Where Are The Heroes? Part Two
What makes a baseball hero? Record setting numbers, bronze plaques and statues? Well, sure. That is one type of hero. In fact, if you want to find a complete compendium of every one of these folks who ever played, (except Pete Rose), there's a little museum in Cooperstown, New York that specializes in just this sort of thing. Of course the players have to wait for at least five years after they retire before they find out if they are bona fide heroes. Except for Pete Rose.
Pete Rose. Charley Hustle. The man has records that will stand for a long time, maybe forever. But even Cooperstown doesn't give him hero status. Why? He broke the rules. He said he'd follow the rules but then he went out and violated them. Boiled down, Rose's problem was not an issue of his ball playing ability and achievements; it was a severe character flaw.
Welcome to the Baseball Hall of Heroes
Let's take the Pete Rose/Hall of Fame issue and turn it upside down and inside out. Let's say that for one day in this Twilight Zone type existence, the Hall Of Fame honored major league ballplayers that were heroes of extraordinary character. Let's say that stats and records and ballplaying achievements didn't count, but matter of character did. On that day, who would be in the Hall? Which former ballplayers would even be given consideration? Which ex-major leaguers qualify as true heroes?
There are no statistics to look up a man's character. There are no box scores for overcoming personal adversity and hardship. Where would you look to find records on unselfishness and self-sacrifice? Ignoring this void of data, I hereby nominate a man whose major league baseball career is summarized by a trivia question:
Q: In 1987, which player did the Mets trade to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for David Cone?
A: It was their backup catcher, Ed Hearn.
Ed was a member of the '86 World Champion Mets. Yeah, those Mets. The hard drinking, cop fighting, drug taking, airplane trashing, swaggering team that won 116 games and was the team that rest of country (outside of New York) loved to hate.
So why do I nominate Ed Hearn?
No, it's not the David Letterman jokes (Letterman plugged his imaginary book 'Ed' which Letterman said "details all twelve of Ed Hearn's major league hits").
It is because Ed has one heck of story to tell. He was a high school star athlete after which he spent several years in minors. When he finally got his chance in majors, he was Gary Carter's backup on the World Championship team of 1986. In spring of '87 he was traded to the Kansas City Royals for David Cone and was penciled in as the Royals starting catcher.
So far, so good goes this story. Nice man, with some stick-to-it-ness, but nothing extraordinary. However, the adversity that followed Ed Hearn from that point in time defined who he is, his character and, frankly, his heroism.
Ed's throwing arm went down in the spring of '87. The dreaded rotator cuff tear had Hearn in post surgical rehab for the rest of the season as well as most of the '88 season. He made it back for a September 2nd call up and finished his major league career with two doubles on September 30th. Ed kicked around the minors from '89 through '91 trying to make it back to the majors. Although he put up some decent numbers, it was not to be.
Three Medical Strikes and He's Almost Out!
It was in the spring of '91 that Ed quit baseball and joined New York Life to start his post-ballplaying career in the insurance business. It also at this time that Ed Hearn's life took a dramatically negative turn. Without much warning, Ed was diagnosed with failing kidneys. He would need to go dialysis and would eventually need a transplant. Ed was, naturally floored!
But, as they say on those late night television commercials "But, wait! There's more!"
Only weeks later, Hearn discovered he was also suffering from a hereditary condition known as hypogammaglobulinemia, a condition in which the body doesn't produce enough antibodies to fight off infection.
What else could happen? Well, don't you know that troubles always come in threes? Less than six months later, Ed Hearn was diagnosed with yet another life threatening condition; sleep apnea. This is a condition where Ed would stop breathing in his sleep.
So now Ed Hearn, a strong athlete just a few months before was struggling just to get out bed. He went on dialysis, which was then followed by a kidney transplant. He was loaded with medication, some of which had severe side effects. Topping all this he had to wear an oxygen mask to bed each night!
How did Ed react to all this? Just the way most of us would. He was floored! He was angry, depressed and, at the very depths of his depression and despair, eventually suicidal.
