Bat, Scalpel, Sheepskin, Beneath the Cross: Narratives on the Life of Gail Eason Hopkins

Bat, Scalpel, Sheepskin, Beneath the Cross: Narratives on the Life of Gail Eason Hopkins

by Thomas H. Olbricht, Leah G. Hopkins


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Dr. Hopkins played major league baseball, became an orthopedic surgeon, and obtained graduate degrees in the sciences and Biblical Studies. He perceived his central commitment to be to Jesus Christ. He has served as an elder in Churches of Christ and on the board of Christian Colleges. Dr. Hopkins’ life is told by admiring relatives and friends.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595557261
Publisher: Elm Hill
Publication date: 07/24/2018
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Thomas H. Olbricht was born in Thayer, Missouri. He was educated at Harding, Northern Illinois, Iowa and Harvard Divinity School. He taught at Iowa, Harding, Dubuque, Penn State and Pepperdine universities. He has published or helped edit twenty-five books of autobiography, Biblical studies, church history and rhetoric. Olbricht and Gail Hopkins hold membership in many of the same theological associations. Tom and Dorothy live in a retirement community in Exeter, New Hampshire.

Leah Hopkins is the older of Gail and Caroline Hopkins' two children. Her first home was at Pepperdine College where her father was the baseball coach. She grew up in laboratories and baseball fields but eventually returned to Pepperdine University to study Biochemistry then Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine for her MD and Internal Medicine residency. She practiced in Chicago before moving to Parkersburg, WV in 2003. She currently practices Internal Medicine in Belpre, OH.

Read an Excerpt



Introducing Gail Eason Hopkins

The Editors

Gail Eason Hopkins has had an amazing career. The title of this book declares that he played major league baseball, was a noted orthopaedic surgeon, obtained several graduate degrees, served on the board of three higher education institutions, and was an elder in Churches of Christ, and, within all of these professions, has been a dedicated servant of Jesus Christ.

Gail was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On February 19, 1943, Mary Louise Reynolds Hopkins was working with her husband, Robert Murrell "Hoppy" Hopkins in their potato patch in Tulsa when she went into labor with her first child. After a while she "just laid down in the field. That was when Hoppy realized I was going to have that baby so he had someone call a cab for me." She was driven to their apartment, took a bath, and walked across the street to the closest hospital. An hour after leaving the potato field, she gave birth to her first child; a son, whom she named Gail Eason after his paternal uncle, Gail, and Dr. Eason who delivered the baby.

Hoppy was an entrepreneur and owned a mattress-making operation that moved from small town to small town, south and west of Tulsa. It was through making mattresses that Hoppy and Mary met. When Gail was born, World War II was well under way. Jobs were scarce and so were resources in Oklahoma, so the family saved up enough gasoline ration stamps to rent a driver with a Model T Ford. When Gail was six months old, they had saved enough that Hoppy, Mary, and Gail were able to travel to Long Beach, California along with one of Mary's brothers and Bobby, Hoppy's oldest son from his first marriage.

At least twenty years before Gail's family moved to California, Okies started making this long drive, especially to central California. John Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath (1939) vividly depicted the migration of Oklahomans to the San Joaquin Valley of California during the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. In California, these migrants acquired the nickname "Okie," but the designation also included residents from Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri. The migration was major. Several of the Okies became noted and wealthy California residents after some years.

It was not surprising then that an Oklahoman family — Robert Murrell Hopkins and Mary Reynolds Hopkins (born in Mannford, Oklahoma, twenty miles west of Tulsa), Gail's parents — moved to California preceded by relatives. The westward migration to the Long Beach area, south of Los Angeles began in the early 1940s because of the major manufacture by Douglas Aircraft of World War II military planes. In keeping with the already established moniker, Okie, these incoming workers were designated aeronautic Okies. Gail's immediate family didn't work in the airplane industry, but some relatives and acquaintances did.

After a couple of years, during which the couple's second son, Donald, was born, they moved to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in what is now Lassen National Park. It was there, on Round Mountain, that Hoppy worked for a sawmill where he was also the winter watchman. As did most people in the mountains, they survived by hunting and growing food in the garden. The boys loved the freedom of the mountains, but when it was time for the boys to go to school, the family moved to town, first to Red Bluff and then to Susansville. When their youngest son, Bud, was around one-year-old, he contracted bilateral pneumonia. The physician who treated him advised Mary and Hoppy that Bud would die if they did not move away from that climate, so they returned to Long Beach in 1951. In Long Beach, the Hopkins worked at various jobs but soon turned to refurbishing home appliances, especially gas cook stoves. The whole family was involved in the enterprise.

