Trey Mancini, leader of the struggling, losing, rebuilding Baltimore Orioles, was already the best story in professional sports, and then he put on a show in the home run derby on the eve of the Major League All-Star game. Amazing.
Last year at this time, he was just a couple of months from finishing his treatments for colorectal cancer at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He had surgery to remove the tumor on March 12, 2020, just as the nation faced the worst pandemic in a century. Mancini turned 28 six days later, and started his chemotherapy treatments — unaccompanied to them because of hospital COVID-19 restrictions.
In Baltimore, we’ve already been awed by his comeback. On July 12, 2021, the rest of the world got to see him, swinging the bat with a grunt and a smile, hitting 59 home runs in the three rounds of the derby, then speaking to the media with happy-to-just-be-here modesty. He finished second to some chest-thumping showoff from New York.
Many thoughts occurred to me as I watched Mancini: I thought of all the people I’ve known who had cancer and survived; they endured so much, and benefited from great medical care. I thought of friends who did not survive cancer — two, in particular, who only lived to their early 20s, and a father-in-law I miss every day. But they all lived longer and better than earlier generations would have, and all because of advances in the study and treatment of tumors.
And so maybe it was inevitable — because it’s right there in front of us — that I thought of the anti-vaxxers, and the stunning way people who should know better have been opposing efforts to get more of us vaccinated against a virus that has killed 607,000 Americans and 4 million around the world.
Virology is as much a part of medical science as oncology. People who refuse the COVID-19 vaccines would readily undergo chemotherapy to fight cancer. If their lives or the lives of their children were on the line, they would certainly listen to every word a doctor had to say. And yet, in this Trump-induced stupor of theirs, they demean Dr. Fauci and politicize the vaccination efforts as some sort of liberal conspiracy. At the CPAC conference in Dallas over the weekend, there was applause for the fact that the nation has not yet reached the 70% vaccination goal set by President Biden.
I’ll just leave it there, because I don’t have a good answer for curing the sort of selfishness and pathetic ignorance we’re witnessing, with some Republican members of the U.S. Senate essentially telling people to risk death by not getting their shots.
I applaud Trey Mancini for his courage, his strength and his example. And I applaud the unheralded researchers, doctors, nurses and all medical professionals who made possible his 28th and 29th years — and his 59 home runs Monday night at Coors Field. Amazing.