The Doctor Was a Giants Fan

Entrance to the Third Surgical Hospital, Viet Nam

Entrance to the Third Surgical Hospital, Viet Nam

Way back when I was in Viet Nam doing my bit for God, Country, Mom, Apple Pie, and the Girl I Left Behind (never mind there was no girl and I was raised by my grandparents) I did something stupid. I wanted to keep my boots dry and ended up getting shot in the arm (and getting the boots wet on top of it). It was more frightening than deadly, but at the time I couldn’t tell the difference. Anyway, they got a Medivac chopper to me and I ended up in the hospital (the entrance to it shown above). There a gallant doctor saved my life (at least I was initially sure that was true). The problem was he was a Giants fan.

When I first got to the hospital, the doctor (a black guy from somewhere in California) was intent on calming me down. It was evident to him (if not to me) that the wound wasn’t life threatening so it was more important to keep me calm than to take care of the wound. It wasn’t like I was in shock or raving or anything, but I must have had that deer in the headlights look or something approaching it. So he asked, among other things, if I was a baseball fan. I told him I was a Dodgers fan. He replied that he liked the Giants. I told him I wanted another doctor. He laughed and apparently knew that I was going to be fine. He fixed up the arm, then stuck me in a walking wounded ward for about a week (five days I think; it’s been a long time, team).

The good doctor would make rounds everyday stopping in the wards to talk with patients and generally shooting the breeze. It helped morale, it helped lighten the mood of being in a hospital, and it made him the toast of the ward I was in. Generally, he wanted to talk baseball. It was the offseason between 1967 and 1968 so he would engage in a lot of “Hot Stove League” speculation. We all chimed in our bit too. He loved Mays and McCovey, liked Marichal a lot, and thought the Giants were crazy for sending Cepeda to the Cardinals. There he had proof; St. Louis won the 1967 World Series and Cepeda was National League MVP.

He made sure that we never talked politics or about the war. Those things created problems in the ward (it’s tough to say anything positive about a war when you’re sitting around nursing a wound) and he needed us to keep up morale. Sure, there were the verbal jousts about which team was best, which was going in the dumpers (my Dodgers being one of those), and just how good Bob Gibson really was, but he’d always bring it back to the Giants and their chances. He was sure they’d catch the Cards and his disdain for the Dodgers was visible (although he was always careful not to offend either me or any other Dodgers fan).

After a few days I went back to my unit rested, refreshed, and well (OK, as well as you could be with a hole in your arm and several months remaining on your tour of duty). A lot of that was courtesy of the doc. I went back to the hospital later, found him, and offered to buy him a drink. He couldn’t. There were rules about officers accepting gifts from enlisted men. He told me to look him up after I got back and I could buy him one then, two if the Giants won the World Series. Turns out I never did. He left shortly for private practice and I went on to become the great baseball blogger I am (is that Hubris?). I sort of always wanted to see him again and buy that drink, but it never worked out. I hope he’s still alive to see the recent success of his beloved Giants. Thanks, Doc.

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13 Responses to “The Doctor Was a Giants Fan”

  1. Bruce Thiesen Says:

    I’ve never bought into the rivalry between Dodgers and Giants fans, no matter how hard Mike Krukow pushes it. This type of animosity doesn’t come easy to me. I enjoy watching the games the two teams play and ALWAYS want the Giants to win. That’s the extent of it. I even watch the Dodgers when they aren’t playing the Giants (mostly to listen to Vin).

    It’s an amazing world when a Dodgers guy very badly in need of good help is paired with a Giants fan who can do the job. Funny! If you ever see the good doctor again, let’s hope he has a nicer store front than the Third Surgical, where he greeted you in 1967.

  2. keithosaunders Says:

    What a great post, V! I’m guessing the Giants were a better team than the Dodgers in the late 60s. Those late 60s teams with Willie Crawford, Willie Davis, Bill Sudakus, Tom Haller (I may be overlapping with early 70s here) are my earliest Dodger memories – my Dad would take us to games and we would listen on the radio or watch the few televised games on TV.

  3. Gary Trujillo Says:

    V.
    I love when you show a bit of your personal life. Amazing. I love reading about aspects of that unjust war and the young men who bravely fought for this country. Keep ’em coming.

    Sorry to burst your bubble Bruce, but the Dodgers/Giants rivalry is still alive and can rival the Yanks/Sox hatred. I’ve been to Dodger Stadium and have seen obnoxious Giants fans leave in a storm of trash. You should always be humble in any aspect of life…apparently YOUR fellow fans never learned that…and paid the price in hilarity. I felt no pity.

  4. glen715 Says:

    Enjoyed the post, V. I, too, enjoy it when you tell about your childhood and real-life experiences. My favorite post by you was “The Field in The Middle of Town”, which you wrote two years ago. (I still remembered the name of the post, so finding it was easy.)

    Here it is, for those who didn’t get the chance to read it the first time. This is such a great story, and related so beautifully!

    https://verdun2.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/the-field-in-the-middle-of-town/

    Glen

  5. Precious Sanders Says:

    So you wanted to keep your boots dry, but what was it exactly you were doing that got you shot in the arm? I’m curious. And feel free to say none of my business if you don’t care to share 🙂

    • verdun2 Says:

      You raise rice in a wet “paddy” with a dyke around it to hold in the water. I was walking on top of the dyke rather than stooping in the paddy. Kept the boots dry, but left more of my body exposed to a sniper who happened to be good at his job. When I fell, I landed in the paddy and thus in the water. Dumb move on my part.
      v

  6. The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    A great story … especially since your blogging arm healed up! I love how baseball slips itself into our lives in all sorts of unexpected and beautiful ways. And, I love that you shared this with us. Thank you!

  7. Steve Myers Says:

    This story adds to my suspicion of doctors and the access they have to our bodies and brains. I guess we have no choice. Glad to hear you survived, but apparently your pitching career was cut short due to the bullet wound? This doctor obviously planted some anti-Dodger chip in your arm that continues to reek havoc on your beloved Dodgers and have the opposite effect on the Gaints with their three recent WS triumphs and the Dodgers with only two over the last how many years? and one of them in 1981 not really a season, but now that we’ve got this out in the open, I’m getting the feeling the Giants will not win in 2016 and their streak of wiinning the even years 2010-12-14 will come to an end and the Dodgers will be free to win a few trophies.

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