By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Now and again I run across a story that transcends
the normal baseball routines and speaks of life and thankfulness. Arizona MSBL co-president, MSBL Hall of Fame member
and Lifetime Achievement Award winner John Silingo died on the field in 2013
while pitching. He was brought back to
life by quick thinking friends and lived to tell the tale.
I am usually the editor of most of what comes across
my desk but there are those occasions where the story needs to be told in their
own words, unedited. This is one of
those stories. John explains his brush
with the hereafter as only a person who has gone through it can. It’s a tad lengthy but it needs to be. This isn’t your traditional ‘who, what, when where
and why’ post, it is emotional. Thank
you, John, for sharing this and God’s speed as your baseball career and zest
for life move forward. In John's own words:
Submitted by John Silingo, Arizona MSBL co-president
My day was September 3, 2013. We were scheduled at Goodyear Complex that evening, the second to last game of the season. The game
had more importance to our team as we were attempting to stay out of last
place. Our opponent, the Diamondbacks, on the other hand, had a lock on first
place. I stopped by co-league president Lou McAnany's that morning to discuss
league business. It was then that he told me that the Dbacks would be short
players and ready to forfeit, but he had told them he'd found two substitutes.
Later that evening we started the game against the Dbacks with their eight and one substitute – enough to play the game. I started
on the hill and as things were moving along I received a call from our chief umpire.
He delivered the news that a team on a field next to us had just forfeited
their game when one of the players was seen urinating on the field. Difficult
to believe? I schedule the games, procure and negotiate for the fields and work
closely with the officials. After receiving calls earlier during the season
from an irate manager of Municipal Stadium, this final warning was issued: "If
one more guy urinates in my dugouts we'll void your permit”.
It was with two outs in the bottom of sixth when we
got a ground ball to the right side and I naturally started in that direction
to cover first if needed. The infielders made the play so I turned and started
for our third base dugout. Approaching the mound my legs began feeling
'rubbery' and in what was probably not more than two seconds thoughts passed
through my head. Dehydration? I've played, pitching and catching three hours
during day games in the desert sun and never had a problem. It is a warm, humid
evening but, not enough to faint. All these thoughts as it went black from left
to right and at then at the same moment feeling the dirt with my fingertips.
Lou happened to be on another field next to our
game. Someone got his attention and brought him over. He had the task of
calling my wife, Kelly, to tell her that I'd been hurt. She told Lou to have me
brought to the Phoenix hospital where she was employed. In response to Lou
telling the EMT's Kelly's wishes, she heard an EMT yell back, "We don't have
time, we're taking him to nearest facility”. At that point tough guy Lou
couldn't talk and handed the phone over to his wife. Kelly then realized that
it was more than a broken bone.
The last batted out in the sixth was Ken Fleisch.
Ken is an ER doc, works nights and had just recently started working the ER for
the hospital in Payson. He drove from his home in Cave Creek, a far north and
east city, a long distance to the far west city of Goodyear to play. All this
for a relatively meaningless game that was at risk of being forfeited.
After seeing me go down Ken was on me immediately
and started CPR. Two players, one an EMT and the other a chiropractor, offered
to relieve him but he refused. From accounts of those present, twice Ken said
that he got pulse while waiting for the city's fire department.
The fire department was probably no more than two
miles down the road and 12 minutes from the time I dropped 'til the time that
the paddles were used on me. It took two or three hits before the heart began
In 27 years and about 800 games seldom was there even
one person who came to see me. We had all eight fields this night and more than
150 people at the complex. Most all those 150 stopped by to see me which has
allowed me to brag that one game I had 150 come to see me on the field.
The odds of survival is 7%. With a defibrillator
immediately available the odds go up to 39%. Odds
go to zero within three to five minutes without one.
This episode resulted in quadruple heart bypass
surgery as two arteries were 99% blocked and two were 50–85%. This from a 67
year old with LOW blood pressure who played 45 games a year.
How about Ken being at the game? A 60 mile drive
from his home to a game of no real relevance. The
fire station only a couple miles away! Most of the doctors
and nurses who attended to me in the hospital were all amazed that there were
no apparent negative affects – physical, speech or mental. Of course those who
know me say that they wouldn't know if there was any mental damage done or not!
I mentioned earlier about the player relieving
himself on the field. This, I tell people is the real cause of my heart
Two months after the incident on the field during
the World Series, Steve Sigler presented Lou and me with our Lifetime
Achievement Awards. I originally planned to be manager/player and was relegated
to the bench until the last game. Then a perfect situation arose. I turned to
my doctor and shortstop Ken Fleisch to ask if it would be OK to bat. He asked
how I felt and when I said, "OK”, he said to go for it.
Two years before, my wife, Kelly, was diagnosed with
stage 4 metastatic cancer. As I was recovering, and since, I have lamented to a
few what an ideal way of permanent departure I could have made - on the ball
field, having pitched one of my better games that year and getting the win
against number one. All to whom I've made that comment have said, "Kelly will
need you”. They were right. It was a selfish comment. Kelly passed May 6, 2016.
And she did need me.
In July of 2015 I had a little stroke. Compared to
my near brush with death, this little bitty stroke has done more to limit my
ability to continue and compete in the game. This stroke, caused by a heart
defect, apparently and totally was unrelated to the heart attack.
I tend to analogize everything to baseball. That's
two strikes...ya think?