Posts Tagged ‘baseball in Vietnam; San Francisco Giants’

The Doctor Was a Giants Fan

February 12, 2016
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.