by Jim Riggs
May 20, 1978
A Victory In Extra Innings
The marathon finally ended in the 25th inning. Up to that point I wasn’t sure there would ever be an end. However, I kept telling myself one of the teams was going to win, but the question was when and which one.
I lived through a similar experience recently while sitting 12 hours in the labor room with my wife. I kept telling myself a baby was going to be born, but the question was when and what kind – boy or girl.
Everything had started smoothly (if labor can be considered smooth) as the nurses kept telling my wife, Sharon, she was doing fine and showing good progress. This built up our confidence so much that we thought we might become parents after just five hours instead of possibly waiting 12 hours or more as many of friends did.
Things were supposedly moving along so quickly that it reminded me of one of those pitching duels between Bob Veale and Bob Gibson in the late 1960s. Those two fireballers would work so fast that the radio announcers had trouble fitting one minute commercials in between innings and the game would always be over in less than two hours.
We were thinking that soon the bulge Sharon had been carrying around for months would finally become a little human being. The thought of our actual baby being born was exciting and if I was lucky, it would be a boy.
However, instead of being like a pitching duel between Veale and Gibson, Sharon’s labor soon became a snail’s pace game full of rain delays. As the hours increased our hopes decreased.
The doctor advised us it would be possibly two more hours, but after the two hours we kept hearing, “Not quite yet. We’ll check you in another half hour.”
Each of those half hours waits was like anticipating a pitch to a batter with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied. Just like the batter keeps you clinging to your seat by fouling off pitch after pitch, the doctor kept us on the edge of our seats by telling us to wait half hour after half hour.
We were into extra innings and as things dragged on, the excitement died. Just like watching an extra inning game for so long that you just want it to end, not caring if you win or lose. I just wanted the baby born, not caring if it was a boy or girl.
As we entered the 10th hour and the doctor said for the umpteenth time, ‘Not yet, I’ll check you in half an hour,“ my thoughts turned to baseball again. I could hear Bob Prince calling the play-by-play of Sharon’s labor – “We are now entering the 10th hour. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard me right. The 10th hour and it appears these two could keep it up all night! This is a classic struggle between two fine athletes - a wife trying to give birth and a baby trying to avoid birth. It would be a shame to see either one lose, but as we all know one of them eventually will. Only time will tell.”
Unfortunately, unlike a manager who can go to the bullpen and his bench for replacements when his starter tires, we had no reserves waiting in the wings. I was beginning to tire after 24 hours without sleep and Sharon, who was doing all the work, was exhausted from battling constrictions which had begun long before we came to the hospital. No ageless veterans or flashy rookies were waiting on the bench to bail us out, so like a couple of gutsy oldtimers, we hung in there.
As we neared the 12th hour, the doctor did put out a call to his bullpen. He called on the aid of a doctor who was as effective as Sparky Lyle. Just as the Yankee lefty can quickly put stop to a rally, this doctor put a stop to delays and before we knew it we off to the delivery room.
Suddenly we both felt like a weary pitcher heading into the bottom of the ninth after his team had taken the lead in the top of the frame. Victory was in sight and we never felt stronger.
In the delivery room, we forgot what fatigue was and before we knew it the game ended with one in the victory column – a boy.
Now we were both so excited and refreshed that long ordeal was almost forgotten. Like Ernie Banks I was ready to say, “That was a great game, let’s play two tomorrow!” But somehow I didn’t think Sharon would agree.
Soon I was off making those important phone calls. I dread seeing the phone bill since those long distance calls really add up. Particularly the one to the general managers of the Los Angeles Dodgers and California Angels. I had a tough time trying to explain that I didn’t know whether my son was a righthander or lefthander, but I assured them he was an outstanding prospect.
When I called the Montreal Canadiens, I almost slipped and told them his name was Jim. However, I caught myself and told them the player who would make fans forget about Rocket “Richard and Guy Lafleur was named Jacque Riggs.
All the general managers were polite, but none seemed interested enough to offer a tryout.
More disappointment followed when I went shopping and discovered you cannot buy football shoes in infant sizes or basketball shorts with plastic liners nor golf clubs with 12-inch shafts.
Oh well. Maybe he won’t become a sports star. Maybe he’ll be a banker, or a lawyer, or a teacher. Then again he might decide he doesn’t want to work and become a sportswriter.