Till the End- Yankee Star’s Biography (CC Sabathia)

These were my favorite quotes from one of the most touching, authentic, and vulnerable memoirs I’ve ever read.

“And that’s when it hit me: I am about to go do my job drunk. I had never done that before. I couldn’t do that. I needed help. I had fought my way through a lot of things in thirty-five years: Having childhood friends shot to death in my neighborhood. My father disappearing when I was thirteen. Being the youngest player in the entire American League. Frequently being the only Black player on a team. Losing the ability to throw a 95-mile-an-hour fastball. The guilt of becoming rich and famous when many of my buddies back home were still hustling. I had learned and adapted and succeeded at the very highest level of my profession, under enormous pressure, and I loved competing and winning. But all of that survival was wrapped up in protecting and exploiting my ability to pitch, my arm, and deadening the rest of me. Painkillers could numb my knee, but eventually they wear off. This was the mental equivalent. The drinking and the evasions couldn’t cover up the hurt and confusion in the rest of my life anymore. This wasn’t figuring out how to throw a cutter and fool hitters when I couldn’t blow the ball past them. This was about honestly confronting who I was, digging deep into the roots of my emotions and finding out if I could be one person.”

“if I gave up a big hit or a bunch of runs or if I was walking batters. I would start crying on the mound—and I didn’t want anyone to see that. So between pitches I’d tug on my hat, trying to pull it down low enough to cover the tears. Jomar, my catcher for most of those teams, knew he was in trouble when the hat started coming down, because I was going to be throwing the ball harder and harder. What eventually became a signature look started with me hiding my emotions.”

“At his funeral, I just shut down. Learning how to process and channel my emotions has been a lifelong struggle, both on the field and off. For a long time, I tried to just keep all the pain and anxiety inside, to tough it out, to be a man. My only memory of my grandfather’s funeral is that I wore one of his suits. I was crushed when he died. That was a big deal to me, to feel myself in his clothes, as if it could keep him with me in some way. I wore that suit to my eighth-grade graduation, that same year, to bring him along, even a little.”

“That summer my cousin Kevin got out of jail. He was four years older than me, and when I was little, wherever I went with him I felt safe. Kev was incredibly loyal. The downside of this was that Kev would fight anybody, over just about anything. He had a seriously bad temper and he was a polarizing figure in our family. One day that August, my freshman year of high school, during football two-a-days, my cousin Gigi shows up at practice and says, “We need to go home. Now.” She wouldn’t tell me why, but I took off my jersey and shoulder pads and got in the car wearing my football pants and pads. At home they told me Kevin had been killed—shot trying to rob a gas station. That jolted me. I loved Kev. When I went back to practice, I pounded everyone as hard as I could, in every drill, for the next four years. I was the best practicer of high school football ever, because on the days that we hit, I would just fucking try to kill somebody, because I was mad about something. On the field I would just be lost. Gone, mentally. It’s why I loved football, and it’s why I got so many penalties as a kid. I could turn into something different on the field—yell, scream—and people were fine with it. I figured that out early.”

“My grandparents’ house was always my home base. Even when we were mostly living on the other side of town, a lot of days my mom would drop me off at my grandparents’ house. I’d spend the night there and ride my bike to school. Because Vallejo is in the North Bay, my schools were a mix of Filipino kids, Mexican kids, Middle Eastern kids, White kids, Black kids, everything. You knew, especially as you got older, that racism existed in the world, but I never really experienced it directly until I was a grown man and reached the major leagues, which made it even more confusing when people called me the N-word. What I knew was the Bay, where diversity is a common and beautiful thing.”

“One afternoon on my way home from Solano Middle School, I stopped into King’s to buy a bag of chips. I was just chilling, talking to people. I had started to get a reputation as an athlete, and this older guy, someone I had never seen before, came up to me. “We know who you are,” he said. “We know your mom. You don’t need to be down here. Get your bike. Get the fuck out of here. Don’t come back, because you’re gonna be somebody.”

“There have been athletes who did a lot of great stuff in Vallejo. There’ve been other players from Vallejo selected high in the draft. As good as I was, I was probably fifteenth on the talent list of guys to come out of Vallejo—maybe lower. But stuff happens. Decisions get made. For people who don’t grow up in the hood, it’s easy to be judgmental: “Well, why didn’t he just do the right thing? Make the right choice?” But when you’re under pressure from the time you’re a little kid, and you don’t see people who look like you getting many breaks or living very long, you live for now. A lot of guys I grew up with ran into obstacles they didn’t create; I don’t blame any of them for not going further in their careers. But I wanted to be the one to have the career. To escape the trap.”

“Dude, go to the library,” he told me. “Figure it out. It’s important for you.” The way he said it wasn’t condescending, which it easily could have been, coming from a White adult to a young Black kid. It was encouraging and prodding. He would give us books on all kinds of different subjects, and I would come back and ask him questions. But he educated me big-time on Jackie Robinson in particular. Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Ty Cobb—I’m sure those guys were great players. But there shouldn’t be any major league baseball records until 1947, when they let us play. Years later, Coach Hobbs would tell me that he was trying to build a culture of “moral fiber” with his players, and so he wanted all of us to know who had come before us and what they’d gone through. But he also had a sense I might need to deal with the wider world soon. And he wanted me to be prepared in every way.”

