Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Desire...the incomparable Bobby Ojeda

Much is being said and much is certainly dependent upon the rehabilitation of Octavio Dotel, And there should. If indeed Dotel is ready to pitch in front of Mariano Rivera in the Bronx during April, it will only be good news for the Yankee bullpen. He'll be way ahead of schedule for the elbow surgery that was performed in June. Only ten months of rehab for this painful injury would be phenomenal. Another amazing elbow rehabilitation took place 19 seasons ago. In Queens.

Bobby Ojeda came over from the Boston Red Sox prior to the 1986 season, and proved to be better than expected. Frank inquired about two Boston lefthanders-the other being Bruce Hurst. Somehow the fate of it being the less known Bobby Ojeda brought another piece of the incredible team of 1986 with its off-the-charts moxie. Ojeda won 16 games during the regular season and twice took the mound in the 86 post-season on the road with the team down in the series. Both times the incomparable Bobby Ojeda secured Met victories. And he did so in pain.

Ojeda probably won't talk about it much, but I'd imagine his elbow had been hurting him for some time. I recall that during a September 1986 game in Philadephia he came up between innings and had me coat his elbow in analgesic heat balm. It was odd as I Bobby rarely asked for anything.

So on through 86 and into 87 did Ojeda pitch until one May day in the steamy old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium did he come down into the dugout and call Steve Garland over to let him know he just couldn't go anymore. Jim Parkes performed an ulnar nerve transplant soon afterwards and it was believed that Bobby would be lost until next year.

But Ojeda would hear none of it. Many players who have such injuries disappear for long periods of time, but not Bobby. He stayed with the club, stayed in shape and relentlessly rehabilitated. His timetable was different than the rest of us. Eccentric, yet wise, Jim Parkes knew what was afoot. And so did Steve Garland. A unique trust and understanding existed between the three of them and it was only this that allowed Ojeda to pitch again in September. I doubt that Parkes would have let anyone else attempt this stunt. But it took a special patient, too.

The desire to win and compete burned within the soft-spoken Ojeda. Pain wasn't a limiting factor, and neither was a threat to a career. The desire to repeat 1986 was incalculable in Ojeda. Tremendously loyal to his teammates, he would do anything in his power to be there and returned for what was almost an incredible surge in the final month of September in 1987.

Four months is indeed too quick for this particular rehabilitation. Protocols are still similar and the surgical technique hasn't change much. But circumstances for the man involved in this one were different. Personal values drove him. It rubbed off and was absorbed by the rest to become part of the reason why the Mets were what they were.

CORRECTION: A knowing reader mailed in that Bobby won 18 games in 1986. I stand corrected, and know that Bobby will let me have it if he finds out I short changed him two wins.


At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bobby won 18 games for us that year!


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