The Dodgers have 12 games remaining before the end of the season, which may be a relief for Dodger fans. At best the Dodgers will finish .500. Even worse, it appears they will still have Frank McCourt as their owner. (Please go to Facebook and search for “Don’t Support McCourt.”) But, as you will see, this is not a column about sports.
At three games out of first (as of Thursday), the Angels still have a chance, albeit slim. But I’m still reminded that a little more than 2 years ago the Angels lost a promising pitcher in a senseless DUI crash. (Notice I use the word crash rather than accident because if a person drinks and drives, what follows is no accident.) Normally I try to provide a little levity in these pieces, but DUI crashes aren’t exactly gold mines of humor.
And yet, as recently as 30 years ago, we viewed drunken behavior differently. Foster Brooks, a popular comedian, performed an act as a drunken airline pilot. It was funny then but wouldn’t be now.
As the host of his hit TV show in the 1970s, Dean Martin also used to affect being drunk. Of late, those closest to Dean swear it was all an act.
Though some might contend that we’ve gotten too politically correct, I’d say it’s more that we’ve learned that alcoholism is a destructive illness (which kind of diminishes the humor).
I suppose there’s some dark humor in DUI crashes. Certainly not ha-ha funny but a grim, ironic reality that often, while innocent victims get killed or injured, the drunk driver, who’s loose from being looped, often walks away unscathed. Fortunately, these days, they also walk right into jail. (And not allowed behind the wheel anymore. Or one would hope.)
This brings me back to Nick Adenhart, the young pitcher in the Angels organization. On April 9, 2009, Adenhart pitched the best game of his young major league career. He threw six scoreless innings and got his first win.
Nick had been so confident that he’d finally arrived as a major league pitcher, he had his father, Jim, fly out from Maryland to see the game. Tragically, only hours after the joy from the game, Jim got a late night phone call at the hotel that his 22-year-old son was dead.
The driver of the other car, Andrew Thomas Gallo, 21, was driving on a suspended license (for a previous DUI). Driving at twice the legal alcohol limit, Gallo essentially murdered Nick and two young friends, and left a fourth victim with life threatening injuries.
Of little consolation, last September Gallo was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to 51 years to life in jail. (He won’t be eligible for parole for 49 years.)
Mary Elizabeth Yoder can also attest to the horror of DUI crashes. At 11, she was with her family driving home from church. They were in the family VW near Nappanee, Ind., in the heart of Amish country.
The Yoder’s car was struck by a drunk driver who killed Mary Elizabeth’s father and left her mother seriously injured. The driver, however, was only given a sentence of five years. This personal nightmare happened 30 years ago next Friday. To see Mary Elizabeth’s emotional and riveting confrontation with the driver 27 years after the crash, go to You Tube and type “Mary’s Story Grief Support.”
It took Mary Elizabeth decades to find forgiveness in her heart. But, remarkably, she did. She also started the Arnold C. Yoder Survivors Foundation. TheACY is a 501C3 charity designed to help others, especially children, when someone close has died, to discover their own journey through grief, forgiveness and healing.
Fortunately for all of us, there are people like Mary Elizabeth and organizations like MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Since 1980, MADD has been valiantly trying to stop drunk driving, support victims and prevent underage drinking. All you have to do is talk to any MADD volunteer, most of whom have lost loved ones in DUI crashes, to appreciate their selfless sincerity. At the risk of sounding hokey (though that’s never stopped me before) the strength of these people is inspiring.
WALK like MADD is MADD’s signature event that raises funds and, simply put, saves lives. In the greater Los Angeles area it will take place at the Queen Mary on Sept. 24, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. On that Saturday, in 40 cities around the country, tens of thousands of people will participate in 5K walks to celebrate a brighter future without drunk driving. What a hopeful thought. Years ago I might have joked, “I’ll drink to that.” This year I wrote a column instead.
To learn about the Arnold C. Yoder Survivors Foundation go to: www.TheACY.org. To participate and/or donate to Walk Like MADD, go to www.walklikemadd.org.
Jack Neworth can be reached at Jnsmp@aol.com.