Baseball & Babies – My Life as a Catcher

Roy Hobbs Baseball

Chapter 1:  Heaven at Dodgertown

The voice on the conference line asked, “so Doc, what are you to do now that you’ve retired from delivering all those babies?”

“I plan to sleep without the phone waking me up for the past 40 years. I won’t have to worry about getting someone to cover my practice when planning a weekend trip or vacation.”

Yes, I would be entering a life that was less complicated with a flexible schedule for a change.  My wife and I can go places without taking 2 cars, I thought to myself.

Ted Manos in Cubs UniformOne reason for retiring was my inability to fall asleep after an early morning call that didn’t have me rushing to the hospital. An aching back from an old spine injury while playing racquetball also had caught up with me the last few years, as had knee issues from playing baseball in my youth and finding the game as an adult with the development of fantasy camps and hardball leagues for men of all ages.  I could still play golf since there was a cart to ease my back from standing and walking.

I could play more golf now, but my scores have been closer to 100 than 90.  My days of rounds below 80 are only a fading dream.

What I really would love to do is have the manuscript I created around 30 years ago, published in book form, describing my experiences at the spring training facility for the Los Angeles Dodgers at the first adult baseball fantasy camp they conducted in 1983.

My wife found the manuscript among the papers I had stored and the 30 or so years and it changed my perspective.  The Legends I met, the atmosphere of the game of baseball I experienced was like a dream.  Every time I see the movie “Field of Dreams,” I’m transported back to my Dodgertown moments, rubbing elbows with “the boys of summer” and others.

I was recently watching MLB network. There was a commercial showing Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, entering a hospital room, where a woman appears to need an obstetrician to deliver her baby.  There was Mr. Posey, dressed in his uniform and catcher’s gear, including mask and glove, ready to do his thing.  The husband liked the idea, but the lady was terrified.  What I saw for myself was an obstetrician with memories of being a baseball catcher in my youth.

I looked back over 40 years of being a real baby “catcher,” and I’m fascinated by life’s pathways.  I was proud of my hands, catching pitches from the mound when I played.  As a catcher in baseball, I had choices to make, such as the type of pitch to call and where to put the target for the pitcher.  I observed batters and factored in their abilities as I squatted behind the plate.  I was involved with every moment we took the field on defense.

I think I chose Obstetrics because the game lasts around 9 months, and there is a tangible joy at the end of the game.  I made choices, as a physician, that impacted the course of pregnancy, or the critical moment in labor and delivery.  My patients looked to me for guidance, and they trusted me as I was skillful with ultrasound imaging and determining the size and position of the babies by using my hands as diagnostic tools.  I used my hands in guiding the natural birth process or performing a cesarean section to intervene and aid mother and child.

I was motivated by the unbelievable things I experienced, meeting the old Brooklyn Dodgers, immortalized in the book, “The Boys of Summer.”  Imagine spending a week hanging out with Duke Snider or Carl Erskine.  Erskine was an Indiana native, whose name fit perfectly with Brooklynese, such as Carl “Oisk”-ine.

Ted Manos New PicI thought about the events around my trip to Vero Beach, Florida, back at a time when I was leading my life as a doctor specializing mostly with managing pregnancies.  I put that life on hold and traveled 100 miles to Dodgertown and play baseball.  The trip was longer than that as I transported myself back to my youth and the life of a young man good enough to dream of playing professional baseball.

Buster Posey walks into the labor room in full uniform, and I walked into Dodgertown in my surgical scrubs.  “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today” are lyrics of a song and explains my journey.  I never planned to don the catcher’s tools of ignorance then, but events would lead to that possibility.

The fantasy came was a milestone for my life that started in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1943.

When I was old enough to walk, I had a baseball bat in hand and, at the age of 3, I was out front of our house, hitting balls my father Manual threw for me to swing at.  I was at good hitting as this little tyke whose father encouraged me to root for the NY Yankees and develop a love for the game.

I played sandlot baseball well enough to dream of being a professional, but my father stressed education.  I played baseball and basketball in college and achieved good enough grades to choose medicine.  My life as a baseball player ended in August 1966 when I entered the Albany Medical College to start a career in medicine.

