Tim (The Rock) Raines returns to the Montreal Expos at age 41 Apr. 13, 2001.
MONTREAL (CP) - Tim Raines wasn’t prepared for the deafening cheers from the usually quiet crowd when he stepped to the plate in his first game back in Montreal.
For Raines, it was like being in the World Series and batting with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the winning run on base.
``It was that type of ovation,’’ said Raines, who spent his first 12 seasons with the Expos before returning this year at age 41.
Raines has been in the World Series, winning it twice with the New York Yankees. But his comeback from lupus might be an even more impressive feat for one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball history. Raines’ career appeared to have ended on July 19, 1999, when the Oakland Athletics placed him on the disabled list with a kidney inflammation. He was subsequently diagnosed with lupus.
``Lupus took me away from the game, and I wasn’t ready to give it up,’’ Raines said. ``That drove me back.’’
Nobody, other than Raines, understood the odds against him better than his wife.
``He didn’t have any muscle and he was up to about 225 pounds from the lupus,’’ Virginia Raines said. ``With all the medication he was taking, his body was so weak that he couldn’t do much.’’
Gradually, Raines was able to reduce his medication to the point where he now just takes three pills a day, along with vitamin supplements.
And so there was a thunderous reception in Montreal last week. It might have been the most gratifying moment for the man known as The Rock.
``I had tears in my eyes,’’ said his wife, Virginia. ``I knew I was going to get goosebumps, I had those, but then I started crying. It was unbelievable. It was fantastic.’’
The cheers continued throughout Raines’ first at-bat.
This was just one human being playing baseball, coming back as if from the dead.
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