October 30, 2002
HANNIBAL — Former Major League Baseball pitcher Dave Dravecky, whose career was tragically cut short when cancer forced the amputation of his pitching arm, will be the featured speaker for Hannibal-LaGrange College’s 61st annual Booster Banquet, 7 p.m., Nov. 22, in the Mabee Sports Complex. The theme for this year’s banquet is "Hope for All Seasons."
Dravecky’s baseball career was a unique journey filled with heartache and triumph. A pitcher for the San Diego Padres, and later for the San Francisco Giants, Dravecky put his faith in the performance of pitching his arm.
He graduated from Youngstown State University in 1978, and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He became a pro ball player in 1982 when he was called to the major leagues by the San Diego Padres. He pitched during the 1984 and 1987 National League Championship games and the 1984 World Series.
His successful career was put on hold when, in 1988, doctors found a desmoid tumor on his arm, causing the removal of the deltoid muscle in his pitching arm.
After months of rehabilitation, Dravecky beat the odds and returned to the mound in August 1989. His successful return to the sport was the subject of his first book, Comeback.
A week after his return, however, Dravecky’s left arm broke with a snap that was heard throughout the stands. Chuck Swindoll wrote, "He had delivered the pitch heard around the world." His arm broke again in October, signaling him that the cancer had returned.
Due to his illness, Dravecky was forced to retire from professional baseball in November 1989. The athlete endured another surgery and radiation treatment in 1990. In 1991, he was bedridden with constant pain caused by a staph infection. In June, Dravecky’s left arm, shoulder blade and left side of his collarbone were amputated.
Dravecky described his sense of loss in his second book, When You Can’t Come Back. He wrote, "My arm was to me what hands are to a concert pianist, what feet are to a marathon runner. It’s what people cheered me for, what they paid their hard earned money to see. It’s what made me valuable…Then suddenly, my arm was gone."
He and his wife, Jan, both fell into severe depression as they faced questions such as, "What happens when a part of your life is taken away forever? How do you help thousands of others with loved ones dying from cancer when you have nothing left to give yourself?"
As the Draveckys learned and grew from their experiences, they were able to help others through their books and speaking ministry. They address topics such as dealing with loss and suffering, faith, reaching out to others and leaving the past behind. They also developed the Dave Dravecky Outreach of Hope, a non-profit organization that assists others dealing with cancer and amputation.
Dravecky continued to heal emotionally and wrote a third book, The Worth of a Man, using biblical foundations for defining a man’s purpose, not based on achievement or success.
Dravecky will be signing his books following the banquet.
The H-LG music department will provide entertainment during the banquet. Booster Banquet tickets are $35 each; students ages 17 and under are $20 each. Tickets may be reserved by calling the Institutional Advancement Office at (573) 221-3675, ext. 208.