The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

July 12, 2013

Local church hosts World Series hero

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — In the 1975 World Series, Carlton Fisk hit a homerun that has been replayed and replayed and over time has become part of Boston sports lore.

Without Bernie Carbo, that homerun would not have happened. 

Carbo hit one out of the park to tie the game that Fisk would ultimately win with a shot he directed fair. 

Almost 40 years later, Carbo still has a passion for baseball, but his life is completely different.

Wednesday night in Medina, the former Major League Baseball player spoke at Grace Baptist Church. His visit was made possible by the church’s pastor, transplanted New Englander Dickson Beam.

“My family was on vacation in Florida, and somebody handed me a book called ‘Saving Bernie Carbo,’” Beam recalled, noting how the person was from a . As a Boston Red Sox fan growing up, Beam called Carbo one of his childhood heroes.

“The book talked about how he redeemed himself from drug abuse and alcohol, and I never knew that,” Beam said. “The last couple days of vacation I read the book and it was unbelievable stuff.”

Upon finishing the volume, Beam said he called the publisher to thank them for such an inspiring work. What happened next was a bit of fate.

“I’m not sure why it happened this way, but the lady I spoke to on the phone didn’t know much about Bernie,” Beam said. “She evidently was talking with him the next day, told him how excited I was about the book, and he told her that he wanted to get in touch with me.”

After a conversation that probably featured more than a bit of baseball talk, Beam learned Carbo was driving from Boston to Alabama and wanted to make Medina a stop on his tour.

Carbo’s visit to the village included a hitting clinic put on Wednesday afternoon and the evening’s talk. The amount of participants at the hitting clininc - nearly 40 - was said to have “amazed” Carbo as it was among most highly attended.

In the talk at Grace Baptist Church Wednesday night, Carbo talked about overcoming the demons he faced before finally turning to a life of faith.

“He talked about his life story, and it was three parts: his life before his conversion to Christianity, how he became a believer, and the changes in his life since then,” Beam said.

Carbo’s life was in the public eye as a sports star. However, in private, he dealt with a “horrible upbringing, domestic violence, alcoholism, and a broken home…all he had was baseball,” Beam said.

In recent years, Carbo has talked openly about his struggles with substance abuse while playing baseball. In fact, he said the famous homerun in the 1975 World Series was hit while he was under the influence of drugs. He has also gone on record as saying he was only sober for one game during his career. And that path ultimately cost him the prime years of his career as he was out of the Major Leagues by 1980.

The roughly 75 in attendance Wednesday night listened to Carbo tell his tale about how he bottomed out in 1993 when his mother took her own life. His inheritance of $100,000 was spent in three months on drugs, and a call from former teammate Bill “Spaceman” Lee at just the right time stopped him from taking his own life, Beam said.

Carbo finally sought out the help he needed, and while in rehab at a Tampa, Fla. facility a Baptist minister was in the bed next to him and handed him a Bible.

Beam said Carbo told the people Wednesday how that was a turning point in his life.

“The man talked to him about where his life was headed, and now he travels across the country telling his story,” Beam said of Carbo’s Diamond Club Ministry.

The church’s response to Carbo’s visit was “wonderful” according to Beam, and Carbo was more than accommodating, staying late to sign copies of his book, sign baseball, and share stories.

Beam said Carbo even greeted people as they entered, and one visitor took the opportunity to have a little fun. When Carbo introduced himself, the Newfane resident also introduced himself. As Rawly Eastwick. (Eastwick surrendered the homerun to Carbo in Game Six of the 1975 World Series).

“That made us all laugh a little,” Beam chuckled.

The general purpose of Carbo’s visit, Beam said, was to encourage his fellow believers to share their faith.

“He told us how there is hope for everybody,” Beam said. “He told us to not give up, to be witnesses of our own lives and to believe in the power of Christ.

“It was very inspirational.”