Though Mary was raised in the Christian Church in Mannford, Oklahoma and Hoppy's father, Almon Allen Hopkins, was a circuit preacher for the Churches of Christ in Northern Texas and Southern Oklahoma, Gail's parents were not active in church. Being in Long Beach brought them in closer proximity to Mary's six brothers who had all moved to California to work in the aerospace industry. When Gail was nine years old, his uncle, "Dutch" Howard Reynolds began picking the boys up to take them to church in Dominguez, California, an unincorporated area about ten miles north of Long Beach. It was a Christian Church/Churches of Christ congregation of the same sort of which Mary was a member in Oklahoma. By quoting John 3:16 pasted on the dashboard of his car, Dutch and the congregation's preacher, Glenn, taught Gail to appreciate both the scriptures and the meetings at church. All this led to his baptism and the foundation of his faith.

The move back to Long Beach also allowed Gail to become active in baseball, basketball, and football. About these years, Gail commented, "I used to go out and hit the bat against telephone poles and make-believe situations, visualize playing against Bobby Richardson or Mickey Mantle," he says. "I always did better than most of the guys, so I always sort of figured that I would eventually play with them. And I did." Gail's athletic record was outstanding and he was offered full scholarships in basketball to several premier California universities. Enter Henry "Barney" Barnhart who was Gail's junior high coach. Barney was active in the Church of Christ in Long Beach and took Gail under his wing. They remained close for the remainder of Barney's life. One day, when Gail was in high school, Barney drove him past his alma mater, Pepperdine College, in Los Angeles and said, "Gail. This is where you are going to go to school." In 1961, Gail graduated from David Star Jordan High School in Long Beach. Because of the advice of Barney and his own interest in studying the scriptures, Gail determined to enter Pepperdine where the all-American was offered a basketball scholarship.

Pepperdine is where Gail met his wife, Caroline, and where he excelled particularly in baseball. He began playing professional baseball in the minor leagues while still in school. He continued the pattern of schooling while playing baseball for the remainder of his professional athletic career. In 1967, he briefly left professional baseball, returning to Pepperdine where he became the baseball coach. During this tenure Gail and Caroline's first child, Leah, was born.

Hopkins was an all-American catcher at Pepperdine (1962-1964) before spending years getting shuffled around the minors. He wasn't sure he was ever going to make it to the big leagues. Then news came to Gail in an unlikely place: "I was sitting by myself in a movie theatre in Montgomery, Alabama, when the manager came in and tapped me on the shoulder," Hopkins recalls. "I thought something had happened to my wife or daughter. I said, 'What's wrong?' and he said, 'You've been called up to Chicago.'"

While still playing baseball, Gail started working on graduate degrees. "I love the idea of the academy. I always liked learning and I just used my time differently," he says modestly. "I grew up in an age where, if you wanted something, then you worked for it." While his teammates stayed out late in various towns, Hopkins would study in the local library and go to bed early. Baseball, he says, was always his biggest test. "I thought baseball was a lot harder psychologically and competitively than anything in medical school. When you go to medical school, you don't get fired. In baseball, there was always the concern that you'd come in and find a pink slip."

Regarding the practice of medicine, Gail wrote, "I see medicine as a way of serving and helping people, and so is baseball," he says but notes that neither compares with his proudest accomplishments — his children.

"It's great hitting home runs, but baseball was my job, not my life. Where I keep score is with my family, God, my work with the schools. That's where I get my joy. The rest is just stuff'."

Gail has many baseball stories that can continue almost unceasingly. These two are among some of his favorites:

"Two of my three seasons with the Royals, we were second in the division to the Oakland Athletics. One of my most memorable events was hitting against Noland Ryan when he pitched his first 'no hitter' in 1973. Only a great play by Rudy Meoli saved my batted ball from being a base hit. Ryan credits that play for giving him the emotional energy to finish off the last five batters and preserve his 'no hitter.'"

