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About the Author
Peter Golenbock is a well-known writer of books about sports, espcecially baseball. He lives in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Paul Bacon also illustrated Susanna of the Alamo. He lives in Clintondale, New York.
Read an Excerpt
The Thunder and Lightning
A No B.S. Hockey Memoir
By Phil Esposito Triumph Books
Copyright © 2003 Phil Esposito
All right reserved.
After I suffered a severe knee injury during the first playoffgame against the Rangers in 1972-73, I was taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I had medial-collateral ligament damage. The next morning I was operated on. The surgeons transplanted ligaments from my elbow.
I remember coming out of the operation looking at the TV to learn we had lost the series to the Rangers and were eliminated.
The next day at about eleven in the morning Bobby Orr and a couple other of my Boston Bruin teammates came to see me. They said they were going to come back that night and take me to a party. I was game.
My wife at the time, Donna, said to me, “How are you going to do that? You can’t walk.”
I said, “Don’t worry. These guys just had a few drinks. They aren’t going to do anything.”
But I was very wrong about that.
That night, around seven-thirty, the door to my room flew open, and there in a hospital gown, mask, and cap stood Bobby Orr. With him were Wayne Cashman, Kenny Hodge, Dallas Smith, Freddie O’Donnell and our trainer, Johnny “Frosty” Forristall.
Bobby said, “Wappo, we’re taking you to a party.”
“Whaaaaaat?” I said. “Howare you going to do that?”
He said, “Don’t worry about it. We’re taking you.”
I was in a full cast from my groin to my toes. My leg was in traction, up in the air in a sling. I was wearing only a hospital johnny and a sheet.
“Are you crazy?” I said. “What are you guys doing?”
Donna kept repeating, “What are you guys doing?”
They said, “Relax.”
“Hon, it’s okay,” I said.
You might ask how they planned to get me out of there. Bobby had a friend who was a private detective. His job was to create a diversion. He went to the nurses’ station and flashed a badge and said, “Where is the guy who got shot?”
The nurse said, “Nobody on this floor got shot.”
He said, “Somebody got shot. And I want to see him.” So while the boys came for me she was preoccupied making phone calls trying to find out if someone on the floor had been shot.
They wheeled the bed, levers, ropes, and all, into the hallway. There was an elevator across from my room, and when it opened, they pushed me in. They bribed the elevator operator, who was looking at us wide-eyed, to take us down to the basement.
When the elevator doors opened, they pushed my bed into the corridor. They pulled the sheet up over my head. Only my leg was visible. Donna was running beside me, and I could hear her saying, “Oh my God. Oh my God. Are you all right, Phil?”
I kept saying, “Yeah, yeah,” and Bobby was saying, “Wappo, we got you. Don’t worry. No problem.” From under the sheet I could hear people in the corridor say, “Hey, that’s Bobby Orr.”
When we reached the exit, the guys couldn’t get the bed through the doors because a metal post ran down the middle, so Dallas Smith, Kenny Hodge, and Freddie O’Donnell began rocking the post, and they ripped it right out of the cement! They wheeled me onto the street and into the cold Boston night.
Off we went toward a club Bobby owned called the Branding Iron, which was about a half a mile from the hospital. It was early April in Boston, and I was freezing my balls off. As they wheeled me down the middle of Cambridge Street, I could hear horns beeping. Donna was trying to keep me covered with a blanket as we flew along.
Bobby kept asking, “Are you all right, Wappo?” I said, “Yeah, are we there yet?” Bobby said to me, “Wappo, put your left hand out. We’re making a turn.” Like an idiot I put my hand out. I said to myself, What am I doing?
By the time we got to the club, one of the wheels of the bed had broken, so the guys had to carry the bed inside and up twenty stairs to the party. I could see the veins sticking out of their necks, because the bed was heavy and I was not a light guy. But they got me up there and set me down in the middle of the bar.
Bobby yelled out, “Okay, the party can start now!”
They put bricks under the broken wheel, Bobby gave me a beer, one of the other guys gave me another beer, and Eddie Johnston grabbed a stinky provolone cheese and put it right between my legs. Guys would come over, cut off a slice of the cheese and eat it.
Meanwhile, the TV was on in the bar, and there was a news flash that said, “Phil Esposito has been kidnapped from Mass General Hospital.”
Bobby said, “I guess I better call the doctor.”
I said, “Yeah, Bobby, you better.”
So he called Dr. Carter Rowe, the man who had operated on me, and told him I was okay.
Dr. Rowe said, “Listen, Phil has to get back. He just had a very serious knee operation, and if he falls he may never walk again, let alone play. We’ll send a ambulance.”
Bobby said, “No, we took him. We’ll bring him back.” And Bobby and the guys carried that bed all the way back to the hospital.
They got me back to my room and, to make a long story shorter, it cost me over $3,800 for a new bed and a new entrance door.
A little while later Bobby said, “Did you pay the bill?”
I said, “Yeah, I paid it.”
He said, “What a great party, huh?”
I said, “You asshole.”
And he left, laughing.
Excerpted from The Thunder and Lightning by Phil Esposito Copyright © 2003 by Phil Esposito. Excerpted by permission.
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