I see a lot of people walk into a clubhouse: politicians and movie stars. They come in and they’re nervous. Not me. Not even close.
When I walk into the clubhouse, I’m so comfortable. I walk around in my underwear when it may not be politically correct to do so.
That comfort level in a clubhouse evolved from what I consider the best ten days of my life, the ten days you allowed me to join you and your team on a road trip.
It was the summer of 1970. My dad, Tito Francona, was in his 15th and final year of his Major League Baseball career. You were his manager on the Milwaukee Brewers. Back then, kids didn’t hang out in the clubhouse and you were kind of a crusty old-school baseball guy. So, I don’t know if my dad asked you if I could come on this 10-day road trip or if he just told you I would be there.
Either way, I was so excited. At age 11, I knew I was lucky to have this opportunity. My mom bought me a sports coat, got me a haircut and cleaned me up. The trip was to Kansas City, Chicago and Minneapolis.
When we got on the plane for the first leg of the trip, Al Downing, who was traded with my dad to Milwaukee, said to my father, “Hey! Is it OK if I borrow him?”
Downing added, “He’s sitting with me.”
I felt like I was 10-feet tall. There I was on a charter plane with the Milwaukee Brewers, sitting with Al Downing.
At the hotels, I didn’t want to miss a moment. I would get up in the morning and sit in the lobbies. If a player came down and needed a newspaper or a coffee or a Coke, I’d get it for him.
In Chicago, they wouldn’t let me on the field. But you couldn’t just leave me behind. Instead, the players got together and they put me in Tommy Harper’s uniform because he was the smallest guy on the team.
They taped the uniform around my ankles and my waist. I went out and shagged in the outfield and I probably looked like a clown. The players had fun with it and I, of course, had a ball.
In our final city, Minneapolis, my understanding of the nuances of baseball became very apparent to the players, including my dad. Bert Blyleven pitched against us.
After the game, I said, “Dad, I have never seen a curveball that good in my life.”
He looked at me and knew I wasn’t like any other 11-year-old kid. I was locked in on the game.
Terry Francona talks about his future plans and how he will know when to step away from being an MLB manager. Become a member of The Unsealed and watch an episode of Unsealed Thoughts to hear what he has to say.
When I got back from our road trip, it looked like I’d been gone for a year. My hair was a mess. My sport coat was gone, as the trip was quite an adventure for me.
Dave, even today, when I think of those ten days, I smile. My dad made me thank you back then. You didn’t say a whole heck of a lot, but I think deep down, you knew you made this 11-year-old boy’s life.
But at the time, I had no idea that those ten days would have a subtle but profound impact on the way I’d conduct myself throughout my baseball career.
When I became a major league player years later, I wanted to be rich. I wanted to win a batting title and I wanted to retire on my own terms. But my plans changed when I tore my ACL early on in my career. After my knee injury, I harbored that same energy as that little kid trying to do whatever he could to help the players in a hotel lobby, as I tried to find any and every way to help my teammates and bring value to an organization.
After my playing career was cut short, I went into coaching. When I was 37, I was hired as the manager for Philadelphia. I spent four tough years there. After I lost my job, I didn’t know if I wanted to manage again.
I spent some time in the Cleveland Indians’ front office.
In 2002, I got a staph infection and was at risk of losing my legs and my life.
I kept telling all the doctors, “Hey man, spring training starts February 15th.”
They’d look at me like, “I’m just trying to keep you alive.”
Because of our trip, I already knew for a long time that baseball is where I feel most alive, regardless if I am the star of the team, a manager or a kid dressed in an oversized uniform.
And Dave, to this day, I still light up when I see Al Downing. In fact, as a manager, I have tried my best to replicate his warmth in my clubhouses.
My dad made me thank you back then. You didn’t say a whole heck of a lot, but I think deep down, you knew you made this 11-year-old boy’s life.
When I was a manager in Boston, we had one rule, which was when a kid came in the clubhouse, they had to stop in and say hello to me.
On Sundays here in Cleveland, we have girls days. We wait until everyone gets dressed and then players go and get their daughters, so they, too, can hang out with their dads.
Win, lose or draw, I’ll end up grabbing some kid and holding them or bouncing them around.
