REV. JOHN M. SALMON, PORTLAND
On the first home-run trot of her life, Sara Tucholsky is heading for second base when she hears a coach yelling behind her. "Get back! Get back!"
The American dramatization of this game is a six-minute film directed by Ron Shelton, who also wrote and directed Bull Durham and White Men Can't Jump. In that simplified version of the story, part of a series from Liberty Mutual that celebrates everyday virtue, Sara is injured when she trips over first base. In reality she misses first altogether, and 10 feet toward second she turns to go back. But her metal cleats catch in the dirt, and she looks down to see her right knee rippling like a wave.
Sometimes there is a popping sound when a person tears an anterior cruciate ligament, one of four major threads of tissue that hold the upper and lower leg together. Sara hears no sound. What she feels is an immediate and concentrated pain unlike any she has had before. She falls to the dust, moaning, and the crowd goes silent.
Mallory turns to see Sara on her back, holding her knee. The first base coach is still yelling, "Get back to first!"
Sara crawls back to the base, perhaps eight feet, and holds it like a pillow. Breathing deeply, she asks the first base coach, "What do I do?"
"Don't touch her," says the base umpire, Bill Wagner. By rule, if anyone from her team tries to help her, Wagner will have to call her out.
A voice comes from the audience, near the home dugout: "She needs the wheelchair. Use my wheelchair. Get her around those bases." It's Bobbi Frederick, wife of Coach Frederick, mother to the Wildcats. She is fighting Lou Gehrig's disease. Her entreaties are lost in the chaos. She will hang on for eight more months, and Gary will sprinkle her ashes in the Yakima River, and Mallory will use her newfound political clout to have this field named Gary and Bobbi Frederick Field.
What happens next will be the subject of some dispute. Remember: Sue Wallin has turned off her camcorder. The coach of Western Oregon, Pam Knox, will recall an exchange with the home plate umpire, Jake McChesney, that goes like this.
KNOX: If she can't run, what's going to happen?