Friday, July 25, 2008

Pine Tar - 25 Years Later

July 24th, 1983. The infamous Pine Tar Incident in Yankee Stadium. A game, that, for a nine-year old boy, solidified Billy Martin as the most hated man in all of sports. We've all seen the video, it's definately a classic - it's owned by MLB, so I can olnly link to it here.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the game and the George Brett Bull-rush out of the dugout, so it's gotten a lot of play around the country - and rightfully so. It is a part of baseball histroy. The Pine Tar bat, as well as George Brett and the pitcher who threw the ball - Goose Gossage - are all in the Hall of Fame. The bat made it because of this game, the players for their amazing careers.

As I've read the different stories from the players in the game, there are several things that stand out to me. One, Greg Nettles is apparently the one that went to the umpires and said there was too much pine tar on the bat. I couldn't stand Greg Nettles as a kid. He was such a . . . Yankee. And that was the worst thing you could be to a boy in Eastern Kansas during the summers of the late 70s and early 80s.

Second, I love the fact that Gaylord Perry tried to hide the bat. One of the greatest cheaters in baseball history - always looking for the edge.

Third, Tim Kurkjian wrote an article for ESPN the Magazine where Brett talks about the game. In the interview, Brett says, "I played 20 years in the major leagues, I did some good things, and the one at-bat I'm remembered for is an at-bat in July, not an at-bat in October like Reggie Jackson. Only in New York. It would have never been that big a deal if it had happened in Cleveland." I hope that's just hyperbole from Brett. He's the greatest baseball player Kansas City has ever known. Yes, the Pine Tar incident gets a lot of play, but I'll never forget the home run to finally get to the Series in 1980 or the series against the Cardinals to win it all in '85. He's a KC legend and should always have a place with the club.

Finally, watching that video always makes me feel nostalgic to root for a baseball team that mattered on the national stage. This was before ESPN and SportsCenter turned Yankees-Red Sox into the new cold war. This was before nine-digit player contracts and rampant free-agency made it impossible to root for a player that stayed with your team for his entire career. The Royals were relevant back then. They fielded a team of Kansas City Legends - Brett at 3rd, Frank White at 2nd, Willie Wilson in Center, Dennis Leonard on the mound.

They were always in the mix with the Yankees for the American League pennant. As a seven-year old franchise in 1976, the Royals won their division, only to fall to the Yankees in the ALCS when Chris Chambliss hit a pennant winning home run in the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium. In 1977, the Royals won 102 games and the Western Division, again facing the Yankees for the right to go to the World Series and again lost the deciding fifth game in Yankee Stadium. In 1978, for the third year in a row, the Royals won the West and faced the Yankees in the ALCS. This time, after losing a heartbreaking game three, the Royals fell in four games and again wound up runners-up. Finally, in 1980, the Royals broke through. They won the division and this time got the best of the Yankees as Brett, who nearly hit .400 in the regular season, hit a monster homer off Gossage to send the Royals to their first World Series. Although they fell to Tug McGraw's Phillies that year, they returned in 1985 and finally won it all.
That was really the peak of the mountain. There have been highlights since - Brett's Hall of Fame induction in 1999, the rise of Bret Saberhagen and Bo Jackson, Carols Beltran and Mike Sweeney. But the lowlights were even worse - the death of Dick Houser; the passing of the Kauffman's and the uncertainty of ownership; the plight of small-market baseball trying to compete without a salary cap; the Glass family's unwillingness to spend some of that Wal-Mart fortune. Now, we focus on getting above .500, finishing better than last in the division, collecting bobble-heads of Royals' Hall of Famers. These are our victories. These are our championships.

So, when I look back at the Pine Tar game, the joy over a Joakim Soria save or a Billy Butler blast feels a bit hollow. How long will they stay? Not forever. Not like Brett and White and Leonard. But, it still makes me smile when I see Brett, charging out of the dugout, ready to rip into Tim McLelland. That's Royals' baseball.

Friday, July 18, 2008

4/12 = 1/3, 33.3% Complete

I' ve made it to the one third mark! Hoorah! The best part of getting the pump taken off today was that I got to come home to my family. Leah and the kids had been in Utah for nearly two weeks and they got home just before I went in to get the pump removed. I was so excited to see them and I'm so happy to have them back. It was pretty dull around here while they were gone.

