Living With Lupus: Tim Raines

January 7th, 20102:50 pm @ Angela Odom


Former Major League Baseball All-Star Tim Raines speaks at a news conference to introduce him as the new manager of the Newark Bears minor league baseball team in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. A new ownership team has taken over the Newark Bears to save the independent Atlantic League franchise from bankruptcy and extinction. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)

Every year I hope to see Tim Raines make it into the Hall of Fame. Hopefully 2010 will be the year.

Tim Raines, for me, is clearly one of the greatest outfielders to ever play the game. In his 23-year career, Raines hit .294 with 170 home runs, 980 runs batted in, 1,571 runs scored, 2,605 hits, 808 stolen bases, 430 doubles, 113 triples, and had an on base percentage of .385. Raines batted over .300 in five full seasons, over .320 in three straight years (1985–1987), was a National League all-star in seven consecutive seasons (1981-1987) and earned the Most Valuable Player award for the 1987 All-Star Game. Raines finished in the top 10 in voting for the National League Most Valuable Player Award three times (1983, 1986 and 1987). He won a Silver Slugger Award as an outfielder in 1986 when he led the National League in both batting average and on-base percentage. Raines was also a member of the New York Yankees teams that won the World Series in 1996 and 1998.

Impressive stats indeed but, and this is me, it just may be his early use (or abuse) of cocaine that is keeping him from his well deserved and coveted place in the Hall of Fame. Drats!!! They look at both the good and the bad and it may just be the early years of bad have far outweighed the many years of good. I will continue to keep hope alive for 2010.

Unfortunately, in 1999, while with the Oakland A’s, Raines was diagnosed with lupus. After experiencing a sudden weight gain (some say 15 others say 28 pounds) and fatigue, he underwent a kidney biopsy when it was determined he had lupus.

“When you’re sick and you’re a ballplayer, you always feel a pill is going to make you better,” Raines said.

“But I think any time you get into a situation where it’s maybe a life or death thing, you tend to think about it and wonder what you’re going through.

“As baseball players, we kind of live a sheltered life, good, bad or ugly. I mean, you’re on the top of the world,” he added. “You feel like nothing can ever get to you. I think what I’ve gone through over the last three weeks, it’s been pretty humbling, because I haven’t been able to do the things I love to do, and that’s play baseball.”

Raines did return to the game in 2000 with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. This in an effort to show scouts and coaches that he was healthy enough to play on the Olympic Baseball Team. Finally, in 2001, Raines returned to the majors with the Montreal Expos.

Another interesting little factoid, in 2001 during a rehab assignment with the Expos’ Triple-A team, Raines had the opportunity to play against his son, Tim Raines, Jr., who was playing for the Rochester
Red Wings in the Baltimore Orioles organization, marking the first time in the history of professional baseball that a father-son pair had played against each other. Nice.

In 2002, Raines signed with the Florida Marlins, and played his last game on September 29, 2002.

Raines joined the Chicago White Sox coaching staff in 2005 before joining the Newark Bears on November 21, 2008.

In an interview, Raines was asked the following about his bout with lupus nephritis in 1999:

Keri: Then in 1999, you were diagnosed with lupus. Looking back on it now, when do you think your condition may have first started affecting you?

Raines: The doctors were telling me that the lupus might have been linked back to the hamstring injuries, and that was back in ‘96. Without my legs, you know, I just wasn’t the same player. I could go up and hit homers, but that wasn’t my game. I hit a bunch of homers in September that year, so I was able to help the team, and we won the World Series. But on a personal level, 1996 was a season of disappointment. I’d say that coming down with lupus hurt my chances of being a shoo-in, really. I had 2,000 hits way before Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn. Injuries were the difference between getting to 3,000 hits and doing a few other things. All of that took a lot of at-bats away from me. If it wouldn’t have happened, we wouldn’t be talking about it right now. I feel like I’d be a first-ballot player.

Source: Baseball Hall of Fame 2008: Raines: ‘I played the game with excitement, focus’

He has been through a lot, particularly with the treatments he had to undergo for lupus nephritis but strong will and determination brought him back to the game to play some of the best baseball. Many thought his career was finished, he proved them wrong. I’m praying 2010 will be the year we see Tim Raines inducted into the Hall of Fame.