This is the second:

"When I played with the Dodgers in 1974, we lost the World Series to the Oakland Athletics. Oakland won three consecutive World Series championships. The pitcher — Tommy John — was a team mate with the Dodgers. Tommy and I were roommates when we were with the Chicago White Sox. Dr. Frank Joe performed his famous surgery on Tommy at the mid-point of the season. I was the first person to 'play catch' with Tommy after the cast came off at about six weeks post-op. An interesting piece of information about Tommy's injury — Hal Breeden (Hanshin Tigers 1976-1978) was the batter when Tommy hurt his elbow. The score was 4-0 in the top of the fifth inning. Tommy threw the pitch and simply walked off the field" The below chart will be of help in providing a chronological chart of Gail's activities:

Work and Professional Experience

1964-1977 Professional Baseball Player

•1964 Edmonton Oilers (Western Canadian League)
1986-2011 Private Orthopaedic Surgical Practice

• 1986-1994 Lodi Orthopaedic Medical Group, Lodi CA
1995-2013 Teaching

• 1995-2004 Orthopaedic Faculty, Hinsdale Hospital Family Practice Residency
This chart is Gail's baseball record:


This chart tells of Gail's degrees and medical achievements:

Education / Professional Training / Societies

Fellow, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 1989

Board Certified, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, 1988, 1998, 2008,2020

Diplomate, National Board of Medical Examiners, July 1982

Orthopaedic Residency, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois, 1981-1986

PhD, Biology, Illinois Institute of Technology, 1977

MDiv, Theology, United Theological Seminary, 2010

MD, Rush Medical College, 1981 (ALPHA OMEGA ALPHA)

MA, Religion, Pepperdine University, 1974

BS, Religion and Biology, Pepperdine University, 1966

Diploma, Jordan High School, Long Beach, California, 1961

Gail served as an elder in four congregations:

West Suburban Church of Christ, Berkeley, Illinois

Ham Lane Church of Christ, Lodi, California

Church of Christ of East DuPage, Illinois

Grand Central Church of Christ, Vienna, West Virginia

You now have looked at the bare-bones data regarding the impressive career of Gail Eason Hopkins. In the rest of the book, you will discover narratives that flesh out numerous inspiring and heartwarming details from family and friends who have benefited deeply through their relationship with Gail and Caroline Hopkins. We are deeply indebted to those who have taken the time to write these narratives.



Memoirs of an Old Ball Player

Gail E. Hopkins, MD, PhD, MDiv

I received a telephone call today from a dear friend with whom I have not spoken in a number of years. I was a third year student at Pepperdine College in 1964 when Dr. Warren Kilday arrived on campus to begin a distinguished career as a chemistry professor. Little did I know that, when I stepped into his class room that year, he and his wife Helen would become dear friends of Caroline and me. He called to let us know that Helen had just recently died. We shared warm memories about happier times. I told him that we had already heard of Helen's death from our daughter, Leah, who also studied organic chemistry from Warren before she went off to medical school. She had already told us because of its announcement on Facebook. As we talked, I mentioned that I was writing a few short pages of memoirs and reflections for Gayle Crowe's sessions at the Christian Scholars Conference this coming June. Warren perked up and noted that he had recently written a fairly detailed personal memoir for his children. He decided that he wanted them to know some things about his growing up years in the great Northwest of the United States as the eleventh child in an itinerant sharecropping farm family. He said he was excited to pass on his history to his children and family. He let one of his older sisters read the memoirs too and that is where a problem developed. She told him that his facts were wrong and that a number of things he wrote about did not actually happen as he described in his memoirs. He did not believe his sister until they all travelled back to the Northwest and visited some of those many farms where they had lived. On that trip, he found out from other local residents that his facts were indeed incorrect.

Why do I mention this encounter? Well, Warren now has me a little worried. I remember things very well until my wife reminds me of such events as when my daughter Leah was only two years and three months old and not four plus years as I said she was. I traumatized Leah for life when I took her fishing with me one evening during Spring Training out onto a breakwater jetty near our apartment. She kept asking me what was down in that water and I kept saying bad jokes. Well, when I pulled an ugly flounder up out of the water, Leah screamed and took off running over the breakwater rocks as best a two-year-old can. She ran about one-third of a mile back to the apartment, and she locked the front door so I could not bring my fish in the house. The short version of the story is that, Leah stopped eating anything that came out of the water to this very day! Her favorite sandwich used to be tuna, but not anymore. All of that is all on me. I prefer my version of the story, but Caroline is correct. Leah was two, not four. However, I always remind Caroline that my memory is better than hers no matter what the facts are or how often my daughter also agrees with Caroline! Why do I mention a fishing story about Leah in Spring Training or my talk with Warren on the telephone? Clearly, it is because I am going to tell a story based on my memory of events and people whom I knew long ago, and, just like Warren, my memory of the factors that have formed me are colored by time and perhaps clogged up with a faulty memory. However, these are my memoirs as I recall the events, and I agree with the noble words of my good friend Don Drennan of Abilene, Texas who often reminds me of his position on almost any subject. He says "Hopkins, I may be wrong, but I'm never in doubt!" So, with recognizing my flawed and perhaps incorrect remembrances, I offer you the following short memoirs with my hope that it gives glory to God!

