Dave Dravecky pitched seven years in Major League Baseball, playing as an All-Star and in two pennant races. In 1988, Dave was at the top of his game and life. He had a wonderful family and was reaching his all-star peak playing the game of his childhood dreams. His Opening Day victory over the Dodgers was overshadowed later that fall by the discovery of cancer and the removal of half of the deltoid muscle in his pitching arm. Defying all odds, Dave came back to pitch once again in the Major Leagues the following year. Despite being told by doctors, “Short of a miracle, you’ll never pitch again,” Dave pitched a 4-3 win for the San Francisco Giants that day.
Horribly, five days later in Montreal, Dave threw “…the pitch that could be heard round the world”—Dave’s arm split in two in mid-throw.
Little did he know that his ending boyhood dream was simply a platform for his purpose to share hope with the suffering around the world. After Dave’s comeback and fall from the mound, with the weakened bone, the cancer returned yet again. Dave retired from baseball in November 1989 and endured radiation treatments and infections; finally his pitching arm had to be amputated - along with his shoulder blade and the left side of his collarbone – for fear the cancer would spread and take his life. The experience forced Dave to painfully re-evaluate his identity and resulting in his subsequent journey to wholeness in Christ. Dave’s story presents a new definition of self-worth and has prompted an overwhelming response, powerfully inspiring audiences of all ages.
Dave has since written several books and devotionals chronicling his faith journey, including contributing devotionals to The Encouragement Bible with Joni Eareckson Tada. He and his wife also founded Endurance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving those who suffer with resources for encouragement, comfort and hope through a personal relationship with Christ.
“The challenges I’ve faced [throughout the years] have taught me volumes and I now travel the country sharing the lessons I’ve learned,” Dave explains, “Lessons on how to navigate loss and suffering, and how to experience encouragement and hope. More recently I’ve been exploring how we define our true worth, learning that it’s not what you do that matters most—it’s who you are. The experiences of my life have drawn me to discover and share about the value and significance of relationships—relationships with co-workers, family members and anyone else on ‘my team.’ My personal experiences have also taught me to evaluate life—challenging myself as well as others to press on towards our future goals.”
Before I came to faith in Christ, I never thought of myself as a “wretched man,” as Paul uses the term in Romans 7. In fact, I thought I was a pretty good guy. I didn’t rob banks, I didn’t beat up old ladies, I didn’t steal cars—I had pretty much avoided all the “biggies.” I thought my soul was in great shape.
And when it came to my body? Well, not to brag, but I was quite a specimen. A strong, lean, fighting machine. It’s what got me to the major leagues. I thought I was invincible and that nothing would happen to me. “Wretched man?” Not me! My body was in just as good a shape as my soul. Maybe better.
When someone believes this kind of thing, as I did, he really can’t be too careful about what he reads. The only way to perpetuate such a lie is to keep away from the truth. And to keep away from the truth, you had better avoid the Bible. That was my mistake; I began reading God’s word. And what I found there blew my self-image all to pieces.
I had started reading little pieces of good news such as Ecclesiastes 7:20: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” I would note verses like Proverbs 20:9: “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?’” I would gulp when I saw that even somebody as “good” as King David could say, “Surely I was sinful at birth, from the time my mother conceived me” (PS. 51:5). And then the Word started getting personal.
The image I had of myself as a good guy just slightly below the stature of, say, Billy Graham, took a nosedive when I started reading the book of Romans. I soon realized with alarm that I was and am a sinner. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Paul wrote in Romans 3:23. I underlined the word all in my Bible so I would remember that I qualify, along with everyone else on the planet. That was hard to take, but it would soon get worse. When I got to Romans 6:23, I read that “the wages of sin are death.” Now, hold on! I don’t rob banks! I don’t beat up on old ladies! I don’t steal cars! Sure, I sin. Everyone does. But…
No “buts” about it. “The wages of sin are death.” No exceptions. You sin, you die. Period. I finally realized that because of our sin, all of us already are terminal, whether we have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or not. Fortunately, however, there is more to the message than that. “The wages of sin are death” is only the first half of the verse; the second half says, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And just a little before that Paul had written, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).