As for the chemo, it went pretty well again. I'm still having trouble getting my blood where it needs to be. The chemo and the coumadin combined are making my blood too thin. Trying to get those levels right has been a real challenge. I'm continuing to stay off the coumadin for a few days and then they'll recheck my blood on Monday. That's pretty annoying.

I got Zofran for the nauseau this time, which I'm going to start taking tonight so I can try and head things off before they get started. The cold sensitivity in my fingers and mouth are still annoying, but they should start getting better now that I'm off the pump. That means I've got a week of feeling good in front of me. Yeah! The focus for this round? Stay positive. Things aren't so bad - nothing that turning in a bit early in the evening can't fix.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Planning Ahead

Okay, so with chemo treatment number four underway, one of the things that really helps me is to think of things I'll be able to do down the line that I would really like to do. It's more than just day dreaming. It's remembering that 1) the chemo will come to an end; and 2) when it's over, my quality of life should be significantly improved from when all this began last year or even 16 years ago when I was originally diagnosed. Now, let's have a little participation for this one. You see, some of the things that I'd like to do are very simple - take the family camping, go to an amusement park without mapping out every bathroom, go on a hike, etc. Although I really look forward to those things, this list is going a bit grander. Here are five things I'd like to do in the next 50 years. After you read mine, make a comment and add some that you'd like to do. The rules are simple. They have to be relatively feasible. If you say you want to walk on Mars, give your rationale as to how that will be a possibility. Have you joined the space program? Are you now a multi-billionaire and are building your own space shuttle with Lance Bass? So, here are some of mine and I look forward to hearing yours!

1) Take my family to the Home Run Derby. At some point, the All-Star game will come back to Southern California or Arizona. How fun would it be to sit in the outfield bleachers at some ball park and watch the homers fly?! I know I would love that!

2) Buy a house with a pool. I used to think this was just a waste of money - and in Kansas it would be. But here in Las Vegas, I'm starting to think the benefits outweigh the costs of having to maintain it. The kids would love it and there are some days when that is really all you can do! When it hits 120 degrees, an hour in the pool would be just right!

3) Read the biographies of all the prophets of the Church and the presidents of the United States. I did some research on this recently and it is much easier to find biographies on past presidents than on past prophets. There are some out there, but almost all are written while the prophet is still alive. I want the complete picture of their life, not just their life up to their call as prophet. Jimmy Carter is proof that much can happen as time goes on.

4) Take my family to Hawaii. Leah would like to do Christmas in Hawaii one year. How fun would that be! Of course, it will have to be when the kids are a bit older and aren't completely focused on the toys they receive, because, let's face it. If we go to Hawaii, that's the gift from us, if you know what I mean!

5) Take Leah to New York City. I loved New York when I lived there for six weeks in 1998. It was so fun - and that's when I was still sick. Think about how much more fun we could have today?! There is so much to do and see and I think Leah would love it.

Okay, so there's five of mine. I'm not saying that's the exhaustive list and, like I said before, this isn't a list of what you'd do if you won $1 Billion (David Glass would be getting a call from me, let me tell you!). Let's hear what you've got?!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

3/12 = 1/4, 25% Complete

I've made it to the quarter mark! Yeah! I got started a day early this week, since the cancer center isn't open on the 4th of July. Hey, I don't mind because that means I finished a day early, as well. Treatment number three has left me pretty darn tired. I'm getting the tingling in my hands, feet and lower legs, too. That's a strange feeling - like you're extremeties are slightly asleep. The worst is still the cold sensitivity - it's spread to my fingers, now, too. I have to use a glove to get things out of the fridge. The side effects last for a few days after the treatment, so hopefully things will get better soon.

Other than that, I'm doing okay. I really wanted to be in Kansas this week with my family, but that will have to wait. Just nine more treatments to go - that's single digits!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Nearly Reunited, But I Don't Feel So Good!

