I spent the weekend reading a book about the incredible journey of Fred Claire, best known to Dodger fans as the improbable architect of the 1988 World Championship. Certainly the book offered no shortage of insights and behind-the-scenes stories of the season and Claire’s role in assembling the team. However, “Extra Innings” was less a book about baseball than it was about life.
On one hand, it was about a very particular life, Claire’s life, that hung in the balance after a significant cancer diagnosis. On the other hand, it was about life itself: how precious it is, and how to live it.
Love, kindness, compassion, empathy, integrity, courage, selflessness and hope. On our best days we hope to live up to these ideals. Rare indeed are the people who exemplify them every day. Certainly, Fred Claire is one. Even with his own survival in the balance, you will read about his steadfast determination to honor and support the organization, City of Hope, entrusted with his life and health.
Written by Tim Madigan, “Extra Innings” is a book that may just make you cry. In my case, there were two kind of tears. The first was in watching Fred come so close to losing his battle. The second was from the overwhelming beauty and grace of Fred’s approach to life, in good times and in trying ones.
As a lifelong Dodger fan, the team has provided me with many heroes over the years. All the while I knew I could never play the game at anywhere near their level. My .000 batting average in two years of Little League (and yes, I know my many walks are valued much higher now in retrospect) was an early sign that any career success would more likely come at a desk than on a diamond.
And here is Fred Claire who offers me a chance still to be like a Dodger hero, himself. What’s more the formula is a simple one: to prize every day and be the best person I can. I may never hold a World Series trophy but I can hold something even greater: the satisfaction of a life well lived, its preciousness not wasted, and its abundance shared.
The book is available here, and I recommend it highly. All net proceeds support the City of Hope and the countless families for whom they add dignity if not days.