Miraculous. That's what it was. And although it occurred several years ago, my husband Dave and I know there was no other explanation. It was 1981. We were living in Incline Village, Nev., and Dave had just been released from the California Angels baseball team. At the age of 32, he was concerned his pitching career might be over. I was not "concerned." I was bedridden. In the fetal position. We were not financially ready for his career to end. When I finally dragged myself into the world of the living, I began scanning the want ads for waitress positions at local restaurants.
After a couple of weeks at home -- a very long, sleepless (for me, not Dave) two weeks -- the Pittsburgh Pirates called and asked if Dave would be willing to fly to Portland, Ore., where its AAA team would play an exhibition game against its major league team. Pittsburgh would give him a tryout, and if he did well they would sign him to a AAA contract. Before Dave had a chance to say "yes," I had his bags packed.
On the day my husband was to fly to Portland, our Presbyterian pastor, Jan, came by our house to pray with him. We were seated at the kitchen table, making small talk, when Jan suddenly became candid. He asked Dave what he really desired for his career -- if he could go to any team, where would he go? Dave paused and then answered our friend, "I would love to be get back with Jeff Torborg. He's a bullpen coach with the Yankees now, but I had my best pitching years when he was my catcher in Cleveland."
Jan began his prayer by asking a blessing on Dave's upcoming tryout. Then he referenced Dave's desire to be reunited with Jeff Torborg. It was a sort of Sarai moment when God prophesied the 90-year-old would get pregnant. Remember her response? She laughed ... as if to say, "Yeah. Fat chance of that happening." I wasn't rude enough to laugh, but just as I rolled my eyes, the phone rang. I answered it. It was Jeff Torborg.
It might as well have been God Himself. When I stuttered, "Uh, hi Jeff," Dave and Jan stopped praying, looked at me and said, "Real funny, Patty."
My ashen color must have given me credibility because they both became somber when I handed Dave the phone. My husband spoke with Jeff and afterward relayed to Jan and me what had transpired. Jeff said he had no idea what was going on but that George Steinbrenner, the Yankee owner, had just called him and asked about Dave's pitching ability and his character. At the end of their conversation, George told Jeff to phone Dave to see if he would be interested in a tryout. If the Yankee bigwigs liked what they saw, he would be assigned to their AAA team.
Dave was torn. He had a similar agreement with the Pirates and told Jeff so. His former catcher said he would get back to him and they hung up. We all sat in the kitchen, sobered by what we were witnessing. When the phone rang again, Jeff had great news. Mr. Steinbrenner was willing to offer Dave a guaranteed, major league contract. Dave still felt it right to contact the Pirates. After all, they had been the first to give him a comeback opportunity. As Dave made that call, Jan and I sat there, whispering and giggling about the miracle that was transpiring. When my husband told Pittsburgh what the Yankees had offered, they told him they could not match such a deal. They gave Dave their blessing to sign with New York (where he played and coached for the next five years).
Now, I realize a few skeptics might read this and say, "That was just a coincidence and nothing more. He was in the right place at the right time," to which I respond -- " Yeah. Fat chance."