WESTIN ST. FRANCIS — Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky never thought that he’d make it to the Hall of Fame.
He didn’t end his brief, eight-year Major League career with Hall of Fame numbers, and didn’t win any championships. His time in baseball cost him his left arm, but what it gained him was a family.
After channeling the boundless energy that endeared him to the city of San Francisco into a post-baseball career as a professional inspiration, Dravecky did, finally, make a Hall of Fame. On Thursday, he was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, alongside basketball Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Keena Turner, 20-game ATP Tour-winner Brad Gilbert, and Stanford coaching great Tara Vanderveer.
“It’s overwhelming,” he said, smiling. “It’s extremely humbling to think that I’ve been selected to be inducted into this hall. I often think to myself, ‘I’ll never be able to make it to the Major League Hall of Fame.’ But to be inducted into this hall, and to receive the Willie Mac award are probably two most amazing things related to the sport of baseball that I’ve experienced and I’m so grateful.”
Dravecky came to the Giants during the 1987 season through a seven-player trade with the San Diego Padres, and went 7-5 with San Francisco after arriving.
In 1988, he discovered he had a desmoid tumor in his left throwing arm, a tumor that required surgery. The surgery was successful, and Dravecky returned to the mound a year later in the summer of 1989, to the admiration of his teammates, and held the Cincinnati Reds to just four hits in a 4-3 win for the Giants in his return to the mound.
Five days later, he snapped his left humerus bone pitching in Montreal. After he broke his left arm again while the Giants celebrated winning the 1989 National League pennant, X-rays revealed a mass in his arm. The cancer had returned. Eighteen days later, he retired, but was named the 1989 winner of the Willie Mac Award, named for Willie McCovey and presented annually to the most inspirational player on the Giants, voted on by players, coaches and training staff.
After two more surgeries, the arm and shoulder had to be amputated.
Throughout his 27-game stint with the Giants, Dravecky inspired fans and his teammates alike. He became a symbol of perseverance and is currently an ambassador for the Giants where he shares his experience to inspire others to overcome.
“What was amazing was experiencing it,” Dravecky said. “I think it speaks volumes to who the San Francisco Giants are. Not just what they do as a baseball organization. That, to me, is the power of the message, coming face to face with who this organization is. They came alongside us to encourage us and help us in a very difficult time.”
Although Dravecky’s career ended shorter, and maybe harsher, than he would’ve liked, he says that he has no regrets on how any of it played out. After baseball, he began a career as a motivational speaker, wrote two books and continues to be an ambassador not only for the Giants, but for baseball. He was one of the speakers at McCovey’s celebration of life this past fall.
“All I wanted as a little kid was to be a ballplayer,” he explained. “The day I signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the first leg of my dream came true. The day that I got called up to the big leagues with the Padres was the day my dream became a reality. The seven years and 115 days after that were icing on the cake, so that’s why I don’t have any regrets.
“So, going through what I went through, yeah, I look back and wish that I didn’t have to experience that, but I have no regrets. I got a chance to see my dream come true. And for that, I am so grateful.”
He’s the 17th San Francisco Giant to be inducted into the Bay Area Hall of Fame and 2019 marks the fifth straight year that a Giant was inducted in BASHOF. Matt Cain was inducted a year ago, and before him, Matt Williams, Jeff Kent, Barry Bonds and Dusty Baker.
“I’ve started looking at some of the names,” Dravecky said. “And I’m going through some of the names and I’m like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me. I’m one of those guys? I’m floored by it.”