Ever so often, we get letters from the league to keep the kids off the field. But I’d rather pay a fine from the league than have our players and their families unhappy.
While creating positive atmospheres and family-friendly clubhouses, we won two World Series in Boston. In 2016, with the Indians, we lost to the Chicago Cubs in Game 7 of the World Series.
On those teams, the ride was even more incredible than the outcome.
Each day, I did not know how my plan would play out, but I felt confident that I would figure out a way to win. Just like I locked into the Bert Blyleven’s curveball in Minneapolis, throughout my career, I have locked into games, almost craving the intensity and the challenge of baseball.
At 60 years old, the demands of the travel are getting harder for me. Brad Mills is my bench coach. We’ve been together since 1977. He takes a ton off of my plate but there is going to come a time where I don’t want to shortchange people and I am going to step away. Even then, I can see myself going back to the minors. That’s because, at heart, I am still that little boy excited to be around baseball and all the people involved.
Regardless of whether or not my dad gave you a choice, I wanted to thank you one more time.
From opening my clubhouses to children to leaving a sickbed to go to spring training camp to wearing my underwear at the wrong time, the clubhouse is where I feel most comfortable and much of that comfort started with you.
That’s because 49 years ago, you and your team opened the door for me to professional baseball, and in doing so, you welcomed me to a place I still consider home.
Little Tito (Terry Francona)
Respond to my letter. I want to hear from you. Tell me your story or react to mine.
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I have learned over my Fifty-Eight years of life, and more specifically over the last 10 that FDR's words about fearing only fear itself ring true; to me, they do, anyway. And, at the same time, how the words of the 23rd Psalm comfort me and my abundant faith in G-d allows me to fear only fear, knowing full well that He is always with me. Growing up in a Non-Orthodox, yet Observant Jewish family nicely brings both together and not only makes me feel more protected but commands me to believe so. You see, I have lived a different kind of life, as we all have to some degree, but mine changes daily. Not that I am ANY BETTER than anyone else, in fact, probably less so... I stray from my stories often. I shouldn't, but since my Stroke in 2012, I have somehow developed some sort of ADD, so please bear with me, the end will justify the means and I will *try* to stick with my story; for you, my readers. I moved my family of the ex-wife and four children Cross-Country in 2002 to be closer to my dad who was turning 75 that year, and while I could not afford both financially as well as mentally to move back to Southern California (where he and my mother lived), I chose the Midbar (Hebrew for Desert) of Arizona. Within just a few short weeks of moving here, I woke up one day with some of the most severe abdominal pain I had ever experienced. I found a local doctor and made an appointment to see him that day. I arrived at the appointment and was ushered into an examination room by their PA (Physician's Assistant), who is supposed to be the same as a Doctor, but not really (?). I was examined and Prescriptions for a Pain Medication and an Antibiotic. They continued to treat me in a like manner for almost six months when I ended up in an Emergency Room, where a CT Scan was performed and Colonoscopy was scheduled. I was then diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized obstruction and abscess in my colon that would require surgical intervention. Surgery was scheduled for two days later, on a Friday in Mid-March 2003. I arrived at the hospital at the designated time, 5:45 am; was admitted to the hospital; told them about ALL my allergies (including a BIG ONE, an allergy to a particular anesthetic agent), and taken to a room where I was put into one of those awful gowns and told that they'd be "right back" to take me to surgery. They promptly came back at 10:30 in the morning and took me to yet another room... to wait some more. At 11:45 the Anesthesiologist came in to talk with me. He informed me that he was going to use Propofol for my induction and that he was planning on using the EXACT ANESTHESIA TO WHICH I AM ALLERGIC to maintain me through surgery! "NOT ON ME, YOU'RE NOT", I exclaimed! "I'M ALLERGIC!!!" On my wrist sat a red band that clearly said ALLERGIES: CEVOFLURAINE. I then proceeded to give him a list of anesthetic agents that I knew to be safe. He tapped me on the knee and said: Okay, Smart guy, put yourself to sleep and quickly left the room. I awoke from the anesthesia on the following Wednesday evening. In addition to the NINE small incisions from various