Extra Innings: Fred Claire’s Journey to City of Hope and Finding a World Championship Team

Extra Innings: Fred Claire’s Journey to City of Hope and Finding a World Championship Team by Tim Madigan. 202 pages, Mascot Books, $24.95.

I don’t personally know Fred Claire, but I know him by reputation. I first came across Fred on Facebook a few years ago. I was—and still do—collect baseball autographs, and when I learned he had been the General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers for many years, I messaged him asking if he’d sign a ball for me. “I’d be glad to,” he replied. I sent him a ball, and a self-addressed stamped envelope, in which he returned a beautifully signed baseball. The grace and kindness he showed me in that brief but sincere interaction was what made me recognize that Fred Claire is a special kind of person that is not often seen in baseball. So when I heard about Extra Innings: Fred Claire’s Journey to City of Hope and Finding a World Championship Team, I knew I had to get a copy so that I could learn more about the man who not only helped build the 1988 L.A. Dodger World Series Championship team, but overpowered a deadly form of cancer. Extra Innings is not such much a baseball book as much as it’s a book about Claire’s battle with cancer, which had initially started on his skin, and moved to his jaw. His prognosis was not good, but Claire took on the cancer like he took on many other challenges in his life. He went to City of Hope National Medical Center outside Los Angeles where he received the treatment that saved his life. The book itself talks about City of Hope’s long and prosperous history, as well as the many people who have come through the medical facility since its inception in 1913. It also details the work that goes into fighting cancer, as well as the amazing strides that doctors and scientists have made over the years towards fighting and curing cancer. Extra Innings combines stories about his days with the L.A. Dodger organization with his battle with cancer. I was particularly intrigued by the story at the start of the book about a brawl that Claire, and Dodger M.V.P. Kirk Gibson almost got into when Gibson allegedly challenged Claire’s authority. Madigan uses this story to illustrate how someone like Claire should never be confused with someone who can be pushed around. Despite their initial quarreling, Claire and Gibson reconciled in later years when Gibson found out about Claire’s battle with cancer, and called to tell him he was one of the toughest sons-of-b****es he knew. This example of reconciliation is one of the many stories in Extra Innings that serves as a testament to Claire’s character.

As the son of a cancer survivor, I appreciated reading about Claire’s long road to recovery. Watching my own father come back from stage-four cancer (he’s living happily with my mother in West Palm Beach, Florida today), I understand the challenges that accompany recuperation. It filled me with joy to read about how one day Claire struggled for over twenty minutes to get out of bed one day, only to find the strength and determination to get out of the bed the next day and move about.

Extra Innings isn’t a baseball book as much as it is a narrative about a man who not only helped build a championship team, but looked cancer in the eye and said, “I’m going to beat you” and did. Extra Innings brilliantly combines exciting baseball anecdotes with stories about what it means to overcome insurmountable and personal challenges.

All proceeds from book sales will be donated directly to City of Hope.