“So I need to do the right shit. I need to set the right tone. I started to carry myself differently, but what it meant to be a leader didn’t really sink in until December of junior year. Our basketball team was in a Christmas tournament in Lodi. We had made the finals, and we had some time to kill before the championship game, so Coach Wallace took us to the nearest shopping mall. Back then the nickname for Vallejo High’s teams was the Apaches, and we were roaming the mall wearing our red warm-ups. Suddenly all these gangbangers in blue start surrounding us. Crips. The cursing and threats got intense in a hurry, and Coach Wallace was yelling at us to get out of there, but we were teenage boys with our adrenaline racing and we weren’t listening. I noticed the panicked look on Coach’s face, and something clicked in my head. “We didn’t come here for this!” I shouted at my teammates. “We need to get up on out of here if we want to play this game tonight!” It calmed everyone down—at least it calmed all the Vallejo guys down—and we walked away. That felt good. But I still felt conflicted about that leadership role. From early on, I knew that on the field I was the best out of all of us—and I wanted to be the best, the one who made it out. I was so confident. I was so brash, so cocky, I was thinking, Hell, no. I don’t want to be just one of the group. Off the field, though, I didn’t want to stand out. I wanted to stay one of the guys, all in it together, nobody above anybody else. I felt that tension from the time I was a kid, and it has never gone away. And later, once money came into it, things would get really complicated.”

“Growing up in Vallejo was what made me hard enough to get out of Vallejo. We all knew coming up that Vallejo, and especially the Crest, was a place where young Black kids did not get second chances, so everything was higher pressure, higher stakes. Even when we were having fun growing up, we knew we weren’t far from slipping off an edge. One night we were driving back to the neighborhood, and we had just turned onto Sage Street, maybe six blocks from my house, when the cops pulled us over for no reason. Mom had talked to me for years about being very, very careful around the police, especially when I was in a car. But when you’re Black in those situations, you can do everything right and still be a split second from disaster. One cop walked up and told me to roll down my window. The window mechanism was broken, and you had to stick a pen in the handle to crank it open, so I reached down toward the floor. Big mistake. Suddenly there was a gun to my head and my face was pressed to the ground.”

“Between the lines was where I felt the most in control, and where I could release—where I was encouraged to release—the full force of my emotions. In the rest of my life, I would hide what I was feeling, or try to numb it by drinking.”

“The Navy started shutting down its Vallejo base in 1993, and closed it for good in 1996. Mare Island was the city’s biggest employer, and when it went away, suddenly fathers started disappearing from the stands at their kids’ games. My dad became one of the missing when I was about fifteen. Dad got a new job, at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, south of Vallejo, and he just slowly faded out of my life. Nobody seemed to know why, and I tried not to think about it too much. Mom would talk with him on the phone and keep him up to date on how I was doing, but he wouldn’t come to see me. I didn’t understand that. I would always look for him in the stands at my high school basketball games. If I didn’t spot him, I’d ask Mom afterward, “Did my dad come?” and she’d say, “No, not tonight, but he’ll be here another time.” Mom talks about dropping me off for high school football practice one day and looking around and seeing all the other fathers watching practice.”

“She says she left in tears, thinking about what I was missing.”

“My first drink came when I was fourteen. I was staying at Jomar’s house, and one of us somehow got hold of a bottle of gin. We snuck out that night, went to the park, and downed it. I liked the way it made me feel. It relaxed me, lowered my anxieties about what people thought of me, made me more social. So I started drinking more, and hiding it. I can’t tell you how much I drank on average, but it was a lot, from early on.”

“I went to school that day, and that night I had a basketball game. Somehow I played, but I was completely out of it. I got elbowed in the mouth, was bleeding all over the place, and didn’t even notice. I don’t remember anything about Granny’s funeral, other than it was the most painful day I had ever experienced. I wanted to quit everything—basketball, baseball, school—because Granny was the one person I was doing everything for, and my purpose had died with her. A few days later, I told Mom that I was done. We sat in the living room, surrounded by photos of Granny. The house seemed empty with her gone.”

“Later I heard that some teams downgraded me because of Vallejo’s reputation—they thought guys coming out of there were undisciplined and hard to coach, so they’d be risky as high draft picks. Which seems to me racist as much as anything factual. The other knock was that I couldn’t control my emotions. That’s an unfair criticism of any seventeen-year-old kid. But that one hurt because the scouts did have a point. By senior year I was pretty fucked up emotionally. The scouts didn’t know what I’d been through growing up, and that even when I was screaming at an umpire or a hitter I was being even harder on myself. I would lie in bed at night, staring at the ceiling. Where am I going to get drafted? Is this going to work out? Am I making the right decision? Really, though, there wasn’t any other decision to be made.”

“The Giants, picking nineteenth, took…Tony Torcato, a dude I’d played against my whole life, the outfielder I had struck out in that game in Woodland! When I found out later, I was really mad; the Giants’ justification was they planned to grab me with their next pick in the first round. Yeah, sure. I’m not going to lie: My hometown team passing, that hurt. I’m right here in your backyard, I’m the best player in California—what the fuck are you doing? What else do I need to do to prove myself to you? It felt like a slap in the face.”

“My senior year I went 6–0 as a pitcher, with an 0.77 earned run average, and I averaged two strikeouts per inning. Pretty much untouchable. It lasted all the way until the sectional championship game, in Stockton. I had another shutout going through the first four innings. Then I walked the first two batters of the fifth. Things were starting to spiral in my mind: Maybe I’m not as great as everyone’s been saying. Somehow I pulled it back together to get two outs—then I hit the next batter, loading the bases, and my composure was gone. This was supposed to be the glorious ending, me the star, carrying my team in my final high school game. I threw a wild pitch, all the way to the screen behind home plate. Two runs scored. The runner on first base took a huge lead, started to steal second—and I forgot about the runner at third, who broke for home and scored easily. The batter then rocked a triple to right center, driving in the fifth run. We lost 5–3. On the bench after the game, I cried, hard and long. “It’s the end,” I told a reporter.”

“I was tired and beat up, more mentally than anything else. The stretch from Granny’s death through the baseball draft and the end of high school had left me wrung out. I knew I had achieved something special—being selected in the first round—but it felt hollow, because Granny wasn’t here to share it with me. It was the beginning of what would become a pattern in my life for a long time: It felt as if every triumph was matched or exceeded by a loss.”

