By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s immortal words gave birth to the hymn our forbears sang on July 4, 1837, at the completion of the battle monument in Concord. I have stood at the Old Concord Bridge and mentally replayed that epochal moment. All who have done so can almost hear the initial blast of gunpowder and see the the burst of fire explode from the farmer’s musket.
Little did the unnamed hero realize the far reaching impact his shot would make when he squeezed the trigger. Nothing would ever be the same. What was to him merely his duty as a patriot has become the point on which our country’s history pivots. His was indeed “the shot heard round the world.”
Comeback is the true account of another history making event … not brought about by guns and soldiers, but quietly modeled in the life of a man whose name is now well known because of his courageous faith. Dave Dravecky’s story is not just another athlete’s story, because Dave is not just another athlete. His major struggles have not been limited to locker rooms and pitcher’s mounds.
And though he has known the thrill of playing a vital role on a championship major league baseball team, his greatest victories have not been won in public ballparks. His most significant conquests have come deep within his own life as he refused to surrender to the same enemies that plague us all: fear and disappointment, pain and death.
A curious swelling no larger than a quarter on Dave’s pitching arm was diagnosed as a malignant tumor. Yet his determination mixed with optimism following the surgery and therapy got him back into the game. The whole sports world watched in amazement as the all-star hurler returned to the mound, confident and sure as ever. Many called it a miracle as he was reunited with his team, the San Francisco Giants.
In early August of ’89, amid repeated, thunderous applause, he earned a decisive win against the Cincinnati Reds. As he lifted his cap for a final bow following that incredible achievement, he received his twelfth standing ovation of the day. Everybody who was anybody in the world of news had his name on their lips. Dave Dravecky was suddenly a synonym for comeback.
His next game was in Montreal. Excitement was at an all-time high. Throwing with a strange tingling sensation in his arm, Dave pitched well enough through five innings to be ahead 3-0, a nice cushion to enjoy. In the bottom of the sixth, he faced a tough batter at the plate, Tim Raines. Dave took his wet, stared at first base to restrain a runner, pivoted, and, kicking high, he pushed off the rubber and let fly. He didn’t realize that it would be the last pitch of his life.
A dull, sickening crack could be heard across the unusually quiet stadium. The humerus bone in his pitching arm literally snapped as he delivered with full force. In Dave’s own words, “My arm felt like I’d been hit with a meat axe.” He grabbed his arm to keep it from flying toward home plate as he screamed, tumbling headfirst to the ground.
It was enough to devastate the strongest of the strong. Not Dave Dravecky. Remarkable though it may seem today, his thoughts were not full of bitterness or self-pity. Rather, he found himself overflowing with gratitude, confident that God was writing another chapter in his life. Something more, something amazing was about to be revealed. At the time he had no idea what it was. Little did he realize, as he writhed in pain upon the ground, that he had delivered “the pitch heard round the world.”
Now he does. And that’s why Comeback has been written.
- Chuck Swindoll, Pastor