During the course of my career covering baseball at Sports Illustrated, one of my ultimate joys was walking into a press box and bumping into some of the great scribes of the era.
One of my absolute favorites was Rod Beaton of USA Today.
Rod could write, he could report, he could interview. (He also got in a spat with Barry Bondsâ€”which earns his instant cred). But, beyond all else, Rod is an absolutely wonderful man. Kind and decent; quick with a smile or a funny storyâ€”just the sort of person you feel good being around. (Plus, he is wickedly smartâ€”as evidenced by his University of Delaware pedigree).
Sadly, this is a lead-up to terrible news.
According to Rod’s wife Maria, via Sportsjournalists.com, Rod is terminally ill with Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease. He is in a nursing home, in a wheelchair and wearing a pacemaker. His brain is gradually dying, and he likely has a few months to live. Withint 18 months he’s undergone three brain surgeries. He’s 57, with two sons in college.
I wrote it in my second 9.11 post, and I’ll write it again. Appreciate your life. Hug your kids. Get off your couch and smell the fresh air, take a long run, eat a big, fat Friendly’s sundae. Grab it all, because one never knows when the end will come. I recently read a quote, “God laughs at those who make plans,” and it makes much sense. Seriously.
I don’t know Rob’s wife, but she posted this on Sportsjournalists.com. I wish her and Rob much strength and courage during this unfairly horrible time …
This is Maria replying. Thank you all for the read. I’m printing it out and will read most of them to him when I see him next. Rod will be 58 September 28. He’s actually doing well these past two weeks and is again eating (he was not for a long time). But he can no longer read, has MLB channels on most of the time or ESPN, does not understand football, but knows and talks about baseball and hockey. Predicts the Red Sox will not win the World Series this year, when I asked him what he thought of the upcoming Fall Classic. No playoffs? I asked. Oh, sure, he tells me, they’ll play, but they won’t make it. the Marlins? Gives me that look: fogedaboutit! The Phillies? Shakes his head on that and won’t say more. He can barely talk so that was amazing. He can only walk a few steps before his legs won’t carry him. He is dying. He doesn’t know…but then again, he knows. It could be weeks, or months, but it will not be long. While he has revived for now, he could crash again and not get up. Anyone wanting to know more is welcome to email me at email@example.com or call me at ———-.
To visit or send letters (don’t discuss his disease. Just tell him you wish him well and miss him): Rod Beaton
Emeritus of Arlington, Room 213
3821 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22203
Your replies sent me way back to a much happier time and while it was sad to go there, it was still good to remember.
Barry Bonds was a big part of his life from time to time and Leyland too. I actually had to tell Leyland to quit calling us at home or keep his calls professional as he was becoming abusive. He pisses me off and that only made Rod pursue him as a story all the more. Struck a nerve there!
As for Barry, he turned out to be a major coincidence factor, a year or so after the locker room incident, which Rod, by the way, maintained was no big deal and he was becoming embarrassed at the attention. A Barry Bonds foul ball one day hit Rod’s laptop in the press box in NY and Rod was sent home as he could no longer cover the game. His laptop exploded. So instead of picking him up at the airport as we usually did, the boys and I (boys were 2 and 5), showed up at the Roslyn USAT HQ at the time and much to our surprise, Bill Clinton, as a presidential candidate, was in the building and came out to shake our hands and foot. By foot I mean that our oldest, Kyle, was sitting on Rod’s shoulders to get a good view of the candidate, and Bill Clinton came over. Couldn’t shake Rod’s hands as they were holding Kyle’s feet to keep him balanced. So Bill Clinton shook Kyle’s foot and said, “Hi, I’m Bill Clinton.” Kyle, totally unconcerned about who this man was, was delighted and replied simply, “Hi, I’m Kyle and I’m taller than you.” And he was, sitting on his Dad’s shoulders. That got a chuckle as only a small child can spontaneously create.
Many years later, as Rod was looking worse and worse with Parkinson’s, and on his last baseball season, so that was 2002 or 3 or 4, was stuck in a couch and could not get up. No one noticed he was struggling to get up from the couch until Barry Bonds walked by and said, “You need some help?” And he gave Rod a good pull and helped him up, then looked at him a little more closely and remarked, “You don’t look too good. What’s wrong?” When Rod told him he had Parkinson’s, Barry shook his head and told him, “That sucks. I’m sorry.” And Rod told me he meant it. I refused to believe Barry could be that nice spontaneously, but Rod was adamant that Barry has a heart and showed it. He was visibly touched by Barry’s gesture.
Your stories of Rod are great. It will do him a lot of good to remember along with you. Thank you.