Keep Yourself Alive

Cardinal outfielder Eric Davis calls for a check at a recent dinner party

OK, let's dispense with the usual whimsy found in this space and talk about something deadly serious.

A couple of weeks ago, on an off-day for the Cardinals just before they clinched the division title, several St. Louis players and staff, along with a Blue and a smattering of other invited guests, gathered in a private room at the Morton's of Chicago steakhouse in Clayton to lend support to Eric Davis, the Cardinals outfielder who was given a diagnosis of, and subsequently recovered from, colon cancer. Eric and his wife, Sherrie, now sponsor the Eric Davis Foundation, a support group for survivors of colorectal cancer with the dual goals of raising awareness and promoting early diagnosis.

It was perhaps against public-relations orthodoxy for a restaurant famous for giant slabs of beef to tie into such a cause, but Morton's steakhouses are also well-known gathering places for athletes, and Roger Drake, a vice president at the corporate parent, has a long history with both Major League Baseball and with the Cardinals. He and Morton's deserve a lot of credit for doing the right thing and providing the Eric Davis Foundation with a platform from which to do good deeds.

Although I tend to shy away from publicity-oriented restaurant events, I attended this one for a couple of reasons. First, Roger is a longtime personal friend, having worked with my wife and me on several sports videos when he lived here in the late '80s and early '90s.

On an even more personal note, earlier this year my doctor strongly recommended screening for colorectal cancer after I displayed symptoms. The procedure I underwent is, in fact, not the most pleasant way to spend one's afternoon, but as Mr. and Mrs. Davis now preach to all who will listen, the alternative of delaying diagnosis can be much worse.

Whereas Eric Davis was (and is) a hero both for his onfield play and for his remarkable recovery, I was simply lucky -- the results of my procedure turned up negative. But because he was 37 when the cancer was first diagnosed and I was 40 when I was screened, the possibility of spreading the word through this column seems nicely fortuitous. Eric notes the mistaken impression that colorectal cancer strikes only older white men, but, in fact, more than half of those who die of the disease are women. And colon cancer in blacks and Hispanics is more likely to be diagnosed in its later stages, when the mortality rate is highest.

Because this is a restaurant column, we won't put too fine a point on it by listing symptoms. You can learn more by visiting the Eric Davis Foundation Web site,, or by calling its toll-free help line, 877-SCORE-123. And be sure to cheer a little louder for Eric next time he comes up to bat.

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