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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Breathe Deep!
by Hal Vickery

Odds and ends, bits and pieces:

• With speculation running rampant that the deal that brought Nick Swisher to the Sox means that Paul Konerko is expendable, primarily because Swisher can play first base, it is interesting to note that Kenny Williams has said that no talks are underway with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga, Konerko’s supposed suitors.

‘Tis the season for rumors, though, and the Konerko speculation has caused a fury on message boards and phone lines to sportsblab radio stations with speculation about the players the Sox might be able to snatch away from the Angels for Konerko.

It’s no secret the Angels love Konerko and would probably love to see him in one of their uniforms, but they should be forced to pay dearly for him, that is if there is any speculation to those trade rumors.

I tend to take such rumors with more than a grain of salt, though. My guess is that somebody on some blog somewhere posted a fabrication or speculation couched as fact, and the media picked up on it. Such is the state of sports “journalism” in 2008.

On the other hand, we all know that Kenny Williams does like to “fly under the radar” when he’s making deals, so his denial of such talks could be an attempt to do just that. Time will tell.

With SoxFest 2008 less than two weeks away, the list of attendees is beginning to flesh out. This year’s list includes: Mike Squires, Joel Horlen, Bart Johnson, Roland Hemond, Scott Linebrink, Mark Buehrle, Bobby Jenks, Josh Fields, Paul Konerko, Javier Vazquez, Jermaine Dye, A.J. Pierzynski, John Danks, Jerry Owens, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin, Josh Fields, Harold Baines, Jeff Cox, Juan Nieves, Mark Salas, Greg Walker, Hawk Harrelson, Darrin Jackson, Chris Singleton and Ed Farmer.

Looks like I’ll be bringing along my edition of Total White Sox to get some autographs this year, at least for Squires, Horlen, and Johnson.

Squires was always a favorite of mine. Unlike some of the questionable talent I’ve had a fondness for (think Jim Willoughby), Squires actually was a good major league ball player, a gold-glove caliber first baseman. It will be good to see him.

Horlen? What can you say about him. He had to have the toughest luck of just about any pitcher to wear a Sox uniform. He was a brilliant pitcher on a staff of brilliant pitchers. His no-hitter against the Tigers had to make up for some of the frustration he must have experienced over the years. It’s too bad Gary Peters and Tommy John won’t be joining him.

Bart Johnson may have been the biggest flake to wear a Sox uniform this side of Art “The Great” Shires, although for entirely different reasons. Johnson didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. Sometimes he wanted to be a pitcher. Sometimes he wanted to play the outfield. Sometimes he didn’t want to play at all. His career was over by the time he was twenty-seven, so what did he do? He became a scout, of course.

Just to get personal a little bit:

This week brought me some great relief. As you may recall, my brother had major surgery in September. I’m happy to report that he continues to recover, although it will take some time before we’re sure things are fine.

Meanwhile, while he was going through some complications following the surgery, I ended up in the hospital for four days. While I was there, they put a monitor on my heart which resulted in my eventually having a stress test just after New Year’s Day. The results from that aren’t back yet, which I’m taking as a good sign.

The other thing I was told, particularly after my brother’s problems, is that I was long overdue for a colonoscopy. I don’t know what it is about that term that scares people. All I know is that if I wasn’t scared, I was certainly reluctant.

However, I managed to summon up my courage and make an appointment. I got the results back this week. I think someone needs to teach a course for nurses on how to report test results. It certainly would have saved me some anxiety, even if it was only momentary.

The conversation went like this.

“Mr Vickery, this is [Name] from Dr. [Name]’s office. I have the results for your colonoscopy.”


“Doctor removed two polyps. The first was benign.”

Okay, you already know that means that the second one isn’t, so now you’re already thinking the worst. Still you manage the courage to say, “I’m glad to hear that.”

“The second one contained cancer cells….”

Okay, it only was a few microseconds before the second continued, but you’re already setting aside plans so you can have your chemotherapy treatments. About all you can do, though is gulp.

“…But the doctor says it was walled off. So all you’ll have to do is have another one in a year to make sure nothing grows back.”

It’s a good thing you made it through that stress test, isn’t it. In those microseconds, the heart attack those few words to start the sentence could have unleashed might have had dire consequences, particularly since you were driving. But all you can say, is, “That’s great! Thanks!”

Of course this result isn’t nearly as bad as the conversation I had with another nurse employed by another doctor just a few weeks before. One of the things that came out of my hospital stay was that there was a problem with a chest X-ray. Another one performed after I’d gotten out showed the same problem.

So the doctor sent me to the hospital for a CAT scan. The subsequent conversation went like this.

“Mr. Vickery, your test results are in, and the doctor would like to see you to discuss them.”

“Okay, can you tell me what they are?”

“All I can tell you is that there is an abnormality. I can’t discuss it with you over the phone.”

Chest X-ray. Abnormality. Two possibilities come to mind, especially when they nurse can’t tell you anymore. The first and most likely is lung cancer. The second is that one of your students had antibiotic resistant TB and has given it to you. You dismiss that out of hand, and settle for having part of your lung removed and rounds of either radiation or chemotherapy.

You work two hours away, but you manage to set up an appointment for that afternoon. You get there on time but wait a half hour. You summon your courage, and you say to the doctor, “All right. What’s wrong and what do we do about it?”

The doctor smiles, probably trying to contain her laughter. “First of all, it’s nothing like that. Your CT scan [editor’s note: Medical professionals don’t call them CAT scans] shows that the bottom lobes of both of your lungs are partially collapsed. Do you have any congestion?”

Instead of dancing or screaming about the scare you just had, you just answer, “Yes, I do. I thought I had a chest cold or something.”

So she prescribes an inhaler, gives you a sample and sends you on your way.

And you think after incidents like this, “Couldn’t they at least let you know at first that there is nothing wrong that could possibly kill you at first so you’re not making plans to revise your will?”

At any rate, after all of this, I am pleased to tell you that this column will continue for the foreseeable future.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at

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