“One morning Mom came home from work and found me standing in the hallway wearing my glove and holding a baseball. “Mom, I’m ready to go,” I told her. We sat on her bed and called Cleveland, getting Indians general manager John Hart on the line. Mom asked for a $1.5 million signing bonus. Hart offered $1.3 million. Mom covered the receiver with one hand and whispered the number to me. I nodded. “We’ll take it,” Mom told Hart. When she hung up, we hugged and screamed with joy—and with relief. There was another big piece of unfinished business, however. What position was I going to play in pro ball? Even when I was drafted, if you had asked me if I was a pitcher, I would have said hell no. I just happened to be good at pitching. And I loved hitting. My senior year in high school I batted .586. In a playoff game against Merced, we were down by three runs late in the game when I came up with the bases loaded. A new relief pitcher came into the game—a guy I had warned earlier not to throw me fastballs. My cousin Nathan was standing by the fence, and I went over and got some sunflower seeds from him. I knew the reliever would throw me a curve; I’d set him up. “Watch this,” I told Nathan. “I’m about to go deep.” First pitch, curveball, grand slam over some trees in center.”

“If Cincinnati had picked me, I would have been a hitter. Pittsburgh, I would have been a hitter. And man, I loved to hit. In one high school road game I hit a ball off the light tower behind right field; the stupid umpires only gave me a triple instead of a home run because they lost sight of the ball in the fog. San Francisco wanted me as a pitcher. Cleveland, I had no idea. In July, a few days after I signed, I got on the phone with Mark Shapiro, the assistant general manager, and asked: “Am I playing first, or am I pitching?” Mark laughed and told me not to bring any bats with me to the minor leagues. He said I would be flying to join the Indians’ rookie league team in the Appalachian League, in Burlington, North Carolina. I didn’t know where that was, but I didn’t much care. I was seventeen years old and I was about to get paid to play baseball.”

“The first big thing I bought when I got back to California was a Camaro. It was a beautiful ride. There are two things in the world I really know how to do: pitch and drive. The rest I’m still figuring out. The world will keep teaching you lessons, though. Not long after I bought the Camaro, I took it to the dealer to get it serviced. Jomar and I were hanging out, waiting for the work to get done, and we noticed a brand-new Escalade sitting in the middle of the showroom. At the time the Escalade had just come out, and it was the dopest thing on four wheels, so Jomar and I walked over and climbed in. We were sitting in the front seats, checking it out and talking, when this old White dude came up to the car window and said, in a real condescending tone, “If you guys work hard enough you may be able to get this one day.” That shit made me mad. “As a matter of fact,” I said, “I’m not getting out of this car. I want this one right here.” The White guy was a salesman, and his eyes got big. They got even bigger when I told him I wanted the other salesman, the Black dude, to handle the deal. The funnier part was that because I was eighteen, I had to have my mom come down and co-sign the paperwork. But I drove that motherfucking Escalade right out of the dealership.”

“But then the pattern kicked in: Just as something beautiful was happening in my life, something tragic arrived to even it out. One day in January 1999, not long before I had to leave for spring training, Dad asked me to pick him up from a doctor’s appointment. He had looked healthy whenever I saw him, and he didn’t mention that he was visiting the doctor for any particular reason. As I drove along the interstate back to the Crest, Dad looked out the passenger side window, kind of quiet for most of the ride. When we got off the freeway and were back on the local streets in Vallejo—I think maybe we were at a stop sign—he said, “Dude, I got some bad news to tell you. I’m really sick.” He wasn’t specific. It was clearly hard for him to talk about it. When we reached home and sat down with my mom, she was the one who first said it: Dad had HIV.”

As we drove the final few blocks Dad might have said that he was feeling pretty good at the moment. I don’t really remember. I don’t think I said anything. All that was in my head was a prayer that began that day and ran through my mind for years to come: Please let us have Dad as long as possible.

“We stayed in that limbo for the next year—seeing each other a lot during the off-season when I was back in Vallejo, staying in touch mostly by phone during the six months when I was away in the minors. Our relationship was part of the split personality that I was starting to develop: When I was home I was one of the guys, just as I had always been, and when I was on the road playing ball, I was more independent with a totally new group of friends. I was still only nineteen and didn’t know how to square those two things off the field, which was one reason I was drinking more—it made me more relaxed in social situations.”

“And Manny Ramírez. My first two years with the Indians, Manny would come by the team hotel during spring training and take me out to eat, and the whole time he thought I was Dominican. He finally asked, “Papi, why you never speak Spanish?” I laughed and told him, “Dude, I’m from California!”

“It all made the dream feel so close. I could even touch part of it now, literally: When I walked into the spring training clubhouse for the first time, I spotted a locker with my name above it, and a bright white Cleveland home jersey hanging inside. I hadn’t asked for any particular number—that wasn’t something minor leaguers, even first-round draft picks, could do back then. And even if we were able to pick what was considered a desirable pitcher’s number—something in the twenties through the forties—the tradition was that younger guys would need to give up their jersey number if a veteran, maybe somebody who had been traded to the team, decided he wanted it. The jersey in my locker said 52. That was a high number for a pitcher, the kind of number that told people you were just filling out the spring roster and were a long shot to ever play in the majors. But at least they hadn’t given me a number in the sixties or seventies. I saw 52 and thought, Fuck, I’m making the team! But that wasn’t the only thing I saw in 52. What I saw was a number no other player would ever ask to take away from me. It would be mine, one thing in the world that I wouldn’t have to worry about”

“I loved 52 right away. I thought, I’m keeping this high-ass number because it will always be mine.”

“He was so embracing, so encouraging. Buck was a phenomenal storyteller, and he had made it his mission to keep the memory of the Negro Leagues alive. He’d sit down with me on the bench before games and say, “CC, you remind me of Bullet Joe Rogan.” During games Buck sat behind home plate a little to the third-base side, and I would tip my cap to him when I was walking off the mound. Buck made you feel connected to the Negro League players, the men who paved the way for us. We lost Buck in 2006, but I go to the museum every time I’m in K.C. I feel like I have to see Satchel Paige and Rube Foster and Josh Gibson. These are my guys, and I miss them like I miss Buck.”