attempts to perform the procedure of removing 18" of my diseased colon through a scope, I also had one 6" cut in my belly that began around my navel and continued to just above my groin. I also began experiencing severe shortness of breath. The staples were ripped out of my skin by the Butcher Surgeon two weeks later, but my breathing difficulties continued. After being examined by one doctor after another, I finally decided to be examined by The Mayo Clinic. Over a ten-day to 2 week period, I was examined by multiple physicians, underwent numerous tests and procedures and was finally ready for my Report Appointment. I would learn the results of all of the tests and procedures and hopefully have a clear diagnosis and prognosis. The verdict had come in. Diagnosis: Terminal COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Causation: Bacterial Pneumonia due to Malignant Hyperthermia caused by induction of Detrimental Anesthesia Prognosis: 5% chance of Five-Year Survival I then took my report to a highly regarded Pulmonologist for Follow-Up Care, but not before enrolling in Rabbinical School in New York City. I had, (since age ten) always wanted to be a Rabbi. It was now or never. On the advice of the Pulmonologist, I began taking Prednisone (a Steroid) that would open up my Bronchioles and make it easier to breathe. The normal dosage for a man who is 5'9" and weighs 150 pounds (before I got sick, I weighed 174 pounds, all muscle, by the way) is <100mg per day. My STARTING dose was 100mg THREE TIMES a DAY. the dosage was increased every few months for the following THREE YEARS, when, on Sunday, September 9, 2007, at the weight of 340 Pounds (the Steroids had been increased to 250mg Four Times a day), I collapsed and at Mayo Hospital, was intubated where my organs began failing. Two nights later, on the First Night of Rosh haShana, the Jewish New Year, and while being mechanically ventilated, I went into Full Blown Total System Failure, and suffered a Cardiac Arrest for 14 minutes, followed by a Coma of several weeks duration. During my Coma, I felt as if I was in a box. The box had four dirt walls and smelled like the Morning Dew. In the upper right corner of the box sat a red square with a white X inside of it. "If only I could click on that X, I might stop this program", I thought to myself, but I could not move; I could not stand; could not reach, and could not scream for help. I lay in this place crying out in fear for what seemed like days and weeks and months. Suddenly, my cries were replaced by Psalms. I was reciting Psalms, some of which I had never even read before! And the Psalms turned into Prayers; The Kol Nidre, chanted at the beginning of our Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; every other prayer recited on this Holy of all Holy Days; the Prayers for the Sukkot Holidays that follow the next week and the Readings for every single Torah Portion of the year. I somehow knew them all. By heart. Without hesitation of memory and obviously without any text to look at. I kept reading and chanting day and night; night and day and resting in between. Really resting. Sleeping... until one day, I opened up my eyes to see my beautiful son Zac sitting at my side on my bed. Covering the holes in my throat and on the side of my neck, I managed to spit out "C'était le rêve de dix minutes le plus étrange que j'aie jamais eu"! I told my son that was the weirdest ten-minute dream that I have ever had in FRENCH, my first language and native tongue. He then told me that it had been over two months, and I was in a Hospice Facility. The night before, I had begun to breathe on my own a minute or so after being disconnected from the machines that had sustained my organs since September. A few days later I was wheeled to an ambulance outside to be transported to the truly amazing HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Scottsdale. The sun kissed my face as I felt like I was pulled up into a body of love. It spoke. In Hebrew: Don't worry, it said. "You and I are going to be okay". I spent the next six weeks learning to do things like eating and holding a pencil; how to shower and dress. I learned how to return to life. Six weeks after leaving HealthSouth, my dad died. In July 2018, my mom joined him. I have had many trials and tribulations over these last twelve years. A Stroke in 2012 took my ability to project my voice loudly; I've been hospitalized many times and know how very precious time is. I do not live for today, rather, I live for tomorrow. I do everything I can do today to help others, and pray that I am again awakened tomorrow to do more good. And if so, great! And if not; if G-d decides to take me tonight, I will hang out with my parents and loved ones forever. I win either way. President Roosevelt was right to believe in only fearing fear. Psalm 23 is even more so, as Faith follows all of us.
