by David Sisler
It was the Kansas City Royals. It was the World Series. It was not 1987. Freddie Patek retired in 1982. I went 0 for 4!
The first time I saw Freddie Joe Patek play baseball he wore the uniform of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs traded Patek to the Kansas City Royals in 1970. In 1981 he was traded to the California Angels, and retired from baseball the next year.
Freddie was asked (probably more than once) how it felt to be the shortest man in Major League Baseball. He replied, "Better than being the shortest man in the minors!"
Because he was one of my favorites from years when, as now, the Pirates were, alas, second division dwellers, I followed his career. Because of that, I remember when his daughter Kimberlie was nearly killed in a car crash in 1992.
The family was told that because of her extensive injuries – a spinal cord injury – she might not live through the night.
Kimberlie did live, but she depended on a respirator to do her breathing for her. There was constant pain, but the pain ended on June 15, 1995, when Kimberlie died in her sleep.
"Sometimes I wish I'd have died," Kimberlie once said, "not to go through all this pain and suffering."
I remember as a child, walking around blindfolded because I wanted to see what it would be like to be blind. I knew it was just make-believe because soon I could take the blindfold off and see again.
There is no way, however, to imagine what it would be like to depend on a machine for my next breath, or to understanding total, unremitting paralysis. I cannot, therefore, appreciate the depth of Kimberlie's statement, "I wish I'd have died," but I think I understand the anguish of that confession.
The quote does not end there. Kimberlie Patek went on to say, "But now, I'm glad I've had this time."
Was she glad for the pain? No, she said she hurt so much she wished the doctor's had let her slip out into eternity. Did she rejoice that she depended on a machine to sustain her life? That was not the reason for her joy at all. No one would be glad to be forced to breathe through a machine.
Well, what did she mean?
"I'm glad I've had this time," Kimberlie said, "because I'm with God. I know now I'm going to heaven. So I'm thankful for this time."
Modern society does not understand that. Much of modern theology does not understand that.
We've been lied to by preachers who have told us that God does not want us to suffer distress of any kind. We've been lied to by preachers who have told us that God wants us to always be healthy and wealthy. We've lied to by preachers who have twisted God's Word for their own selfish reasons.
And those lies have caused us to miss great truth and even greater blessing.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "We have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts."
Only trouble can drive you to abandon those things in which you trust.
If you thought you could trust money, in times of trouble you will find money will not pay the price.
If you thought you could trust friends, despite warm and wonderful friendships, you will find friends cannot do you any good at the point of trouble.
It is in trouble that we take an inventory of our lives. It is in trouble that we are drawn more and more to the Lord. It is the most effective way that the Lord has of drawing us to Himself that we might be blessed by Him.
On your way to the first day at a brand new job, you wrecked your car, broke your neck and you lived three years on a respirator. Kimberlie Patek, how do you feel about that?
"I'm glad I've had this time. I know now I'm going to heaven. I'm thankful for this time."
There is no pain too great if that pain leads you to the Cross of Jesus Christ and to eternal life through Him.
The column you just read ran in The Augusta Chronicle on July 22, 1995 with the following lead paragraph:
"I first saw Freddie Joe Patek play baseball when he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but my most lasting memory of the shortstop is from the last game of the 1987 World Series. The Bucs had traded Patek to the Kansas City Royals some years earlier, and as he had in the Steel City, he quickly became a fan favorite. The Royals played the Cardinals that year in an all-Missouri World Series. The Red Birds took the title home, and when the last out was made in the final game, Freddie Patek was caught by the camera, sitting alone in the dug-out, dejected, a poignant picture of defeat."
Almost six years later, a reader whose knowledge of the 1987 World Series, indeed of baseball, was certainly a lot better than mine, wrote to me to point out that not only did the Royals not lose the 1987 Series, they didn't even play in it. And Freddie Patek was traded three years before the 1985 Series which the Royals won!
The letter said, in part, "I came across your Patek article on the web. Patek never played in the 1987 World Series, neither did the Royals. The Cardinals did play but they lost to the Twins (he wrote back to tell me about the trade in '81). Is there no integrity to know what you are writing about in journalism? Why do you feel you voicing your opinions about religion as any different the preachers twisting the word of God? Aren't you both doing what you want to serve your own desires?"
Interestingly, I also heard from Freddie Patek, several years ago, about that column. Actually, I heard from his cousin who read the piece and passed it on. She said Freddie was grateful for the way I told his story and Kimberlie's. Ever the gentleman, he did not mention my mangling of the facts and my faulty memory.
I once heard Ben Haden, national radio and television speaker for Changed Lives, tell a story on himself, a story not of mangled facts, but of mistaken identity.
Ben had been invited to speak in California and his plane was late arriving. Road construction caused his driver to take a detour, which, he assured Ben, would be faster. It was not. When they arrived at the meeting place, Ben said they were singing the chorus of the fourth verse for the fifth time. No one was more glad to see him than the man who was to introduce him to the audience.
That man went immediately to the podium and said, "When Donald Gray Barnhouse died, evangelical Christians around the world went to their knees to see whom God would raise up (Barnhouse had been the national speaker for a weekly radio program and Ben was chosen to be his successor). That man is here tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Dr. Clovis Chappel."
Ben said, "As a relatively new believer, it was only by chance that I knew who Clovis Chappel was, and he had been dead for 20 years."
On the way to the podium Ben said, "I had a moment of truth. Did I come tonight for Ben Haden or for Jesus Christ? I made my remarks and went home and that night, Clovis Chappel received the blame for what I said."
A defining moment in a man of great character!
So to the writer who pointed out my errors with arrogance and glee, thank you for giving me the chance to correct what has gone uncorrected for all these years.
And to Freddie Joe Patek, thank you for being a much bigger man!
And to Jesus Christ, thank you for the opportunity of repentance on an eternal scale!
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Copyright 1995, 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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