“That success on the mound could pay off in unexpected ways. One night Jomar and I went to an Akron club; Amber was in the car, too, visiting from California. We were driving home, and our car was weaving down the road. Suddenly I saw flashing lights in the rearview mirror, so I pulled over to the shoulder and stopped. Jomar said, “Put pennies in your mouth! If you put pennies in your mouth, they can’t smell the alcohol!” I have no idea whether that’s true or not, but we started looking all over the car for pennies. I don’t remember if we found any, but I do remember it didn’t matter. The cop looked at my driver’s license: “Oh, you’re CC Sabathia,” he said. “Let me escort you guys to make sure you get home okay.” It wasn’t the first time, and it was far from the last, that being an athlete got me off the hook.”

“Back in Vallejo that winter, I saw Amber whenever I could. We had talked plenty about my dad, and one of the things I loved about Amber was that I could open up to her completely about him—my worries about his health because of HIV, my disappointments about the relationship I had with him. But somehow Amber and my dad had never met. One weekend when she was home from San Diego State I told her it was important to me that they know each other, and I wanted her to go with me to visit him.”

“I was stumped: “What are you talking about?” I had assumed that Dad was in a hospital because he was sick from HIV. But Amber said, “Did you not notice that the place was locked, and that your dad couldn’t walk us to the car? That’s a rehab facility! Are you that naive?” I guess I was naive, or maybe I just wanted to block out any difficult, scary possibilities. My mom never said anything bad about my dad, and she always tried to shelter me from as much of the messiness of real life as she could. I was just so happy to see my dad that the truth of where he was simply hadn’t clicked. Amber, as always, took it on directly—but with incredible compassion. One reason I was attracted to her was that from the beginning she told me when I was being stupid, and she never lied to me. Amber keeps things real, but out of love, not games or anger. She had a lot of empathy. Her father had struggled with drinking and drugs for years. An uncle dealt with a crack addiction. “Your dad is totally in rehab because he was on drugs,” she told me that day. “We’ve all dealt with it, so it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” Part of me couldn’t believe I hadn’t realized my dad’s situation by myself. But I was grateful to have Amber there when my eyes were opened.”

“That winter visit to Cleveland also turned out to include a basketball highlight. The Indians’ head trainer, Paul Spicuzza, was also a high school and AAU referee. “You gotta come see this kid play,” Paul kept telling me. Now, I love just about every sport, and I’m probably a bigger basketball fan than I am a baseball fan. But I was not going to Akron to watch some fucking tenth grader. One night the team, St. Vincent–St. Mary, had a game at Gund Arena, which was across the street from Jacobs Field. So I walked over, and what I saw was unbelievable: LeBron James was sixteen, but he was a grown man. I later got a chance to watch him play football a couple of times, too, and he was a great receiver who could have played in the NFL if he’d wanted. Obviously LeBron went the basketball route, and he’s the only athlete who was under that much pressure at that young an age and has delivered on the hype. In sports, I’d say he’s the number one guy for handling success well. Someone in Cleveland introduced us, and through LeBron I got to know William Wesley—or World Wide Wes—and Mav Carter, and over the years we’ve all become good friends.”

“On the mound, I scuffled a bit at the beginning of camp. But I settled down pretty quickly and threw really well the rest of the month. As opening day approached, though, things started getting strange. No one from the front office would tell me whether I had made the major league roster. Charlie Manuel and Dick Pole, the pitching coach, told me to just keep working hard. It had gotten down to the last two days of camp before the team would fly to Cleveland to start the regular season, and still no word. It looked like they were deciding between me and Steve Karsay, a twenty-nine-year-old relief pitcher, for the final spot on the roster. Everyone else was packing their boxes and shipping them ahead. My dad’s flight back to California was booked for the same day the Indians were leaving Florida for Ohio. I had to drive Dad and Allen to the airport in Orlando, and the team buses pulled away from the complex without me. I was pissed and crying. “They fucking told me if I pitched good, I’m going to make the team,” I said to Dad. “Now it seems like I’m going to triple-A in damn Buffalo! I don’t believe it!” Dad was cool, and I was so grateful he was there. “It’s okay,” he said. “You’re twenty. Your time is going to come. They just want the older guy for now.” We stopped for gas, and my phone rang. It was Charlie Manuel. “CC,” he said, “you made the team. Sorry we didn’t tell you sooner, but we just made the decision.”

“All of us are grinning. Dad looks so happy that he probably could have flown all the way to San Francisco without the plane.”

“The Indians wanted me to stay in Florida for another week and throw another bullpen, because my turn to start wouldn’t come up for seven more days. I found out later that Hart and Shapiro, who would be promoted to GM after the 2001 season, argued against me making the team—they believed a little more time in the minors would give me a better emotional foundation—but that Charlie and Dick said, “Fuck that, CC is ready, and we need him here the whole way.” It’s one of the reasons I’ll love those guys forever. I was still in Winter Haven by myself for a little while longer. But I was a major leaguer now—the youngest one in the entire American League. The dream was coming true, in a hurry.”

“He taught me about becoming a team leader by the way I carried myself on the mound: If I was starting the first game of a series, it was my job to dominate, to set the tone. It was off the field, though, where he had the biggest impact. I was hugely worried about people judging me—where I was from, what I wore, how I talked—and I badly wanted to fit in. Ellis showed me how the vets did things, and it made the adjustment to this new life somewhat easier, especially since most of the 2001 Indians were married with kids, and their interests weren’t mine. I wore jeans pretty much everywhere—on road trips, to clubs at night. Ellis put a stop to that. “You’ve got to represent yourself as a young man,” he said, and then he took me to his tailor to pick out custom-made suits: “This is how you need to start dressing.” Ellis was always making sure I had money in my pocket, or taking me out to dinner after a game on road trips, in cities like Seattle or Chicago or Arlington, Texas, places I’d never been before.”

