Robert Haydon Jones and Greg Lippert

The Last Out

By Greg Lippert


By Robert Haydon Jones
©2018 RHJA, LLC. All Rights Reserved

For five years now, every six months, Jimmy O’ Hara would visit his Cardiologist to learn if the latest test showed his aortic valve needed to be replaced and he couldn’t be an umpire any more.

It was a big practice. Today, as always, the office was crowded. There were three receptionists. Jimmy ended up with the middle one. She was a squat, dark-haired, woman in her early fifties. She was 
wearing an outsized, gold plated, necklace with six large onyx stones.

“That’s some necklace,” Jimmy O’Hara said.

“It’s a real beauty. Onyx never looked so good.”

The receptionist raised her chin and looked hard at Jimmy. Then she smiled. The smile transformed her dour face, like sun after rain.

“Well, thank you, Mr. O’Hara. This necklace is from Sicily. It was left to me by my great aunt, Maria. Okay. We’ve got all your paper work. 
Doctor Monroe will see you soon. Have a nice day.”

Jimmy had just opened his Kindle and started in again on Grant when a man called his name.

“That’s me”, Jimmy said.

It was a stocky young fellow in dark blue scrubs holding a clipboard. Jimmy followed him into an exam room and the kid took his BP and 
ran a cardiogram.

Afterward, he crumpled the packing for the leads into a ball and tossed it
 with an easy move into the bin. You could tell he had the good hand/eye.

“You’ve got the good hand/eye”, Jimmy said.

“Did you play baseball? Were you an infielder?”

“Well, I started out an infielder,” the kid said.

“Second base. But I could really run. I was the fastest guy on the team. So, they moved me to center – and that’s where I played for three years. When I was a senior, we won the Double L State Championship.”

“Really? Where did you play?

“Right here in Fairport.”

The kid was in his early thirties. So, 14 or 15 years back, Jimmy might have umpired some of his games.

“Are you playing now?”

“No, I had to work after high school and then I decided to be a nurse and there wasn’t time to do anything but work and study.

Jimmy said, “Well you could be playing now if you want to. There’s an over-25 League that’s going strong. Fairport has a team. Give me your email and I’ll connect you up with the Head Coach.”

The kid jotted down his email and gave it to Jimmy. You couldn’t tell his name from the email.

Jimmy said, “What’s your name?”

The kids’ name was Philip Caruso. He wrote it down. Jimmy told him to write down his phone number too. He did.

“It’s March”, Jimmy said. “The perfect time to get hooked up with a team.”

Philip Caruso thanked him. He had been playing a little soft ball now and then 
over the years but it wasn’t the same. “It’s definitely not the same,” Jimmy said.

About a minute after the nurse left, Doctor Monroe strode into the little room. “James J. O’Hara”, he intoned. “The one and the only.”

Bud Monroe had become Jimmy’s cardiologist fifteen years back when Jimmy’s 
Internist referred him about the palpitations Jimmy was having.

Monroe, a tall, lithe, man in his fifties, with curly blond hair, was a star cardiologist at Yale New Haven. Women still chased him. He had two sons in their twenties. Three years back, he divorced his unhappy wife. Now he had a happy girl friend.

He had managed Jimmy’s arrhythmia brilliantly with a variety of meds. Twice, while on assignment in Europe, Jimmy had called him and Monroe had quickly arranged to get him a new med to deal with a runway heartbeat.

Finally, seven years back, Jimmy had rushed to Monroe’s office in big distress. His heart felt like it would jump out of his shirt. He sank to the floor in the exam room. An ambulance took him to the hospital.

The next day, a “cardio-electrician”, as Monroe called him, administered an 
Ablation procedure and Jimmy’s heartbeat immediately returned to normal. Jimmy’s life without the palpitations coming when ever was so much better he didn’t even realize it mostly — except once in a while — when he thought 
about it.

He had developed a relationship over the years with Doctor Monroe, strictly from his brief times with him in the exam room and in his office. It was not exactly a friendly relationship. Doctor Monroe had been very forthright about his admiration for Jimmy’s wife, Anne.

Dr. Monroe was also Anne’s cardiologist and when he first talked about her to Jimmy, he thought Monroe was kidding. “A stunning beauty, a fascinating intellectual with a great sense of humor.”

Monroe wasn’t kidding. Anne told Jimmy that Monroe had talked to her 
for nearly an hour after he ran her cardiogram. They read the same books. 
They were both very serious about working out. Anne told Jimmy, “You know, I’m maybe 15 years older than he is, but he really loves me. In a good way.”

So, Jimmy trusted Monroe as his cardiologist but he wondered. Every time Jimmy’s Ablation procedure came up, Monroe would say, “Yeah that time you fainted in my office.”

It pissed Jimmy off. He remembered when he got light-headed in Monroe’s office, he worked very, very, hard to stay in control and not faint – so he was 
able to sink slowly down on the floor. Even so, every time the Ablation came up, Monroe would say, “When you fainted in my office.”

Five years back, Monroe had told Jimmy he had a problem with his aortic valve. It was narrowing. They would monitor it with echocardiograms. Jimmy could still umpire if he really wanted to. He should report any incidence of pressure on his chest or dizziness. Dizziness was the main symptom of an aortic valve problem.

So, Jimmy had the echoes’ every six months. His aortic valve kept narrowing but 
Monroe told him he was still good to go “ … if you really want to.”