I miss my parents and my brothers and sisters. This weekend was suppossed to be our big family reunion - we haven't all been together in ages. Many, if not all, of my siblings are there in Kansas right now, or will be in the next day or so. We are not. Instead, I am taking a chemo treatment for another 18 hours or so and generally feeling pretty low. So, as a way of making myself feel better, I'm going to say what I love about each of their families. I'll add pictures where I can.

Beth and Tim:

These two are a riot. I would love to be able to go visit them in Houston - if it weren't for the fact that we used to live in Texas and I think I'd have to drug Leah on sedatives to get her back across the border. I love that Beth and Tim are rabid Jayhawk fans and that Beth used to sneak into KU basketball games under a borrowed student ID that looked nothing like her. She did get caught once and had to leave. Tim went to the game anyway because it was on ESPN and Dick Vitale was there. Good times. Here's a picture I stole from Beth's blog:

Joel and Amelia:

This two are incredible. They live in Georgia, and we've not been to visit them either. Again, a trip we would really like to take, especially when I'm feeling better. Joel and Amelia have known each other for most of their lives. When they started dating, we all cheered. Then they went to college and missions and everything and still ended up together. What an awesome story. I love the fact that they love to watch movies and play video games and do fun things. They are both really fun to talk to and visit with. Plus, they are able to navigate the trecherous waters of both sets of parents living in the same city. That is a true accomplishment. Here's a picture of them of Joel and Amelia that I stole from Amelia's blog:

Jenni, Josh and Family:

We've lived near Jenni and Josh a couple of times, once even when they were in our ward. They are so fun. I know they are stressed right now with Parker and the twins. Believe me, we've been through that! They are so fun to be around. We used to love to have them over for games. Our favorite story is from a game of Outburst where Josh was basically just repeating everything Jenni said. Jennie got so frustrated, she made Josh go start the car. Good times. I hope to live near them again soon - if Leah would just win that $10 Million so we could buy the compound and have everyone move close by! I couldn't find a good picture of Jenni and Josh, so you'll have to settle for Parker, Wyatt and Brynly.

Wendy, Jeff and Family:
When Leah and I first moved to Kansas, Wendy and her family were living there. It was so fun to see them regularly before they moved off to Ohio. We miss them so much. Wendy is so strong and good and she has always been just what I needed in a big sister. I love Wendy's ability to tell stories and her love for her family. I loved watching Chiefs' games with Jeff and his love of the Jayhawks. I miss hanging out with Mason and Nick and Trenton - and Trenton beating me at basketball. We love the Stalcups. Here's a picture of Wendy from earlier this year.

Chris, Jordan and Family:

We're now living closer than we ever have to Chris and Jordan - just five hours up the road. That is really fun for us. Chris was so kind to come to Las Vegas when I was in the hospital. I can't imagine how bored he must have been, just sitting there as I drifted in and out of sleep. What a great brother. He stayed until Jordan got sick back in Provo, which is more than I could have asked. Their family is so fun. I loved watching the National Championship with Caleb, Quinn and Cami. Baby Zach is just a ball of fun. Here are Chris and Jordan from the luncheon after Grandma's funeral. Sorry, couldn't find pictures of the kids!

Mom and Dad:

What can I say about my parents. They have been so supportive of me over the last few months - from dramatic weight loss to blood transfusions to emergecy surgery and cancer - I think my relationship with them has grown and deepened so very much. They have helped me more than they can know. I really miss them and I wish we could be there with them this weekend - we had great plans for the Karpowitz family scavenger hunt! But, we'll have that reunion soon, I'm sure of it. Here is Dad from after the funeral and Mom when she came out to Las Vegas. I love you guys!

Now, before you think I've just been sitting around and feeling sorry for myself, you need to know that I have the greatest wife and kids in the world. They have been so great these past few months. The kids are so funny. They put up with forehead kisses and awkward hugs when the chemo is going on. They come to see me when I'm feeling low and they help me want to get up and out of bed. Leah is the best. You can't even imagine how hard she's worked these past few months. She is truly my best friend - the person I most wish to wake up next to, to talk to throughout the day, to fall asleep beside. She is really my best friend. Plus, after November, I'll get to do the things she's been asking me about for years - hiking and camping, having people over and going out. This experience has changed and is changing our lives, but I am so happy that it is changing us together. I love you all!