“One of the moments from that blur of a rookie season that will always be vivid in my mind happened in July. We traveled to Cincinnati. Ken Griffey Jr. had been one of my heroes growing up: a power-hitting lefty, a tremendous outfielder, and a Black guy who played with such joy. My mom was a big Griffey fan, too, so anytime he came to Oakland, in his early years playing for Seattle, she’d take me to the game. Now that I was in pro ball, I couldn’t let Griffey hit a homer and have my boys back home get on me. I needed to strike him out, so I decided to throw as hard as I possibly could—and with my two-two pitch, I hit Junior right in the back. He was pissed. I wanted to cry. You don’t know how bad I want your autograph! I was thinking as he headed to first base, glaring at me.”

“Overall, though, I pitched really well in 2001, good enough to win seventeen regular-season games. The Indians trusted me so much by the end of the year that I started game three of the first round of the playoffs, our first game at home against Seattle in the AL Division Series. The Mariners won 116 regular season games that year, the most in baseball and 25 more than us. But this series was best-of-five, and we came so close to knocking them off. We had won the first game and the Mariners took the second, so game three shaped up as a huge turning point. What I remember most about that game, though, was that in the first inning me and Einar Díaz were having a lot of trouble getting on the same page. I kept shaking off the pitches Einar was calling. The second or third time he came out to the mound to talk, Robbie Alomar came in from second base. “Okay, I’m calling the pitches,” Robbie said. He came up with a gesture for a fastball and a gesture for a curve; he’d flash them to Einar, and Einar would relay them to me. “Do not shake them off,” Robbie said. I trusted the shit out of him. Smartest dude I have ever seen play. So Robbie called the pitches from second base for the rest of the game, and it worked. It took all the tension out of my head, and I pitched great: six innings, two runs, and five strikeouts; I struck out Bret Boone three times, and he was pissed. We won 17–2. But Seattle stunned us by taking the next two and advancing to face the Yankees in the AL Championship Series. A few weeks later, one of the Mariners beat me out in the Rookie of the Year voting, too—Ichiro Suzuki.”

“I worried constantly that I was going to be sent down to the minors. Every day, coming to the field, I was sure somebody was going to be coming off the disabled list and I was going to be the one shipped to Buffalo to make room. Nobody in the organization ever said anything to create that fear; in fact, after I had a bad start, I would read in the paper that John Hart, the GM, or Shapiro or Manuel had said, No, we’re not sending CC down. But I still wouldn’t trust it. It took me probably five or six years before I felt any security. Because in my head, I wasn’t anywhere close to where I needed to be. I wasn’t Pedro Martínez or Bartolo Colón or Roger Clemens, and that’s where I knew I wanted to be and knew I could be, and I knew that was what people were counting on me to be. And it felt as if the only alternative to being an elite pitcher was being a failure.”

“It was great to be back in Vallejo that winter and decompress. As much as I enjoyed hanging out at home, though, I was also beginning to see the opportunities that come with being a big leaguer. It’s a strange thing: When you’re broke, nobody offers you anything. When you have money, people are eager to give you stuff. In November, I was offered a free trip to Las Vegas to see the Lennox Lewis–Hasim Rahman heavyweight championship fight. Rahman had scored a huge upset in April, knocking out Lewis, and this was the big rematch, so of course I went. Free plane tickets, free hotel room, free seats at the fight—this was all new and amazing. It just kept getting better: One night I was in a VIP room at the casino, and my financial advisor at the time introduced me to Serena Williams, who’s smart, beautiful, and obviously a helluva athlete. We talked. In February, both Serena and I went to the Super Bowl in New Orleans, and we saw each other at an ESPN party.”

“Back in the day, if you were a Nike-sponsored athlete, they sent you a catalogue, and you wrote down all the stuff you wanted: shoes, shorts, shirts, hats, pants, whatever, for you and your family. So there I was with what seemed, at the age of twenty-one for a kid from the Crest, like a mega-contract—and Nike was giving me stuff for free. This is dope! I ordered my gear and had it shipped to the stadium in Winter Haven. One random day I came in from doing my running, and there was a stack of Nike boxes at my locker, like jock Christmas morning. But one of the boxes was open. I walked around the corner, heading to the shower, and there was a fucking guy—the naked guy from the team bus rides—wearing one of the Nike shirts I had ordered for Amber! Like, a half shirt, with his fat belly sticking out. I lost it. I almost killed that motherfucker. They had to pull me off him. That was it. He was never a problem after that. Not one person ever said anything negative to me again. It was weird. It was almost like the veteran guys who had hassled me before were waiting for me to do something like that in order for them to accept me: Sure, you can pitch good and help us win and all that shit, but we’ll see about accepting you. They weren’t going to stick up for me until I took care of shit on my own. But once that happened, it was like I was one of them. And for the rest of my career, I made sure no rookie joining my team had to go through any of that kind of crap.”

“I smiled and shrugged. “Nah,” I told her. “It’s cool.” We knew the hosts at SpyBar, WISH, all the spots. That night they showed us to our normal roped-off VIP area. Jomar and I were just drinking and chilling. There was a birthday party for a model we knew. The hosts brought a couple of other guys to our section; we assumed they were okay, because they were in the VIP area, too, and as we talked it turned out they had been big college basketball stars at Cleveland State. After a few hours it was getting late and the club was getting ready to close, but everybody was having fun, and someone said there was going to be a party at a suite in the Marriott downtown. Great. The major league baseball schedule is mostly night games, and you’re back and forth between different time zones every few days, so players become part vampire: I didn’t usually get into bed until four or five in the morning.”

