Loading the bases against cancer
Sure, a fascination with public health and science issues attracted me to my current writing post at the Hutchinson Center. But I’ll admit it: The longtime baseball fan in me couldn’t help but perk up when I learned, back in the job-application phase, that this scientific research institution’s history indirectly involves America’s favorite pastime.That’s right: Our namesake, Fred Hutchinson, made his career as a determined, no-nonsense athlete who pitched for the Detroit Tigers and later managed three big-league clubs. Shortly after he guided the 1961 Cincinnati Reds to World Series glory, tragedy struck: “Hutch,” as he was known, discovered small lumps in his throat and upper chest and died of lung cancer scarcely a year later, at the age of 45.
His surgeon brother, Dr. Bill Hutchinson, went on to found a research center that remains dedicated to eliminating the suffering and deaths caused by this disease.
Meanwhile, Hutch’s ties to baseball live on through a special award given annually to contemporary Major League Baseball players who display the same honor, courage and dedication as he did, both on and off the field.
As you may have heard, our selection committee recently picked Mark Teahen, a longtime third baseman for the Kansas City Royals who was recently acquired by the Chicago White Sox, to receive the 2009 Hutch Award at a benefit luncheon in January.
We at the Petri Dish blog share in congratulating Teahen, who has played an active role in organizations focused on the well-being of children—and who witnessed his mother’s successful battle with breast cancer.
To mark that occasion, and because baseball nerds like me love our trivia, I thought I’d share a few fun facts about the Hutch Award:
- The award actually predates the founding of our cancer research center by about a decade. Although the Hutchinson Center now hosts the Hutch Award, the honor was created in 1965, shortly after Hutch’s death, by his longtime friends Bob Prince, a broadcaster of the Pittsburgh Pirates; Jim Enright, a Chicago sportswriter; and Ritter Collett, sports editor of the Dayton Journal Herald.
- Storied New York Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle was the first Hutch Award recipient. Mantle also represents one of 11 Hutch Award recipients, including Sandy Koufax and George Brett, who went on to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Last year’s Hutch Award winner was unique: He was the first recipient to have also been a patient at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, our treatment arm. Pitcher Jon Lester underwent six rounds of chemotherapy to treat a rare type of lymphoma before joining the Boston Red Sox in February 2007. After his recovery, he served as the winning pitcher in the team’s decisive Game Four World Series victory against the Colorado Rockies that fall.
- The Hutch Award includes an important fundraising component that supports our early-detection research. Many of our researchers focus on discovering new ways to find cancers in their earliest stages, when treatments tend to be most successful. Proceeds from the Jan. 27, 2010 luncheon to celebrate Teahen will support these efforts.
I’m as tired of overused sports clichés as the next person, but I think we can agree that some clear parallels exist between fighting diseases like cancer and, say, chasing down a baseball pennant. Sometimes we take swings and flat-out miss our target, while at other times, we make discoveries as joy-inducing—and, in some cases, surprising—as that game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.