When the San Francisco Giants hit the road, Mike Krukow's longtime TV broadcast partner, Duane Kuiper, carries his friend's bags, like a Sherpa might, because Krukow cannot do it safely. What's wrong with Krukow? For the past eight years, he revealed in a San Francisco Chronicle story published Tuesday, a degenerative muscle disease called inclusion-body myositis has changed Krukow's life.
The condition isn't fatal, but it can be physically limiting, intensely stressful and monumentally frustrating for Krukow, who pitched in the majors with the Giants, Phillies and Cubs and was used to — even into his mid 50s — living a robust lifestyle. Krukow said he was ashamed of being in a position to rely on others, and to look weak or awkward in public. Falling down was the worst, he told Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius:
"There is nothing more humiliating than falling in front of people," says the longtime Giants broadcaster. "The biggest, most stressful thing is thinking about being on the field and falling in front of 40,000 people."
Now 62 years old, Krukow figures the best way to handle having the condition is to let the secret out, beyond the narrow scope of those who knew already. He carries a cane and, sometimes — when there's a big crowd and a greater danger of being knocked down — drives a motorized cart to get around the ballpark and elsewhere. More and more people saw him and were beginning to ask what was wrong. Here's what IBM means:
IBM causes progressive weakness in the muscles of the wrist and fingers, the front of the thigh, and the muscles that lift the front of the foot. There's no cure and no solid theory for what causes it.
It could be worse. Hearing the term "degenerative muscle disease" is likely to bring out the worst thoughts. But Krukow's wife, Jennifer, hopes that spreading the word will lead to a bigger base of support, which will help Krukow as he ages.
Someday, Krukow might not be able to play golf anymore. He also might lose the ability to play string instruments such as the banjo, guitar or mandolin. Those could be tough times.
But he has no plans to stop broadcasting, which Kuiper says he wants to do until he's 80. Krukow plans to be right there with him.
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