Of Pennies and Giants

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A week ago we hunkered down in a standing room crowd in the Public House at AT&T Park. The Giants were still battling it out in Game 4 of the World Series and the Royals had just scored four runs at the top of the third. The crowd had grown somber.

It's not like I've ever followed baseball. I couldn't have cared less, except for one friend who cared a whole awful lot.

Our friend, Howie Usher, a river guide on the Colorado, had suffered a stroke two years ago. He had guided boats for 30 years in the Grand Canyon. And despite having grown up in Southern California, he had religiously followed the Giants for 50 years. He suffered through the 56-year drought. He reveled in 2010 when the G-men won the World Series. And he sat at home, his left side mostly frozen, when they won again in 2012.

At that time, he told everyone that he was going to get back on the river. It was not likely. That kind of work is mostly for younger men and requires all parts of your body. But for two years Howie arranged pennies for hours to build his fine motor skills. He swam to rebuild his mobility. His muscles slowly relearned how to row again. And this summer, miraculously, our friend once more rowed boats through the Grand Canyon.

On the night of Game 4, Howie had tickets to watch his first World Series game in AT&T Park. He cheered as the Giants crawled back from the third inning, scoring run by run by run until they upset the cart with an 11-4 lead.


There were three more games and we suffered and triumphed through them all, pitch by excruciating pitch, until Bumgarner wound his arm for the final out in Game 7.

A doubter, I had learned that a game actually can matter. "Beware of calling it too early," Howie had often said. And he should know. Like the pennies that got him back on the river, it's not a single pitch, but the total of all the strikes and balls and outs that produce miracles.

With a Perspective, I'm Andrew Lewis.

Andrew Lewis works with at-risk youth on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. He lives in Sebastopol.