Gerry and the Royals

Oct 25, 2016 -- 9:35pm

By Kurtis Seaboldt

I couldn’t wait.

It was almost four o’clock. I had just finished my day at Sports Radio 810 WHB and was getting ready to leave. First I would stop off for some food and drink – I believe a short end from Joe’s would do just fine – before heading home.

It was Tuesday, October 27, 2015. That night, the Royals would become the first team since the 1934-35 Detroit Tigers to host Game 1 of the World Series in consecutive seasons. After hard-fought battles with the Astros and Blue Jays, the Royals would try to finish the business they had left unfinished the year before.

I couldn’t wait.

As I picked up my cell phone, I noticed that I had missed a call from my older brother. Brian was born nine years before me, the second of Jerry and Jo Ann’s three boys, and was the artist and music lover. Gerry was the oldest, born 12 years before me, and was the athlete and sports fan. My mother died in 1998 and my father died in 2011 so it was just the three of us. I saw that Brian had left me a voice mail. Maybe he wanted to get together and watch the game.

“Hey, Kurt. It’s Brian. I think we may have lost our Big Bro.”

The words made my heart stop and then start pounding. Gerry and Brian still lived in the Raytown house that we all grew up in. Gerry had not been in good health for a while and Brian, just as he had done for my father in his later years, took care of him. Brian told me that he had found Gerry in his bed, unresponsive. His heart wasn’t beating. He had called 911 and paramedics had arrived quickly but were unable to get his heart started. He told me that they had transported him to Research Hospital.

I called Brian back and told him I would meet him there. When I arrived, I learned that, somewhere along the ride to the hospital, they had gotten Gerry’s heart going but they estimated that it had been stopped for nearly 45 minutes. The loss of oxygen had likely caused brain damage that could prove to be fatal. The doctors expected that his heart would stop again before the night was over and weren’t sure if he’d make it to the morning.

They got him into a room in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and my brother and I, along with a couple of friends and family, went to the waiting room. We contacted Gerry’s oldest son, Kris, who joined us. Brian and I decided that Kris should and would be the one to make any and all decisions regarding Gerry’s care. A doctor came out and talked to Kris and updated him on what had happened, what would happen and what the very few options were. We went back with Kris to see Gerry and then returned to the waiting room.

There were probably 20 other people in the waiting room including a large group that had brought a crockpot and several different kinds of food and drink. They were all gathered around the TV in one corner of the room. And why not? It was almost seven o’clock. The World Series was about to start.

We sat about 15 feet away in our little area and watched as well, asking each other what we thought would happen in the game and the series. Alcides Escobar hit the first pitch he saw for an inside-the-park home run and our neighbors in the corner went wild. Well, kinda wild. We were still in an ICU waiting room, after all. Occasionally, a doctor or a nurse would come in and talk to us, jolting us back to the reality from which we never really left.

The mood in the room was decidedly quieter as the Mets gained a 4-3 lead and took that lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. The doctors had told us that there would be no change in Gerry’s condition for a while – he was on a ventilator – and that we were welcome to stay but that it might not be a bad idea to go home and try to get some sleep. We knew the coming days were going to be painful and exhausting so we all agreed; we’d leave as soon as the game was over.

Then Alex Gordon did his thing. Again our neighbors in the corner went kinda wild. We did a few fist bumps and high fives and decided we’d stay and watch it all the way to the end, right there in that room.

At about 12:18, Eric Hosmer brought the longest World Series opener in history to a close and we called it a night. Before we left, we went down to see Gerry one more time. At that moment, as we looked at him lying there, unconscious with tubes everywhere, the final score of a baseball game couldn’t have meant any less to us.

But we told him anyway. “5-4, Royals in 14.”

We made plans to meet back there the next morning, hugged, wiped away tears and left. It was the end of a day that I can’t even begin to describe. Sitting there with my brother and nephew watching the team I’ve loved for 40 years win a dramatic game on the biggest stage in the world. All the while, 90 feet away, the man who took me to my first Royals game, lay dying. You felt terrible. Then something good happened and, for a brief moment, you felt good. Then you felt terrible for feeling good. The swing of emotions was dizzying.

We spent Wednesday there as they began a procedure in which they lower the body temperature to halt or at least slow down the progression of the damage. Then they slowly re-warm the body and reassess the situation. They expected the worst but wanted to make sure that everything had been done to bring him back. At about six o’clock they said that tomorrow would be the earliest that they would know anything and advised that we go home for the evening. I sat in my apartment and watched Johnny Cueto close out his Royals career with a complete game win. The Royals were half way to a World Series championship. I turned off the TV, went to bed and barely slept.

Thursday, we learned that all efforts to save Gerry had been exhausted with no success and we had to decide what we wanted to do. He had no measurable brain function. His internal organs were failing. His body was beginning to shut down. Kris’ mother and Gerry’s youngest daughter joined us and we all agreed with Kris’ belief that Gerry would not want to be kept alive in this condition. He was one of the toughest men we’d ever known. To be kept alive by a machine was as far from his style as you could get. We decided that he would be coded as “Do Not Resuscitate”.

Kris asked about organ donation – Gerry’s eyes were perfect as far as we knew – and he was told that they’d do a test in the morning to determine if that was possible. Then they would disconnect the machines that were keeping him alive and whatever happened next would happen next.

Friday morning, we learned that organ donation was not possible. They disconnected the machines at 10:00 and at 10:10 Gerry Lee Seaboldt was gone. That night, I went out with my friends, Matt and Liz, their daughter, Amanda, and her boyfriend, Jake, to watch Game Three.

I wanted to be with friends and, just as importantly, I wanted to do anything that I could to think about anything but what had happened the previous four days. It helped, even though my brothers, the one I lost and the one I still had, were never out of my mind. By an unbelievable and tragic coincidence, Jake’s father had been and still was in the adjoining ICU after suffering a stroke. Amanda, Jake and Jake’s mother, Diane, all asked to see Gerry. Jake and his mother held his hand and talked to him. It was amazing. In turn, I went down the hall and met Bob for the first time.

Two days after Gerry died, the Royals won it all and they did so in typically dramatic fashion. I watched the game at my apartment with my long time friends, Gary Barnes and Ken Haagensen, the same pair that had accompanied me for Game 7 against the Cardinals in 1985 and Game 7 against the Giants in 2014. For the first time in 30 years, the Royals were World Champions. My phone started lighting up with texts. In years past, one of the first would have been from Gerry. But not that night.

The 2015 World Series will live on forever in the hearts and minds of every Royals fan who saw it. It will live on forever in mine as well. But it will always be just a part of a much larger story. 

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