"Until Travis was 1 1/2 or 2 years old, when he cried, he never uttered a sound. We could tell the pain he was in from his face, but no sound came to his throat. We all felt tears because he had no power of speech.
This is a love story. Ron Guidry is telling it. He's the Yankee pitcher who has the world at the end of his fast ball. He won 27 games last season, won the Cy Young award, was second in the Most Valuable Player voting and, darkly handsome enough to pass as, say, a French balladeer, now is engaged in selling his fame: endorsements and appearances, agreements and banquets.
For love not money, Guidry is in Washington. He's here to help out the Special Olympics, a program of athletic competition for the mentally retarded. If some sports stars take for granted their extraordinary blessings of body and mind, Ron Guidry is not among them. He remembers how wonderful it felt to hear his mentally retarded brother, Travis, first cry out loud.
"And now Travis can form sentences in conjunction with what is going on around him," Guidry said. "He's 11 years old and for the last six years he's been in a special school. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but he has progressed more than the other kids. I am amazed by him."
The day Guidry lost his third (and last) game of the season, he called his parents' home in Lafayette, La., to tell his mother he was fine (not every day, after all, do the Toronto Blue Jays knock out Guidry in 1 2/3 innings).
Travis asked to speak to Ron.
The child who once couldn't make a sound said to his brother, the star pitcher, "What happened, Ron, you got bombed!"
Guidry was a senior in high school, 17, when Travis was born. The baby nearly died. After seven months, he weighed five pounds, and doctors said it was too bad.Ron did not give up. He brought 100 seniors from school to visit the tiny Travis in the hospital. He prayed.
Now Guidry shares life with Travis. They play basketball together, football. They run together. Ron has taught Travis to play the drum and shoot a rifle safely. They talk about the Yankees.
"Travis identifies the players by where they are on the field, like Lou Piniella is 'the one by the pole,' and Reggie Jackson is 'close to the fence,' and 'in the middle of those' is Mickey Rivers. For the pitcher, it's not me - "
" - it's always Jim Hunter."
Travis is a healthy 11-year-old boy physically, except for a couple of locked-closed fingers on each hand, and is a good runner.
"I treat him very, very rough sometimes and he likes it," Ron said. "Boys can be treated with all kinds of love, constant love, but deep down they need the roughness. When you were young, guys bigger than you chased you. Boys like Travis miss that feeling and they need it, too. They need feeling, to chase and to be chased.
"So I tackle him and he tackles me, and I run after him and he runs after me.
"He laughs and I laugh."
Guidry, Pele, Steve Garvey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dick Fosbury, Bill Too mey and Kyle Rote Jr. will put on sports clinics for 175 Special Olympians at George Washington University's Smith Center Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. The public is invited free to see what Ron Guidry sees...
"The feeling of assurance these children get -- you can see it in their eyes, a certain electricity it gives to them. Travis knows the poisition he's in and he's always asking for help. When you give it, you can see his eyes light up."
It's the way God wanted it, Guidry said, that he should be a remarkable athlete and Travis be less, and the brothers' parents, Roland and Grace, say they are twice blessed.
"Mom and Dad have never said, face to face, 'We're proud of you,'" Guidry said. "They don't have to say it. I can see it in their looks. Yet they are just as proud of Travis. They speak of Travis first, me second."
Anyone entering the front door of the Guidrys' home in Lafayette sees two pictures on the wall.
One is of Ron Guidry in his Yankee uniform. The other is Travis Guidry running in last year's Special Olympics meet at Lafayette's Northside High School, Travis Guidry running on the same track where Ron once did a 9.7 second 100-yard dash.
"The thing I'm proudest of," Grace Guidry once said, "is a second-place ribbon Travis won in the softball throw."
"The thing that tickles me," said Ron, who throws a baseball nearly 100 miles per hour, "is that Travis, in a race, is usually faster than everybody else -- but once he gets ahead, he'll stop and wait for everybody to catch up.
"To him, it means nothing to win the race. Other boys understand and they run right past Travis.
"But when he finally crosses that finish line -- last -- there's a big grin on his face."
At that happy thought, Ron Guidry had a big grin on his face.