As a baseball prospect I was unsure of my skill with the bat in hand and was once described as an enigma.  I could knock the ball out of the park or strike out 3 times in a game.  The adult camps gave me the opportunity to play freely with confidence and prove that my great moments on the baseball diamond in my youth were more of who I was as a baseball prospect.  I would not be carrying the weight of self-doubt that held down what was possible in my youth, but rather trust in my abilities developed in my training as a doctor.  I would have a great story worth writing about and the freedom from completing the past that was the actual prize.

“I’m retired (in 2014) now and the doctoring life I lived is complete,” I told a caller.  “I look back on my days as a baseball player in my youth and how I transformed that part of me at Dodgertown.  I was busy handling the aspects of a medical practice and playing some golf before Dodgertown.  After the camp, I was setting up hardball leagues in central Florida and playing some games on weekends.”

“Baseball has been a big part of my life, and I thought the years growing up in Brooklyn, playing sandlot baseball, ended when I attended medical school in 1966.  I had dreams of professional baseball and was good enough to have to offers to sign up, but I stayed in school,” I told the caller.

My identity revolved about my ability as a baseball player.  Many expected me to play Major League Baseball, and there was some surprise when I accepted a scholarship to Wesleyan University for my academic performance in high school.

I continued to do well in college, and then came a milestone in the summer before my senior year at Wesleyan. I had an appendectomy in July 1963 and was recovering after surgery in a 12-bed ward at a Brooklyn hospital.  Each morning, a group of surgical residents would make rounds on the ward, including my case.  I distinguished something that was familiar to me from my experience in college.  I declared that I could do what I saw the doctors do because they were like the many men I knew at Wesleyan.  I was well-removed from the schoolyard and a future with sports, so I chose to go forward with a career in the medical domain.

There is a moment in the “Field of Dreams” movie where on the characters stated that heaven might be where dreams come true.  Heaven was not Iowa, but just maybe it’s found on the baseball diamond where you are eternally fit for the daily games.

I looked forward to my return to the past and my relationship to baseball, and whether it would be memorable or sadly disappointing.  If heaven can be found on the baseball field, then it will be where magical results can occur.  Would Dodgertown become heaven where dreams come true for this “baby catcher?”  (The following chapters, describing each part of the journey, will have you the reader looking over my shoulder and hearing my thoughts as things unfold.)

Chapter 15:  The Aftermath

Adult fantasy camps led to adult baseball leagues and tournaments.  Softball players gradually discovered the magic of playing the real thing.  Many of the players had a background in playing hardball growing up.  Leagues were formed everywhere across the country, and 2 national organizations sponsored and developed week-long tournaments.

There were Men’s Senior Baseball League and Roy Hobbs Baseball, and those provided annual championships competed in warm climates in the fall and winter months.  Roy Hobbs had a World Series, started in the Orlando area, using the spring training facility of the Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals.

Baseball and Babies Book CoverI played in the first year (1989), entering the competition in the over-30 age group, with a team comprised of players from an 8-team league.  Some of us that were over-40 years old were recruited from a small number of teams that comprised that age group. I, and 2 others, joined a team from Chicago. …

We lost our first 2 games, then realized that we had some talented players with ties to Chicago and some that lived in Florida.  We had a first baseman that lived and worked in Fort Myers.  Our centerfielder was from Tallahassee and had running speed that was awesome.  He was a terror on the bases and was a good hitter which increased his effectiveness on the base paths.  Our catching was solid, and I played there some.  I made the biggest impact on the pitcher’s mound.

Fran Podraza from Fort Myers and Harvey Swisher from Tallahassee would spearhead the growth of adult baseball in their areas. It also started a relationship between the 3 of us that led to many home-and-home games on holiday weekends.  The relationships have survived to the present in 2015.  The common bond with baseball was powerful and provided a healthy rivalry, and we played for each other at times.

I read the original manuscript of this after 30 years and relived the magic of the past.  Over time, I lost contact with many of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  I attended the Ultimate Fantasy Camp the Dodgers offered in 1986 with 16 Hall of Fame instructors.  Names such as Bob Feller, Ernie Banks and Sandy Koufax contributed to another fantastic week, but that is for another day.

Today, many of the icons have passed on, but the memories I have last forever.  I think of Duke Snider running hard to first base and tumbling over the bag with a hamstring pull.  My encounter with Tommy Lasorda, with that one at bat, and my trip floating to second base.  I could go on and one, but I have shared all this in previous pages.

I will end this collection of memories and adjust to being retired and not catching baseball and babies anymore.


Baseball & Babies – My Life as a Catcher
By Ted Manos, M.D.
This 192-page book is available through

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