CLASS OF 1964 | 2018 | ISSUE 3

I started to work on my notes on Oct. 3, 2018, exactly 67 years since the baseball world experienced “the shot heard round the world.” Most of our class was around 8 years old, and the future was a long way off. Every Oct. 3, I think about the sudden end to the 1951 baseball season for the Brooklyn Dodgers, when their pitcher, Ralph Branca, threw a high fastball that he couldn’t take back, and the batter launched it into the left field stands for a walk-off homerun. The echoes of the broadcaster’s excitement can still be heard today. “The Giants win the pennant!” It was the radio version of the game the broadcaster was delivering, and there was no recording of his memorable call. Amazingly, a Dodgers fan was anticipating a Brooklyn victory, and was recording the radio coverage on a new tape recorder. It became a part of history.

It’s now Oct. 10 and I’ve not had much class news to share. My deadline has been extended, as my mind had been occupied by Hurricane Florence threatening us here in Savannah. We were just south and west of the storm’s path, where we escaped the storm surge, and we had no power outage. However, there is Hurricane Michael on our radar, and it reminds me of Hurricane Andrew that devastated the area south of Miami.

Sadly, our classmate, Robert “Bob” Rugg, passed on June 25 and he was a remarkable human being. Multitalented, he left a legacy of commitment to the Richmond, Va., community he was part of for many decades.

I reflect on my own contribution to communities I have served for many years, delivering thousands of babies and mothers through the birth process. I have found it humorous, how God had a plan for me to go from a freshman student planning to be a professional baseball player, to an obstetrician. My father knew a merchant on his policeman’s beat, who had a son attending Wesleyan. Dad thought I could go to Wesleyan, get “the piece of paper to fall back on,” in case the baseball dream didn’t materialize. Amazingly, we needed a catcher on our varsity baseball team my sophomore year, and I found the position that fitted my hands and throwing ability. Academically, I found myself learning how to answer questions, and examinations became something I could do well.

The final piece to the puzzle came in the summer of 1962, when my summer baseball season was ended by an appendectomy. I was recovering at a Brooklyn hospital, when young resident doctors were making rounds. They weren’t the image of my family doctor, peering through eyeglasses propped over his nose. They were young men who looked like my classmates at Wesleyan. I realized, for the first time in my life, that I could do what these residents were doing. Fast forward through Albany Medical College and a medical degree, to a choice between cardiology or obstetrics.

I chose obstetrics by flipping a coin, but there was nothing by chance in my story. I self-published a book recently, titled Baseball and Babies: My Life as a Catcher. Wesleyan needed a catcher my sophomore year, and I had a strong throwing arm and a comfort for using the “tools of ignorance” catchers required. I had the “piece of paper” I needed to get accepted to medical school. It certainly helped my career as a physician, to answer questions on exams at Wesleyan. Physicians are examined every day, and we are marked by society and held accountable for our decisions. As a catcher, I was responsible for choosing the right pitch to have my pitcher throw. I was thinking about various options every moment during the game.

Catching every game, during my three years of varsity baseball, prepared me for my career as an obstetrician-gynecologist. Coach Norm Daniels allowed me to call all of our pitches, as I weighed the talents of the opposition, and the skill of our pitchers. I realized that I had a selfish streak, but the catcher has the weight of the pitching staff, and the success of the team at heart. This realization was more valuable than any personal glory achieved reaching the major leagues.

Being on the team that was Little Three champions in 1963-64 was a dream come true. Recently, I learned of the existence of the Wesleyan Baseball Wall of Fame, located behind home plate. Two pitchers I caught at Wesleyan, Phil Rockwell ’65 and Jeff Hopkins ’66, were on the wall. I attended the induction of another pitcher I caught at Wesleyan in early May this year, Steve Humphrey ’63. In 1963 and 1964, our teams were good enough to be invited to the NCAA regional playoffs for an opportunity to reach the College World Series, but the university was fearful it would overemphasize sports. Liberal arts colleges have learned that sports contribute to maturity and commitment to community. Three pitchers’ names on the wall is a testimony to Coach Daniels and players that were a special family at Wesleyan.