There are a lot of ways I could organize this essay about the formative factors and influences that have led me to where I am today. Because I am a believer of Jesus and His teachings as found in the Bible, I see no acceptable way of separating my spiritual life in Him from what some might call the various parts, or jobs, or aspects, or accomplishments of my life. In other words, in my view, my spiritual life in Christ is simply all of my life. I cannot separate it into compartments that somehow are devoid of Jesus's influence and presence. God has been with Caroline and me all the way! Thus, when I contemplate how I got to where I am, I hope to show you that the important factors and people in my formation are, in reality, pretty simple and straightforward.

Let me discuss a few areas or parts of the life that Caroline and I have shared before I address the substantial matters of my formation. First, I was probably asked to participate in this discussion because of my life in professional baseball for fourteen years, my work as an orthopaedic surgeon, and my involvement in both Christian higher education and in the Church of Christ. Involvement in these aspects of my life has been very rewarding personally and has certainly influenced how and where Caroline and I have lived, and the things we have done in life; however, I do not think they are the major factors that have shaped our life together. The first three of these aspects are certainly important parts of my life, but I was who I am before professional baseball, medicine, or higher education. My involvement with the Church of Christ is a different matter. I hope to make this clear as I proceed through this essay.


Excerpted from "Bat, Scalpel, Sheepskin, Beneath the Cross"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Leah G. Hopkins and Thomas H. Olbricht, eds..
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Authors of the Narratives, ix,
Narrative 1: Introducing Gail Eason Hopkins The Editors, 1,
Narrative 2: Memoirs of an Old Ball Player Gail E. Hopkins, MD, PhD, MDiv, 9,
Narrative 3: A Brother Remembers Donald Hopkins, 21,
Narrative 4: My Brother, Gail by the Youngest Brother Roland "Bud" Hopkins, 25,
Narrative 5: Candi's Perspective: A Sister Candi Eogleman, 31,
Narrative 6: Memories from the Daughter of a Junior High School Coach Margaret Dees ... always Barney's daughter, 41,
Narrative 7: Gail Hopkins and the Tale of the Two Campuses Roger Pembrook, 45,
Narrative 8: From the Pepperdine President Andrew K. Benton, 53,
Narrative 9: The Reflections of a Daughter Leah Gail Hopkins, 61,
Narrative 10: Bail, Brother, Bail! George Galdtrap, 79,
Narrative 11: At Church and at the Medical Clinic Shirley Demeris, 83,
Narrative 12: A Little Nudge Dale and Dana Robinson, 89,
Narrative 13: The Lick, the Getaway Driver, Mrs. Elephant, and the Magic Donut Finger Walter Wiegand, 127,
Narrative 14: Japanese Baseball and Gail Hopkins Marty Kuehnert, 135,
Narrative 15: The Hopkins in Japan Chikako Kobayashi, 139,
Narrative 16: The Enduring Friendship Jerry Rushford, 145,
Narrative 17: Friend from Lodi — As a Fellow Church Member. Dave McPeak, 153,
Narrative 18: Promoting and Nourishing Education Doug Edwards, 157,
Narrative 19: From the Executive Assistant to the President of OVU Glenna Harrison, 173,
Narrative 20: Papua New Guinea Mission Fred and Sandy Burrows, 179,
Narrative 21: A Passion for the Bible and a Heart for People C. Michael Moss, 187,
Narrative 22: As an Advisor, Board Chair at OVU Jeff Dimick, 189,
Narrative 23: Coffee Shops and Christian Theology Shauna Hyde, 195,
Narrative 24: Gail and Caroline Hopkins as Friends and Travel Companions Thomas H. Glbricht, 203,
Narrative 25: As an Encourager of International Students Makoto Tateno, 225,

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