These are difficult, polarizing times. The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the best in us. And the worst.
The past few days, I’ve received a lot of annoying emails and Twitter tants in the wake of my question and answer with Rockie’s third baseman Nolan Arenado and my story about Gov. Jared Polis’ desire for a quick return of baseball. Greedy, Rightful, Fascist – along with multiple power words removed – were common words and themes.
Then an email from Jerry Schemmel popped into my inbox, reminding me about his weekly radio series, “Great Americans. Sunday morning’s episode (on FM 104.3 The Fan) features Sean Swarner. As a teenager, Swarner survived two potentially deadly cancers. He underwent multiple surgeries, had a lung removed, was given a 14-day live forecast, and was in a coma caused by a doctor for a year. And yet he conquered Mt. Everest, becoming the first cancer survivor to reach the world’s highest peak.
Next month, “Amazing Americans” will feature Schemmel’s interview with Jim Morris, the aging relief pitcher in the feel-good movie “The Rookie”, starring Dennis Quaid. Morris’ life after baseball and after the movie was not easy. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease and suffers from alcohol problems. And yet he has become a better man.
“I love these stories and love to share them,” says Schemmel. “I think they are inspiring and they remind us that we all need to get the most out of our lives. It gives me a spark and I hope it sparks others too. ‘
Schemmel lives by that creed. He appeals to the better angels of our nature.
In January, he was unceremoniously fired by KOA radio after 10 years of calling Rockies games. I was checked off when I got the news. I couldn’t believe that someone as professional, hardworking, funny and friendly as Schemmel could be treated so poorly. He was fired as part of iHeartMedia’s massive job losses across the country. It seemed so impersonal and so coldly businesslike.
“I have no bitterness,” said Schemmel. “I’ll admit I had some bitterness when it happened. I wanted to keep broadcasting baseball and I would have written the script differently. I miss baseball every day. But it was time to move on and find something new.”
Schemmel says that his deep Christian faith enables – inspires – him to look at life in this way. This has been the case since he survived the crash of United Flight 232 on July 19, 1989 in Sioux City, Iowa. Of the 296 on board, 112 died.
Nowadays Schemmel, an avid and experienced cyclist, spends a lot of time on his bicycle. He was scheduled to participate in the Race Across America in June, an epic 12,000 mile challenge on a 12-day bike. The corona virus canceled that race, but Schemmel still drives almost every day.
He can be found three or four days a week at Adventure Cycling in Aurora, a Erik Swanson store graduated from Columbine High School.
“They call me ‘the janitor of the bike’, so I think it sounds important to me,” Schemmel said laughing. “I greet people, do a little maintenance and give some cycling advice. I really enjoy it. Man, I haven’t worked an hour in 35 years. It’s amazing what life can bring you. “