“shaking, at around 4 a.m. They’d stolen our cellphones, too, but somehow we called the cops. When the police showed up, they seemed to have no real interest in what had happened. They were just going through the motions of asking questions: Yeah…yeah…uh-huh…right. Their attitude seemed to be: A couple more fucked-up Black guys who say they got robbed by a couple other Black guys. Then one cop nudged the other and leaned in to say something. I couldn’t hear what he said, but from the reaction of his partner I knew what the message had been: That guy plays for the Indians. Their whole demeanor changed. Now they wanted to know all the details.”

“The cop said, “Hi, Amber. I have CC here. He’s safe. He’s fine. He didn’t do anything wrong.” And then he explained what had happened that night with the robbery. When I got back on the line Amber sounded relieved, but also irritated—which was totally understandable. I had already put her through so many scenes and so many close calls. We had broken up a month before, and here I was waking her up in the middle of the night after yet another episode. “CC, what do you want me to do?” she said. “I’m in San Diego! I have school in a couple of hours!” But even as tired and scared and half drunk as I was at that point, I knew this wasn’t just another crazy night. Me and Jomar had gotten out of control with the partying, and we could have died on that hotel room floor. “If you were here, none of this would have happened!” I blurted out. I wasn’t blaming her; I was pleading with her. “You need to be here. I need you here! Let’s just get married!” Not exactly the most romantic proposal, I know. And Amber didn’t know it at the time, but two weeks earlier I had called her dad and asked for his permission to ask his daughter to marry me. I had been drinking pretty good that night, too, but I meant every word. I was trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be, and I couldn’t do it alone.”

“And if he’s asking you to be there and he needs you, you’ve got to go.” Amber finished her spring exams, packed up her apartment, and flew to Cleveland. It wouldn’t be the last time she would rescue me.”

“All that craziness had started late Thursday night at the club. To make it even more insane, on Friday I was scheduled to move out of a rental loft and into a house on the other side of town. Jomar and I went from the police precinct to packing boxes, still partly hung over and still shaken by being robbed at gunpoint. Sometime later that day the cops called and asked us to come back down. They had the surveillance tape from the hotel lobby. They had recognized right away who robbed us, and once I watched the black-and-white video I saw it clearly, too: the two Cleveland State basketball players! They were arrested almost six days later. One of the guys was wearing my diamond earrings. I managed to get a few hours of sleep in our new place Friday night, and on Saturday afternoon I made my start in the first game of a doubleheader against the Royals and threw six strong innings, giving up only two earned runs. I was separating whatever was happening off the field from my pitching, just as I’d always done.”

“Something special did come out of that 2002 season, though, and it flowed from the night when Jomar and I got robbed and could have been killed. Dad moved in with me and Amber right after the robbery, putting him back in my day-to-day life full force, clean and sober, for the first time in nine years. I needed him again, to put some structure in my life, and he loved being needed and doing the dad thing again. Dad was the only person in my life who could yell at me and I would listen.”

“me and Amber were still teenagers: He’d come down to the poolroom in our basement at 10 p.m. and announce, “Okay! Time for bed,” then shut out the lights. Though in some respects I did feel like a kid again. When I was little, we had the kind of relationship where I could talk to my dad about anything. I had missed that more than I was willing to acknowledge, and now I got that relationship back. It was an unexpected gift, so I just enjoyed having him around again. I didn’t ask him about what had gone wrong.”

“Then she realized she was late in another way: She should have had her period a week earlier. I shouted, “Yes! You’re not going back to San Diego now!” We had been arguing for months about Amber returning to college or coming back to Cleveland with me. I hadn’t exactly helped my case by not following up on my proposal from the police precinct the night me and Jomar had been robbed. I kept meaning to make the engagement official, but something was holding me back—an anxiety about whether I could really handle being married, do what it takes to be a good husband.”

“I bought a beautiful ring. I rehearsed what I was going to say. I planned the scene with my dad: On Christmas morning, I would wait until Amber was in front of the tree, and I would get down on one knee. Dad would capture the whole thing on videotape. And then the anticipation started eating at me. I didn’t sleep for a week. What if I messed it up? What if Amber said no? My head started vibrating with anxiety. I was sweating. The nerves kept building.”

“A few minutes later my phone rings. It’s my mom, and she says, “I have some news.” “Oh, you heard already! I’m going to the All-Star Game!” “No. Your dad has been having stomach pains, and he went to see the doctor. They say it’s terminal stomach cancer. They’re giving him six weeks to live.” Everything went blank with sadness and disbelief. After all those absent years, my dad had come back, and we had grown close again—and now he was going to be gone, this time forever?”

“My arm was strong, but my mind could be my worst enemy. Early in my career I would live and die with every pitch, no matter who we were playing or who was in the stands. If an umpire didn’t give me a strike on a checked swing, I would get so pissed that I would completely lose focus. Suddenly three pitches had gone by, I’d given up a home run, and I had no idea what had just happened. It was my emotions and my demeanor that were holding me back, not a lack of physical talent.”

“The Indians were ahead of the curve in baseball in emphasizing the psychological side of the game, and they’d hired Charlie Maher as the organization’s mental skills coach in 1995. He would hold meetings and talk to us about simplifying our thinking, letting go of the results after you let go of the ball and just concentrating on next pitch, next pitch.”

“trying to keep his spirits up, making sure he took his pills, changing his bedding. Some friends couldn’t understand how Mom gave so much of herself to him after the ways he’d hurt her and me. “This is my son’s father,” she would tell them. “I will love him regardless.” Amber was just as loyal. She would visit Dad every day, bringing him money, bringing the baby for him to see. When I got home in the off-season I would visit Dad all the time. He loved Popeye’s red beans and its gumbo, so I would bring those and he’d eat as much as he could.”

