All American Irony | The Lethal Toss

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graveyardReceived a call this weekend from family back East, notifying me a friend I grew up with had died. The call left me feeling weird, unsettled .. even more than when my parents died.

During a golf tournament (I hear), Patrick's wife tossed him a golf ball, while he was sitting in a golf cart. Reaching for it, he somehow fell out and hit his head.

In a coma, his brain swelled so much that doctors performed surgery to remove part of it. After 20 days, they pulled the plug (seeing they'd removed so much brain tissue). Can you believe it?

What's ironic, is that Patrick was the best catcher of balls I ever knew. He was all-State in high school, and 1st string all-American wide receiver (for class B schools) in college.

He broke (and set) all kinds of pass-receiving records at every school he attended. (Most receptions in a single season, in a career, most TDs, most yardage ... most, most, MOST!)

In high school, his nickname became 'Lance' .. after all-Pro wide-receivers of the day. He had hands like glue.

We grew up in a suburb of New Haven. There were four of us who were very close. Patrick lived across the street. Being so athletic, he's the last (of us 4) anybody would expect to die early.

He wasn't very big, which is probably why he wasn't drafted by the Pro's, but he was super-fast, and would catch any ball he could touch. In all our years of growing up, I only saw him lose one foot-race (to Billy Sullivan, who was 2 or 3 years older) .. and not by much

If you touch it....

Growing up, I often played against him, 1-on-1, with my cousin playing steady-quarterback (for both of us). Now, let me say that, playing against anybody else, I could go out for a long-bomb .. and even with 4 or 5 guys around me, still come down with the ball .. most of the time. But playing against Lance, he'd come down with it every time. "If you touch it," he'd say, "you should catch it." (And he did.)

So you can see how it's especially ironic he died while trying to catch a ball. Perhaps it was this philosophy that caused him to reach farther than he should've.

••• today's entry continues here below •••


Been thinking about him these last few days. We played Little League together .. on different teams. He was on the 'Academies' (3rd base). I played for the Liberty Bells. (They called us the 'Dumb Bells'. I pitched & played SS).

On the last game of our final season (when we were both 12), Pat needed 1 more home run to tie the league leader (big Wojo), who had 5 homers for the year. Since the game meant nothing, Pat asked me to throw him a meatball, so he could tie Wojo for the title (Home-Run King).

Now, my ego insists I first note that NO ONE had ever hit a home run off me .. in all 3 years I pitched. I had a decent curve ball, respectable heat, and good control.

During his 2nd trip to the plate (Pat batted 3rd in the line-up), I threw him this beautiful fastball. Right down the middle .. a little high. Perfect pitch, with good heat .. so that all he had to do was stick the bat out there and adios, amigo .. it was gone.

Then his buddy, John ("Eager") was up next, and I threw him a meatball, too. Somebody told our coach about the deal I'd made before the game. He got so mad that he pulled me off the mound and had me CATCH the last 3 innings. (I'd never caught before.) Not sure why coach got so upset, seeing the game meant nothing.

Anyway, Lance never did give me the 50 cents he'd promised. =)

Going HomeMore Reminiscing

Another time, in winter, we were taking turns skating (like daredevils) across a section of thin ice, where the stream (moving water) fed the pond .. and he fell in. Judd laid down on the ice and managed to pull him out. (Pat's mom was real mad about that.)

We used to play hockey there .. with no protective gear. There was no sport he wasn't good at. Basketball, baseball, tennis, swimming, golf, even lacrosse, .. but most of all, football (wide receiver). Dozens of trophies filled the bookshelves of the rec-room in his basement.

Another time, I remember he broke his arm while jumping off a stone wall (5-feet high), trying to grab the limb of a white birch in his backyard. His hands slipped during the swing forward (momentum) and he put them down to break his fall. (I was standing on the wall, waiting my turn, next in line.)

While Pat held up his arm (which was shaped like a 'U' near the wrist) to show his mom, she said (with no hint of sympathy), "Aw, Patrick! Now you can't play football!" (His mom was tough.)

The summer before I left for the Navy, I beat him (21-19) in a game of 1-on-1 basketball (at the park down the street). I was just 'on' that day. (Hot hand.) He was super competitive and wanted to play another.

"Wish I could," I said, "but I gotta go." I didn't really have to go, but wanted my last game with him to be a winner (after he'd beat me so many times over the years). It killed him that I had to go after winning, leaving him no opportunity to redeem himself. I mean, he could've easily played college basketball.

I was with him the day of his dad's funeral. (While all the adults were at the funeral.) As we watched TV at my cousin's house (upstairs), I saw him silently keep wiping the tears, and felt sorry for him. But at age 9 or 10, I didn't have the skills to help him cope with his loss or comfort him. We were all very quiet. (Tho grief no longer intimidates me, having become very familiar with grief myself.)

Losing his dad (to cancer) at such as young age was a devastating blow.

Funny how certain things stick with you. Rest in peace, Patrick McNamara. He was the oldest of 5, with 2 brothers and 2 sisters. (Catholic family.) The reason it's so unsettling, I think, is cuz, if something like this could happen to Lance ...

It's just so weird .. when  you consider how many balls he caught while guys (much bigger) were trying their best to clean his clock.

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on October 27, 2008 12:43 PM.

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