Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, October 8, 2018


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…           

Fittingly, Marty Pattin died in Charleston, Illinois. It wasn’t designed that way. He was just visiting, from Lawrence, Kansas, where he had lived since he had become the coach of the U of Kansas baseball team.

Before that, though, from the time he was born, he had always lived in Charleston, IL, through his college years at Eastern IL U, and even throughout his thirteen year career pitching in the major leagues.

He pitched for five different teams, including the CA Angels, Seattle Pilots, Milwaukee Brewers, and Boston Red Sox. He made the All Star team as a Brewer--and pitched in the game when Reggie Jackson famously hit the lights above the outfield stands with a towering home run--but he is remembered as a member of the Kansas City Royals, for whom he pitched the last seven years of his career. His final appearance in a major league baseball uniform came when he pitched a perfect 7th inning, with two strike outs, in the 1980 World Series to help the Royals clinch the title against the Phillies.

In 2016, the baseball field at EIU was named for him.

For a small town with a small university, Charleston-EIU produced a whole lot of professional athletes, including Kevin Seitzer, also a Royal [I baptized the Seitzer’s baby], and Stan Royer, in baseball, and Jeff Gossett, Tony Romo, Sean Payton, Mike Shanahan, and others in football.

Marty was a member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Charleston during the time I was the pastor there. He and his wife came to one of the neighborhood coffees the church sponsored to help folks get acquainted with their new pastor. It was the only time in many such coffees in three different churches that anyone did a Donald Duck impersonation to welcome us.  

Other than getting to point out that I knew a relatively famous person, and I love baseball, why should I write about Marty Pattin in a blog for old people? After all, Marty was only 75 when he died.

Well, because the task of old people is to close the circle. Marty did that, starting in Charleston and ending in Charleston. Not all circle closings will be that obvious or geographical, but, if we are fortunate, we get to circle back, seeing all that happened on the way out.

When I was a long distance runner, I hated out-and-back courses, because while I was still going out, the younger and faster gals and guys were on the way back in. They were working hard, sweating and gasping, looking bad, so to encourage them, those of us still on the way out would call “Lookin’ good” to them as they streaked by.

Now, though, I’m one of those on the way back in. I’m still slow, and tired, and as I meet those on the way out, I call to them, “Lookin’ good,” because they’re going to need all the encouragement they can get to close the circle.


“All we ask [in old age] is to be allowed to remain the authors of our own story.” Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, p. 140.

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