Last Inning Rally
But at the bottom of his personal hell, Ed Hearn rallied. He put away his .357 Magnum and began to pull himself together. You see, Ed is, at the heart of it all, a man of character. He is also a man has deep spiritual convictions, and at his darkest moment, he rallied himself. He was in the Mets dugout to witness the greatest World Series comeback victory in game six on October 25, 1986, but this comeback would outshine anything the world of sports. He saved himself, and now, Ed truly believes all that happened to him, was for a reason. Today Ed Hearn's passion in life is helping others.
A Conversation with Ed Hearn:
Today Ed Hearn is a motivational speaker. His mission is to help other people to excel in whatever of life's paths they have chosen. Ed has written and published a book about his amazing story entitled "Conquering Life's Curves".
I "met" Ed through the magic of the Internet. Ed e-mailed me as a result of his web surfing and coming across my Mets Fan website. We have been exchanging e-mail for about two years.
Ed recently spoke to me from his home in Kansas City.
Me: "How is your health these days?"
Ed: "Pretty good. I did have a setback in February when I went to spring training. But I'm doing better now."
Me: "Your old web site is no longer operative. Do you still maintain a web presence?"
Ed: "Yes, I have a temporary site at: http://hometown.aol.com/edhearn49/base1/index.htm . I will have a permanent site up shortly."
Me: "So you are still selling the book and doing your motivational speaking?"
Ed: "Oh yes, as far the speaking goes, I have several engagements coming up."
Me: "I'm writing the second part of article on heroes and character. I was hoping to get some of your views. Let's look back at that '86 Mets team. They had a reputation for being a rough and rowdy crowd. Who were the roughest and rowdiest?
Ed: "You know, to best understand the '86 Mets it might be easiest to explain them in terms of how we were seated when we flew in the airplane. In the rear of the plane were the guys who partied hearty. Thank drank heavily, gambled, and it has been alleged that some were taking drugs. The called themselves 'The Scum Bunch'."
Me: "Which players were members of the Scum Bunch?"
Ed: "Lenny Dykstra, Darryl Strawberry, Hernandez, Jesse Orosco, Doug Sisk, and Doc Gooden were some of them. In the middle of the plane were seated guys who didn't always participate with Scum Bunch, but occasionally partied with them. Guys like Sid Fernandez, Kevin Mitchell and Randy Nieman"
Me: "Where did you travel?"
Ed: "I sat with a bunch of players just forward of the middle-of-the-road fellows. Players like Gary Carter, Ray Knight, Mookie Wilson, Tim Tueffel, and George Foster. We would ride quietly listening to music or reading. Many of us would even read The Bible."
Me: "Your son Cody's middle name is Carter. After Gary?"
Ed: "Yes, Gary was my mentor both on and off the field. He was a good example of what a man should be like. Gary would love to talk to the media, and some players resented him for that. But Gary was true professional who knew reporters had a job to do, too. And Gary never felt he had to party in order to 'be somebody.'."
Me: "Do you think that's what was behind the drinking and drugs? Trying to conform?"
Ed: "To a large degree, yes. Take a look at Doc Gooden. Doc is a real good guy with a heart of gold. But he had such success so early! And he really tried to fit with the guys. Then after the season, Doc would return home. He came from a rough neighborhood, you know? And his old friends would tempt him, and if he tried to refuse, his friends would ask him if was too good for them."
Me: "What are your feelings about some of your other team mates. Mookie Wilson? Ray Knight?"
Ed: "Mookie is one the finest gentlemen I have played with. Ray's a real good guy. He would read the Bible on the plane, you know? And he was tough! A golden gloves boxer!"
Me: "Who were you close to on the Royals?"
At this point Ed paused. I sensed something wrong. After a moment, he continued.
Ed: "Dan Quisenberry who recently passed. [Dan Quisenberry died of brain cancer earlier this year. Ed. note]. Dan was a wonderful man. He was deeply involved in his church and in the community. As a matter of fact I'm now in the process of setting a memorial fund called 'Bottom of the Ninth, Character Counts____________' we will a not-for-profit organization that will benefit___________________.
Me: Is there a way for my readers to make contributions to "Bottom of the Ninth?"
Me: "Is there any single thought you'd like to leave with the readers of this article"
Ed: "Yes, 'Keep swinging for the fences, regardless of life's curves!' It's same message I usually sign with my autographs".
Ed asked me to inform my readers that he can reached at EdHearn49@aol.com He will happily sign autographs, but please send a (snail mailed) stamped self addressed envelope.