Jimmy was the oldest active ump in the Umpires Union. So he was assigned only JV and freshman games. Jimmy didn’t mind. He was right where he was supposed 
to be. He loved being an ump. Even if it was a JV game, he loved being on the field
 in the middle of the action.

His family, especially two of his sons who had played for Jimmy forty years back, when he had managed a powerhouse Legion team, kept urging him to quit. 
Jimmy had never understood why his sons had not gone on with the game in college. 
They could have walked on.

“You gotta love it!” That was a phrase Jimmy and his umpire friends would use 
when they were having a tough game in the rain. It said it all for them.

So, now here was Doctor Monroe — Jimmy’s cardiologist and rival. When they had first met, Monroe had commented on the large puckered scars on Jimmy’s chest. 
Jimmy a former Marine, was a small cell lung cancer survivor. At the time, hardly 
anyone survived this cancer. Monroe had pointed to the largest scar and said, “See what happens when a bad ass Marine smokes.”

It pissed Jimmy off. Everyone thought his survival from small cell lung cancer 
had been a miracle. Evidently, Doctor Bud Monroe was not impressed. He told Jimmy he’d heard he was a good baseball coach, “Back when you were young.”

He said he had read two of Jimmy’s short stories and found them “diverting.”

Had he published anything after he turned 70?

Monroe listened to Jimmy’s heart for about a minute, took his BP and told him to get dressed and meet him in his office, just like always.

When Jimmy went into the office, he noticed it was redecorated with new photos and a couple of watercolors. One of the photos was of Babe Ruth standing at home plate in Yankee Stadium in front of a microphone. Ruth was leaning hard on a bat.

A young Mel Allen, the Yankee announcer from back in the day, was on the other 
side of the mike. It was Ruth’s farewell appearance a few weeks before he succumbed to cancer.

“What a great shot,” Jimmy said. “I’ve never seen it before anywhere.”

Monroe was smiling broadly. “Isn’t it great? The photographer was the father of one of my patients. We got talking and a week later, it was delivered to me in the frame.”

“It’s a real treasure”, Jimmy said.

“So,” Monroe said, “Any dizziness or pressure on the chest or difficulty breathing?”

The truth was that Jimmy had been having dizziness issues for a couple of years. Recently, it was getting worse. He worried about what would happen if he got dizzy while driving on the Parkway. The dizziness didn’t last long – just a few seconds.

“No pressure on the chest, no palpitations, no problems breathing,” Jimmy said. “Recently, I’ve had a few, very brief, dizzy moments. Literally just four or five seconds.”

“Well, Jimmy,” Monroe said. “I am advising you to stop the umpiring. I’m not ratting you out with your Union, but I am putting it into my notes in case you drop dead on 
the field and the authorities come and ask me how I could let an old coot with a 
defective aortic valve on the field.”

“Jesus,” Jimmy said. “Really? It’s just a momentary thing.”

“No, Jimmy, we’re talking classic precursors to fainting spells. I’m going to set you up with the Committee that has to approve you for the valve replacement procedure so Medicare will pay for it. They will contact you shortly”

“I can’t believe it,” Jimmy said. “I’m done. Say it ain’t so, Doc.”

“You’re not done, Jimmy,” Monroe said. Your new valve should last a good eight years.”

On the drive home, Jimmy thought it through. Monroe wasn’t telling the Umpire Union Jimmy’s aortic valve was busted. He could book his games for the upcoming season just 
like always.

When he got home, he went straight up to Anne and told her Monroe was booking him with the Review Committee for Medicare approval of the valve replacement procedure. Anne said she was frightened.

Jimmy called his ball player sons and told them they could relax. He was done umpiring. 
He was in the approval process for a valve replacement. His boys sympathized and told 
him they were relieved.

Sean, his eldest, said, “I’m relieved for you Dad — and for the kids. Imagine what it would be like if an old ump croaked right in front of you on the field.”

Jimmy said he had a point.

Later that night at dinner, Anne said, “So, good old Doctor Bud Monroe told you 
he wasn’t going to tell the Umpire Union. Right?”

Jimmy said that was so. Monroe was just putting it in his notes. That was why Jimmy had to tell Anne about it right away.

“What a bastard, “Anne said. “What a freaking bastard.”


  1. Posted March 12, 2018 at 7:20 am | #

    It is always a peasure to continue with Jimmy on the journey we all must make. It eases the worry, sadness, and sense of isolation, and banishes the loneliness of the human condition. Well done, Bob.

  2. Posted March 14, 2018 at 8:04 am | #

    Wrenching tale about saying goodbye to huge part of one’s life. One man is losing an “everything” to his life, while others are blunt on the nose thankful to him having to say goodbye. Well done contrast!

  3. Posted March 19, 2018 at 3:50 pm | #

    You gotta love it! — the game and the life. Not everyone gets or needs a Yankee Stadium moment.

  4. Posted March 30, 2018 at 11:18 am | #

    I,ve come to think about Jimmy as a old friend sharing life’s struggles and joys with me……poignant story…..I know Jimmy will do well with his “end game”.

  5. Posted May 24, 2018 at 10:48 am | #

    My knowledge of this game is the same as my understanding of nuclear science so thank you for the course . Your detail is exact and clear and vand filled with human apprehension . Sport life and death marital tension are out usually mixed in a story but yyou served it well as usual