Every time I look to see how the Twins are doing, I expect to see this headline:
"Radke Loses Right Arm In Farm Accident, Vows To Keep Pitching With Left"
I mean, is there any player who has sucked it up for his team this year more than Radke? He already has been pitching for the past couple years with a torn labrum, the sort of injury that normally makes pitchers weep uncontrollably and seek second, third and fourth opinions and hug their kids and ask their agents to reassure them again that "one day, they'll call it Tommy Armas Jr. Surgery."
Radke shrugged it off, told the doctors to inject him with cortisone for the pain, and just kept pitching. Hell, he didn't even tell anyone about it until the end of July. In fact, he not only kept pitching as the pain worsened, he pitched even better than before. "I humped it up and really kept concentrating on keeping the ball down," he says. He went 8-3 with a 1.43 ERA from late May to late August, even though, he says, "Every pitch hurt."
Somehow, I don't see Carl Pavano doing this.
The pain worsened to the point that it hurt Radke to pick up his kids or raise his arm to wash his hair. Nothing seemed to alleviate it. Hot towels, ice, painkillers, cortisone shots, electrotherapy -- they all failed to dull the pain. "I don't even know if I took a morphine pop whether that would do it," he said. So doctors reexamined the shoulder last week and discovered that in addition to a torn labrum, Radke has a rare stress fracture in the shoulder.
That fracture will knock him out for at least two to three weeks. Yet he still hasn't ruled out pitching again, especially if the Twins reach the playoffs. "I want to get back out there real bad," Radke said. "But it's a wait and see thing. If it feels a little better I'll definitely try to pitch. And if we can get into the postseason and extend the season a little, that will really help."
Radke is the anti-Pavano, and he's like the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" -- the one who refuses to surrender even after King Arthur lops off both arms and both legs. "Just a flesh wound."
The only active Twin who was a teammate of Kirby Puckett, Radke has just about seen it all during his 12-year career in Minnesota: Puckett's forced retirement, the abysmal teams of the mid- and late-'90s, the threatened move to Mayberry and the announced contraction plan, as well as Minnesota's recent return to competitive form and division titles. He maintains that he's retiring after this season, although we've heard that before from other players who decided to come back. Then again, those other players usually didn't feel like a crocodile was biting into their shoulder with every pitch.
"I think I've made my decision," he said of retirement. "I haven't made anything official but it doesn't look very good [for playing another season]."
Radke may have thrown his last pitch already, but I hope not. If there's any justice, he will be able to return the last weekend of the season when the Twins host the White Sox in a series that could determine the American League wild card. In a perfect world, Radke will walk to the Metrodome mound, look to catcher Joe Mauer for the sign and then wind up for the first pitch of what will be a 4-2 Twins victory, being especially careful that his sling does not get in the way of his delivery.
BOX SCORE LINE OF THE WEEK
There are box score lines so astounding -- Wood 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 20 K -- that we can practically hear the glove popping when we read them. And then there are box score lines that simply look like misprints.
Case in point, Philadelphia starter Scott Mathieson's puzzler from Saturday:
0 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
No innings pitched but one strikeout? No hits or walks (or hit batters) but an earned run? It can only mean one thing, of course. Mathieson struck out leadoff batter Pete Orr, but strike three was a wild pitch that allowed Orr to reach first base. Mathieson then left with a sore elbow and Orr came around to score on a home run. Because Orr reached base on a wild pitch and not a passed ball, the run was earned.
TELL YOUR STATISTICS TO SHUT UP
Whew. The U.S. qualified for the 2008 Olympics this week by winning eight of nine games in a tournament in Havana against a dozen teams from the Americas, including Cuba in the championship game. The Cubans qualified for the Olympics as well and -- contrary to what was written in this column in its original wersion -- two more teams from the Americas could qualify by beating runner-up teams from the Europe and Asian qualifiers. That's a vast improvement over past years when only two teams were eligible from the Americas while the European nations got three bids (only one European team is likely to get in this year). That earlier qualifying system was just one of the things that helped kill baseball off at the Olympic level (the sport is being dropped after 2008 while rhythmic gymnastics, thank God, goes on). After spending the summer taking in the majesty of the Rockies (Pikes Peak and Mount Elbert) and the Rockies (Todd Helton and Jeff Francis) and traveling from Portland (Oregon) to Portland (Maine), Cass Sapir is finally winding up his Tour for the Cure trip to all ballparks with a major league affiliation this Friday at Fenway Park, his 189th stadium on the journey. America, America, Cass shines headlights on thee: He's traveled close to 50,000 miles and hit 46 states while eating way too many peanut butter sandwiches in the past six months, all in his attempt to raise money for the Jimmy Fund. Someone broke into his car recently but nothing was stolen, which Sapir says is the benefit of having a car filled with nothing but garbage from a six-month road trip. He's only about halfway to his $100,000 goal but you can make donations on his Web site. Can someone explain the fuss over Bert Blyleven saying @#%$ on the air twice? These are words every modern child is well versed in by the time they finger-paint their first turkey in kindergarten. And an ex-ballplayer cursing when he thought he was off-the-air? Isn't this the sort of thing that we all listen to our radios hoping to hear instead of more watered-down analysis sponsored by some local advertiser? There were seven shutouts Tuesday, the most on one day since there were eight on June 4, 1972 (the most in big league history).
WIN BLAKE STEIN'S MONEY
This week's category: Oddly, Several Are Also Members of the Hair Club for Men.
Q: Which four managers are in the 1,000-200 Club -- 1,000 wins as a manager and 200 home runs as a player?
A: Frank Robinson, Joe Torre, Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou
"Celebrating holidays a day late isn't a big deal. For years, we celebrated Valentine's Day on Feb. 15 so Grady could get the candy 50 percent off."
-- Debi Little telling the Los Angeles Times about what life is like being married to someone who has been a big league and minor league manager for years and years