“Yeah, Milt did a lot of stupid shit—we did it together! But I was pissed at him—pissed at both of us—because we couldn’t figure out a way to play together for a long time. Milt should’ve been there with us when the Indians started winning again—he would’ve been a big part of those teams. But Milt needed treatment for his emotional issues, and nobody helped him get it. Just the opposite—people, including the media, egged him on, to see him act out. I didn’t understand it at the time, being young, too, and having my own issues.”

“Nate was twenty-five, one year older than me. I flew home from New York the next day. I can still see Nate lying there in the coffin in the funeral home, can still hear his mother crying. My next start was scheduled to be in Chicago on the same day as Nate’s funeral. At the time it seemed like the best tribute to my friend was to go out and pitch, so that’s what I did, with Nate’s initials written on the side of my Indians hat. I threw 123 pitches that day, every one of them with Nate on my mind. Losing him still feels fresh, even all these years later. That’s why, if you looked closely, you could see that I had “RIP NB” stitched into the side of all my gloves ever since. I carry Nate, and all of Vallejo’s other lost souls, with me every step that I take.”

“The extra stress of everyday life raises blood pressure. With guns and drugs and anger so common, mistakes are more dangerous. We are all responsible for our own actions. But the deaths of Uncle Aaron and Nate came in a context that too many of my friends and relatives, and too many other Black Americans, are forced to deal with every day.”

“The wedding itself was beautiful—what I remember of it. We were sort of celebrities in Vallejo now, which generated expectations, so we couldn’t turn down anyone who wanted to be there. We ended up with about three hundred guests. I could pitch in front of thousands of strangers, but being the center of this show made me nervous. At the same time, I felt like I needed to be the life of the party. The combination meant I started drinking bright and early, in the groom’s room at the hotel. All my guys had to get haircuts, so we had a barber in there, and we spent hours drinking and telling stories. I was good and drunk by the time we got in the limo to go to the church. Standing at the altar, I was equal parts wasted and anxious. I couldn’t look Amber in the eye. We got through the ceremony. By the end of the reception, though, I was in a chair in the corner of the room, curled up and crying: “My dad should’ve been here. I just want my dad back.” Our honeymoon night didn’t last long. After reaching our suite I passed out immediately, still in my tuxedo, and peed in the bed.”

“Now, I’d been ruthless on the field since I was a little kid. When I was eleven, we beat a baseball team from Calistoga 51–3, and we were chanting, talking shit, the whole way, like the game was close. In high school our basketball team was really good, and the starters would play the whole game, trying to score one hundred points when we had no business being on the floor in the fourth quarter. That’s just how it was in Vallejo. You got somebody down and you did not risk them coming back. You’re just going for blood all the time. But as a young player with the Indians I was unsure of myself. There seemed to be all these rules I didn’t understand. How much passion was too much? Would the veterans smack me down for not acting like a big leaguer? People like Buddy Bell and Dick Pole, the pitching coach my first season with the Indians, encouraged me to treat every start like a war, a mentality that I carried for the rest of my career.”

“I went to my locker and didn’t say shit to anyone. I just kept pitching. That was the beginning of what I did for the rest of my career. If you really, really can’t go, if something is broken, fine. Otherwise, you find a way. You man up. You play. You compete. You put your body and everything you’ve got in your heart out there, for your team and for yourself. Till the end.”

“I went to my locker and started drinking. Drinking after you came out of a game but while it was still going on wasn’t uncommon. I had a big red tumbler and a special stash of booze waiting for me. This night I was able to put away even more because there was a rain delay, and everyone waited around for more than an hour before they finally called it after seven innings. By the time the beat writers came in for interviews I was pretty drunk—and too blunt. “What was inexcusable tonight was for me to give up,” I told the reporters. “I’d like to apologize to my teammates, the fans, my family, and whoever else was in the stands. That’s the first time in my career that’s happened to me. I just lost focus.” The next day people on the Cleveland sports talk radio station tore me up. Called me a quitter, said I was a bad example. It didn’t bother me, because I knew I had fucked up. We were a young team and a close team, and we held one another accountable. And even though 2006 was turning into a disappointment, we were on the way to being really good. I felt like I had the respect of my guys, but that night I’d let my guys down. That has always been the worst feeling for me, ever since I was a kid. No matter what, you go out there and battle. No matter what happens with errors, no matter what happens with the umpires, no matter what’s going on with your wife or kids or girlfriend or with your contract, that was always my thing: I was going to go and fucking leave my heart out there on the mound. And I didn’t that night.”

“By early July my record was 12–3, and I was selected for the American League All-Star team. The 2007 game was in San Francisco, which meant I had to round up a ton of tickets for my Vallejo friends and family. Jim Leyland, who was with the Tigers at the time, was the AL manager, and he brought me in to pitch the bottom of the fifth inning. As I climbed the mound something stirred inside me. When I was little my dad told me, “You’re going to be in an All-Star Game. You’re going to pitch in San Francisco, your hometown.” Mom’s face had an expression that said, Corky, you’ve really lost your mind. But now I walked behind the mound and took a moment. I looked up and said, “I’m here, Dad.” I took a deep breath, got back up on the hill, and threw a scoreless inning.”

“Fenway Park is worse than the old Yankee Stadium. The visitors’ clubhouse is so small you couldn’t turn around when we were all in there getting dressed. You’d see mice in the hallways. The dugout roof is so low I couldn’t stand up straight. And the fans are really bad. It’s not just that they’re on top of you everywhere because the seats are so close to the field. It’s that they’re nasty. I never understood that: They paid to come watch me play! I get rooting hard for your team; I go nuts at Raiders and Lakers and Man U games. But I’m not cursing out the other team. In Boston, you’d be warming up in the bullpen and fans would be hanging over the walls calling you the N-word.

