Dave Dravecky’s ultimate victory transcended all others, for it was a triumph of heart. During 1988, his seventh big league season, Dravecky learned that he had a Desmoid tumor in his left arm, requiring surgical removal of half of the deltoid muscle. Dravecky resumed pitching in 1989, and thrilled a Candlestick Park crowd of 34,810 on Aug. 10 by allowing four hits in eight innings as the Giants defeated Cincinnati, 4-3. “It was probably the most emotional game I’ve played. Ever.”, Giants first baseman Will Clark said. Pitching at Montreal five days later, Dravecky’s humerus bone snapped as he threw a sixth-inning sinking fastball to Tim Raines. The cancer reoccurred in Dravecky’s arm after he broke it again during the Giants’ on-field celebration of their 1989 National League Pennant. Eventually, this required amputation of Dravecky’s pitching arm. Dravecky’s competitive sports career had ended. But his influence was just beginning. Something magical was beginning to happen between Dravecky and Giants fans. Dravecky and his wife, Jan, were overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of supportive letters they received and the warm embraces that greeted them, literally and figuratively, wherever they went. Dravecky came to understand that the emotion and passion he elicited from so many people came from their souls. That made his following so genuine and infinitely more enduring than his 27-game career with the Giants. Dravecky’s closest counterpart in the Bay Area Sports Pantheon is Willie McCovey, the most beloved giant of all. McCovey, a 1987 Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame inductee, preceded Dravecky in performing fiercely through physical hardship, and in maintaining dignity and grace despite being permanently disabled. How fitting it was when Dravecky won the 1989 “Willie Mac” award, bestowed annually to the player who best exemplifies the competitiveness and class of the Giants legend.
Narrative by Chris Haft