SI Vault
Steve Wulf
June 29, 1981
With bills to pay and off-field careers to pursue, Dr. George Medich and other striking major-leaguers are toiling beside John Q. Public
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June 29, 1981

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

With bills to pay and off-field careers to pursue, Dr. George Medich and other striking major-leaguers are toiling beside John Q. Public

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Under ordinary circumstances, Doc Medich would have been resting up for his starting turn the next day against the Milwaukee Brewers, but at 7:30 a.m. last Friday, Dr. Medich was at Fort Worth Children's Hospital for a conference on the congenital dislocation of the patella. At 8:30 he sat through a basic science discussion on muscle physiology. Then at 9:30 he went over to John Peter Smith Hospital to make rounds with several other orthopedic residents. On this Day 8 of the baseball strike, George Medich had decided that if he couldn't put on his Texas Rangers uniform, he'd don a lab coat instead. A size-48 lab coat, because Medich stands 6'5" and weighs 227 pounds.

Medich had been invited to Children's, a teaching hospital, by Dr. Michael Mycoskie, the chief orthopedic resident and the son of the Rangers' medical director, Dr. B.J. Mycoskie. Medich, who is in his second year of a five-year residency in orthopedics, visited nine patients. Most of them were trauma cases, and coincidentally, most of those were victims of motorcycle accidents. Only two of the patients had any idea that the good doctor was a good pitcher.

Medich then examined some X rays, one showing a case of rickets and another a leg fracture. He also attended a round table discussion led by Dr. John Harmon, the chief of orthopedic surgery, and exclaimed later, "Gosh, there's a lot to learn." After all, Medich is only in Triple A in the medical field.

By one o'clock, Medich was out of his lab coat and into a T shirt, shorts and baseball shoes. He and some of the other Rangers had arranged to work out on one of the ball fields at the University of Texas-Arlington. For about 20 minutes Medich threw batting practice to travel agent Jim Sundberg. Sundberg, the Rangers' regular catcher, has an agency in Arlington, which meant he had two strikes against him: his own and the threatened walkout by the nation's air traffic controllers.

All across the country, players found themselves with unaccustomed time on their hands, and some of them were looking for a way to make a buck. In Atlanta, Mike Lum of the Chicago Cubs was working on his magic act and trying to break in four doves. No, make that five. No magic hereā€”one of the doves unexpectedly hatched a chick. He was also trying to make dove droppings disappear from his garage. Now, if only he could make the strike disappear.

In Ewing, Ky., the Expos' veteran reliever, Woodie Fryman, was rolling his own tobacco farm, mowing 25 acres a day and tending to a herd of 75 Holsteins. In Eden, Wis., Jim Gantner, second baseman for the Brewers, was in sink training to ready himself for the time in the not-too-distant future when he might have to work in a relative's plumbing business. In Los Angeles, while Fernando Valenzuela worked out with his teammates at USC's Rod Dedeaux Field, the Dodgers' other rookie pitcher, Dave Stewart, was earning $6 an hour at the Smith Fastener Co., a whole sale hardware company that supplies nuts and bolts for the Dodger Stadium scoreboard. His agent, Tony Antanasio, helped him get the job. Another agent, Ron Shapiro, had his clients, many of them Baltimore Orioles, doing good works at local hospitals.

Carl Yastrzemski watched his son Mike play for Harwich in the Cape Cod League. In Seattle, A's Pitcher Dave Heaverlo was moving the First National Bank for Bekins' Van and Storage, and Mariner Third Baseman Lenny Randle was pursuing his career as a stand-up comic. Jay Johnstone tended to his auto parts business in L.A., Brachman Ignition Works, and St. Louis Outfielder Tito Landrum was trying to line up work as a model.

In Anderson Township, outside of Cincinnati, Reds Second Baseman Ron Oester was helping his wife run her daycare center by reading to, and playing Wiffle Ball with, their extended family of 40. And while Oester was filling up the sandbox, the Tigers' Richie Hebner was helping his father dig graves in a West Roxbury, Mass. cemetery. "It's not a very predictable occupation," said Hebner, "but if it gets much slower than this, I'll start calling around to see how people are feeling."

"Whenever I see Hebner," says Medich, "he'll say, 'If you ever screw up, keep me in mind.' " Medich doesn't appreciate the time off, even though he usually averages about one day of vacation between the baseball and medical seasons. Even a little bass fishing last week in Texoma with teammates Leon Roberts, Jim Kern and Ferguson Jenkins didn't cheer him up. "It's depressing," he says. "This is my first summer vacation since high school, and I can't enjoy it. Two professions, humph. Heck, right now I feel like I don't have any."

Medich has always fought hard to have them both. Growing up in Aliquippa, Pa., where he idolized the town doctor and starred in three sports in high school, he naturally wanted to pitch for the Pirates and attend the University of Pittsburgh's medical school. The Pirates, however, were scared off by his desire to play ball and pursue a medical career at the same time. The Yankees made him a low draft choice in 1970, but still doubted his ability to combine the two careers. "Everybody told me how it couldn't be done," says Medich, "but they had blinders on. It seemed like I was the only one who knew it could be done." During the 1971 World Series, Medich invited Lee MacPhail, then the general manager of the Yankees, to have lunch with him and Dr. Alvin Shapiro, the associate dean of the Pitt medical school. At lunch, Medich outlined his plans and convinced both men he could do it.

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