr. Steven Rosen, Dr. Thomas Gernon, and Dr. Stephen Forman.
Claire offers details on each provider's expertise, and introduces to us what they are like as people, when away from the microscope and stethoscope.
Perhaps the one relationship Claire opens up to from his Dodgers days that weaves immediately to his battling cancer involves Rich Kee. Upon hearing of Claire's situation, Kee, a former Dodgers team photographer for eight years, went into action. In very short order, Kee sent word to his former boss' friends, and requested short messages of encouragement.
A large hardcover book containing positive thoughts from colleagues were professionally placed. From the playing field, Steve Garvey, Pete Rose, and Orel Hershiser are among the group who responded to Kee's request.
Being with the Dodgers for so many years offers an endless amount of memories for Claire to call on, during treatments or traveling to and from City of Hope.
" The advancement I've made in the game is due to Walter O'Malley, and his son Peter. I had a tremendous relationship in public relations with Peter," says Claire. "(Peter) named me executive vice president, then promoted me to general manager. Our relationship is built on trust. It has been far more than a business relationship."
Claire has a simple message for all who read Extra Innings.
"I want people to know that they have to protect themselves from the sun. From baseball to farming, wherever you are, protect yourself."
Extra Innings offers hope to the hopeless. Fred Claire generously shares the details.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter living in the Mohawk Valley. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.
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