Funny my mom passed in 1991 as a 13 year old it was hard but she was much more then beauty. She was a fighter from the beginning and I will never be able to explain her impact. It shows you came from a strong famiy and I'm glad you had both a mom and dad because a lot of people don't. I pray your truth can make a difference
This is trying to scare us with more misinformation then actual information but thank you for giving us your reality. I like it a lot.and people just wash your hand like you should be doing anyway 😂
Great discussion, as well as some interesting numbers which I'm not sure are meant to calm us, or install even more fear. I have many of your same concerns. Just yesterday I scheduled a work trip to Miami for late next week, but am unsure if it will happen or not. And while i say or act like i'm not concerned, sub-consciously, i am quite sure it is weighing on my mind each time i cough, or sneeze, or feel "a little warm", or if someone around me does. One of the biggest fears i have is that with all of the media coverage and the additional testing becoming available, the numbers are sure to skyrocket, and this is going to really set some people off. Our country is going to go absolutely bonkers . We are all guilty of taking limited amounts of information and either talking about it like an expert, or completely overreacting. Here's hoping that the number stat to level out, and then drop. Lets hope that the American people can follow simple suggestions. Lets hope that countries from around the world can work together to come up with a viable plan to slow this train down. And last but not least, lets hope our politicians can come together to provide our country guidance as we all try to get through this. Lets hope they can forget about the presidential race for just a minute to remember what their job really is; to serve the American people. And now is their time to really step up and lead by example.
Lauren, like you I have to balance my fear and confusion. I work directly with the public and I have an immune system that is partially suppressed as a by product of treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I fear for my Father the most as his body is much weaker than even mine. I visited the Cleveland Museum of Art on Sunday just to learn three people were positively diagnosed on Monday in Cuyahoga county. You aren't alone in that fear. I think that we must turn to hope to keep us in this trying time. We have to...
Terry, As a man who has lived and breathed baseball, your letter was an absolute joy for me to read. What young boy wouldn't want to be in the clubhouse with his Dad? During your time as manager I've been to quite a few games in Cleveland. None though were as special as July 12th 2014. That was the day I celebrated my 30th birthday. Though the day centered around my birthday it saw me doing something for someone else. It was the day I took my Father to the very first professional sports game in his 59 years of life at the time. It was so touching the certificate that he got from the wonderful folks at Guest Services. And although the home team lost to the White Sox that day, it will always remain one of the best days in my heart. Letters like yours only serve to renew my love for the game of baseball. Thanks for sharing it with the little boy still inside of me wanting to throw that 0-2 curveball to the best hitter in the league.
[…] enough, in the email was your letter to your late father, former NBA basketball star Anthony Mason, talking about your struggles after his death. You wrote […]
Sweet Lauren, I agree completely with the promise that Brian asked you to make. Frankly, it is the only way that I know to love; totally, completely, wholly and unconditionally. You deserve nothing less, nor does your future love.
Wow. What a truly moving and powerful story. We often take for granted the small gifts we give each other just by being present. I'm sad for the heartache. I'm glad you stayed and became. Who knows what little girl or boy will be attributing their life's purpose to some kindness you shared. Peace and Sunshine
You’re welcome Lauren looking forward to all the future stories :)
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
I’m sorry to hear about Brian but he was right you are too beautiful to not receive roses Lauren:)
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Thanks for this! So what movie set did you get on?
So nice Roger <3
Pat, Your letter touched me in a very profound way. It left me in tears in the middle of my work day. It made me want to share something with you. On a July morning in 2007 a police officer answered a 911 call I had made when my Mother went into cardiac arrest. Between that officer, my best friend and the fire fighters who showed up minutes later they were able to restart her heart, however at the hospital she passed away an hour later. At the end of his shift that officer stopped by my home to check on the situation and cried when I told him the unfortunate news I received only 4 hours prior. He tried to apologize to me. I looked at the anguish in his eyes and asked him directly what for? He described the ways he felt sorry. What I want to leave you with was my reply to him. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for because he answered the call in what was the darkest moment in my life. I told him that he was a hero regardless because it takes a special person to answer calls like that. You are a hero to people Pat. No one can ever take that away from you. I understand the process you're going through as I've been there myself and like you I still struggle with it when no one is looking. You aren't alone in this. I hope your healing process continues on and you can regain the happiness in this beautiful life. You'll always be a hero to those people, because you were there when the call came Best wishes Roger Chamberlain
Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.