I could have given this comeback average effort, and although I probably wouldn't have made it back, I was still set for life, and who would have known the difference?
Well, I would have known the difference. And so would God. To me, my contract with Peter O'Malley means that I give him 100% all the time through 1991. I had already let him down on one year of that contract because of the injury.
There was even a stronger reason I tried to come back. I discovered this months after the rehabilitation began, after countless nights of worry and doubt.
I wanted to come back, I finally realized, because of the game. It was that simple. I love the game. I love to compete. I love the game like I loved it when I was 8 years old.
And so I never stopped rehabilitating. Not once. I worked on my shoulder for, if I have counted correctly, 396 consecutive days after my surgery.
According to the schedule devised by Pat, it wasn't like I could take any time off, anyway. Pat said to stop my progress would have ended my progress.
There were times I thought, "Well, we've worked hard for a month, let's shut it down for four days." But Pat said no, that would have ruined everything. We had to keep going.
Sometimes I would lose my mind. Like the time Pat told me if I wanted my scar to heal, I should massage it.
So one day in the shower I massaged it for 30 minutes, then the next morning the area around it was black and blue. I called Screnar in a panic. "I think I've got internal bleeding," I cried.
When Pat found out what I had been doing to the scar, it was his turn to yell. "Bulldog, we only wanted you to massage it for two or three minutes, not 30!" he said.
Then there were the times I would try my pitching mechanics in the shopping center. I would stop Jamie in front of some dress store and begin moving my arm in funny directions while saying, "Look what I can do today!"
Soon there would be a crowd staring at me like I was a sidewalk magician, but I didn't care. With my new shoulder, I felt like one.
My workouts lasted a total of about two hours a day. Sometimes they involved weights, other times isometrics. As painful and boring as the workouts were, the hardest part was consciously separating myself from my teammates during this time.
There were two reasons I wanted to be a loner. First, I didn't want my teammates to look at me and think, "If only he was healthy . . . " That feeling would affect their play.
Also, I couldn't stand to watch a game in which I was not involved, and would not be involved for the rest of the season. I don't just watch games, I dissect them, but if I couldn't pitch that year, why look that close? So why look at all?
I actually tried watching a few games in the television room in the clubhouse, but in the early innings I inevitably threw up my hands and said out loud, "What's the use?" And I left.
This was why, sadly, on the night that my close friend Fernando Valenzuela threw his no-hitter, I was at a Janet Jackson concert. When I learned of his feat next morning, I rushed out and framed the L.A. Times front sports page and gave it to him that day during a rare clubhouse visit.
The only good part of my early rehabilitation was the time I got to spend with my family. I could read to Quinton, our 6-year-old, before he went to bed. I could rock 2-year-old Jordan while singing "Edelweiss," my favorite song from my favorite movie, "The Sound of Music."
In their own way, my children kept my fire burning. When Quinton met somebody, the first thing he would say was, "My Daddy's shoulder is fine!" Even if that person never asked.
The boys would also do something else pretty special without being asked. It would happen before they went to bed, after Jamie and I would say something like, "OK, what do you want to pray for tonight? For Mommy to get over her cold? For Grandma and grandpa to have a safe trip?"
They would say those prayers and then add, "Also God, please help Daddy's shoulder." It was enough to make me cry . . . and make me want to make personally certain those prayers were answered.
The other thing that kept me sane during those early months was golf. Ten weeks after the surgery, I was able to play, because you don't use your back shoulder muscle much when you swing. It was a great release. Finally, I could do something competitive.
The problem was, people on the course would see me and not know what to say. So they might say something like, "Hey, we see you out here, why aren't you out at the ballpark?"
They would laugh, but I knew what they meant. They meant, "How can you do this if you can't pitch?" I couldn't say anything, because that would make me look guilty when I wasn't.
It wasn't fair. But they couldn't possibly know what I was going through.
My wife and Pat agree that I never snapped at anyone during the rehabilitation. Perhaps this is because I took all my frustrations out on the workouts.