Dravecky had a unique role in the baseball scene of the Bay Area in 1989. His start at Candlestick vs. the Reds on August 10 was easily the high point of the regular season. He gave up three runs over eight innings and got the win in a 4-3 game, but that was not why people were paying attention.
A few quotes from his teammates about his comeback. Manager Roger Craig: “I’ve seen a lot of things in baseball. I’ve been in five World Series. I saw Don Larsen pitch a perfect game. But I don’t think there was ever as much excitement as I felt today. I was the biggest fan in the stadium, and I’m supposed to be standing back managing the game.”
Steve Bedrosian, who got the save: “I was working on Dave Dravecky’s adrenalin. It was amazing. All the things he’s been through these last 10 months … I’m proud of him, and I’m proud to have been a witness to it.”
Kevin Mitchell: “That’s the thing that surprised me. Those guys went up there expecting the same old Dave Dravecky, but he was busting guys inside. Eric (Davis) said he was coming in a lot. He must’ve broken three or four bats on those guys. I know he broke (Todd) Benzinger’s bat on that base hit.”
First baseman Will Clark: “It took me about three innings to get into the game itself. The first two innings, the crowd was really into the game and they stayed in it. I got into it eventually, but it took me awhile. I hadn’t seen this kind of emotion at this place since the playoffs in 1987. The emotion was definitely there.”
Also, here’s a bit on Dravecky’s first start of 1989, on July 23 in Stockton. The S.F. Chronicle reported:
Stockton’s Billy Hebert field may be best known as the site where the mythical “Mighty Casey struck out,” but last night a standing-room-only crowd of some 4,500 was cheering every swing and miss. As they watched, Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky shut out the Stockton Ports and beat cancer in seven tidy innings.
Dravecky, throwing off a mound in the heat of battle for the first time since he lost more than half of the deltoid muscle on his pitching arm to cancer in an October 7 operation, threw 78 pitches, 51 of them strikes, gave up just five hits, no walks, did not allow a run and reached 88 mph on the radar gun. At the end of his seven-inning stint it appeared his greatest exertion was tipping his cap to a wildly appreciative crowd.
“This certainly does not mean I’m going to pitch in the major leagues,” Dravecky said. “But whether I come back to the big leagues or not, it’s a miracle that I was able to throw today. And if today is the last time I ever throw from the mound, I’m still thrilled by it.”
Based on last night’s beautifully controlled outing, in which he only went to three balls on a batter twice, it seems almost impossible that the Giants will not give Dravecky a chance to become comeback pitcher of the millennium. As he says, immediately after the operation, “I was only concerned with getting normal use of my arm back.”
San Jose Giants catcher Dan Fernandez may never have seen Dravecky’s arm in the past, but based on what he saw last night, what’s “normal” for Dravecky is flat amazing for the California League.
“We talked a little before the game about using a back-door slider,” Fernandez said. “And I thought, “Oh sure.’ I mean, I’ve never done that with a pitcher in my life. But we got ahead of one guy and he started nodding to the outside with his head. I knew what he wanted, so I set up out there and danged if it didn’t come right back at my chest.”