“A whole lot of things changed during those nine months. We all know the game is a business, and that without a fast start in 2008 the Indians were going to start trading off the most valuable parts of the team, because we were about to get too expensive. To his credit, Mark Shapiro sat me down in his office that winter and was honest about his plans. Cleveland would talk to my agent and make what it thought was a fair offer, but if I wanted to become a free agent at the end of the year and be almost certain of making a whole lot more money, he’d understand. If it looked like negotiations were heading toward a dead end, Mark said, he would try to trade me by the July deadline and get back some prospects for the Indians.”

“Players of my generation don’t hang out like those guys did. There were nights where I would stir up trouble, and a lot of mornings where I woke up with a bad headache. So I would cut down on the drinking for a while. But I never thought I had a problem, and we never talked about me getting any help. Why would I? In 2007 I had won my first Cy Young Award and made my third All-Star team, and now I was on the verge of becoming the hottest free agent pitcher available. My routine was working.”

“I got there so fast they had to paint my red Indians spikes blue so they would go with the Brewers uniform. When I walked out to the mound that night to face Colorado, the 42,533 Brewers fans—a sellout crowd—rose for a standing ovation. It pumped me up even more, maybe a little too much, since I was kind of wild, walking two batters in the first inning, before settling down, going six, and getting the win. Making it even more fun was that the reliever who took over in the seventh inning was Riske.”

“When I walked into the Milwaukee clubhouse for the first time, I looked around and couldn’t believe what I saw: five Black faces. That may not sound like a big number, but on a major league baseball roster, it was huge. I had played on Cleveland teams where I was the only Black player. It was something I thought about but didn’t dwell on, and I had plenty of White and Latino friends on the Indians, and some guys, like Riske, were practically Black in their attitudes and outlook. But it wasn’t until I got to Milwaukee that I fully realized how lonely I had been, and how much more fun it could be to play alongside a group of guys who looked like me. To be Black in America is to constantly be on guard. With the Brewers, for the first time in my baseball life, I could be more at ease.

Before I arrived, Ben Sheets had been the Brewers’ ace. But he had dealt with injuries pretty much all of his career. In early September 2008, the doctors told Ben his sore elbow was in danger of blowing out if he kept pitching. Not only that, Ben was about to become a free agent, so a bad injury now could cost him a big payday at the end of the season. The same day the doctors gave Ben the warning, he went out and threw a complete-game shutout. He was one of the toughest guys I’ve ever known, and he kept trying to gut his way through the pain, but eleven days later he had to leave a game after two innings. Which left us short a starting pitcher heading into the last ten games of the season, with our chance to reach the playoffs slipping away.”

“I did have some other standards, if somehow I was forced to consider signing anywhere other than with the Dodgers. At the top of the list of my requirements: I was not going to play in an old stadium. I am too much of a germophobe. Wrigley? Fenway? Those places were awful. Old and gross. The walls sweat, everything is tiny, and they stink—you can’t get away from the smell anywhere. Ernie Banks, Ted Williams, romantic attachment? Make it a museum. I love to see pictures of baseball history. But I don’t want to play a game in it. I have no sentiment for that old shit. That’s a part of the larger problem in baseball: People don’t want it to change. The world changes all the time, and baseball, too, needs to change.”

“Later that night I was watching ESPN and the crawl read, Sabathia Wants to Sign with Dodgers. Brian texted me: “Bro, stop talking to people.” My up-front desire might not have been the best negotiating tactic, but I’m always going to be honest. However to my amazement and disappointment, no meeting with the Dodgers ever happened.”

“Now, the Major League Baseball rules say that recruiting players while they are under contract to another team is a violation, that it’s tampering. But fuck that. The players have to stick together and look out for one another, because this is a business, and the owners and the front offices will cut you loose as soon as you’re not performing or you get too expensive. So what Al said to me in Florida that day is the kind of conversation that goes on all the time. If you’re a competitor, you’re always going to try to beat whoever you are up against that day, no matter what’s happening with your contract or what someone says to try to get you interested in their club. Besides, at that point I had zero interest in the Yankees. So even as I was telling Al, “Oh, yeah, that’d be great,” in my head I was saying, Fuck out of here, no chance.”

“But when Cash left, it was Amber who understood what was in my mind, the combination of insecurity and anxiety that was holding me back. “Babe, he’s telling you you could make a difference in the clubhouse—that’s what you do!” she said. “Don’t sell yourself short!”

“had signed a huge contract instantly dialed up the expectations from friends and family even higher. Motherfuckers were lining up at my door like the $161 million was gonna hit my bank account at midnight.”

“The Yankees were planning to hold a press conference in New York to introduce me to the city. I wasn’t looking forward to being up there alone in front of all the reporters. Fortunately, two days after I agreed to sign, the Yankees made a deal with another free agent pitcher, A.J. Burnett. This was great. Not only was A.J. an excellent right-hander—he was coming off his best season, winning 18 games with Toronto—but he had a reputation as a really fun guy and a winner. He had lots of tattoos, a nasty curveball, and a nasty attitude—on the mound, anyway. I didn’t know A.J. well—we’d only pitched against each other once, when he was with the Jays and I was with the Indians—but I knew I wanted him at the press conference, too, instead of holding separate ones. Sharing the spotlight would help me be less nervous. But doing the press conference with A.J. would also send a message about all of us being in this together. I wasn’t thinking, Here’s how I start becoming a leader on the Yankees—guys see through that kind of calculation right away. It’s just who I am. I always want to bring people together. I always want to be a part of something bigger. Everything is more fun that way. So I called up A.J., and to my relief he agreed to do it together.”

Overall, his book I would recommend for anyone struggling with addiction who is into baseball. It’s interesting when a celebrity of his caliber opens up. It gives space to others who have experience some sort of fame. The addiction of winning games and being that famous. It must be difficult to go through what he went through. What an inspiring story.

books Coach Gratitude Purpose

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Purpose: I create an empowering context for curious and hungry people looking for fulfillment, experiences, and creativity. We do this by developing their growth mindset, introducing self-love, and powerful group experiences. It results in people with strong boundaries, resilient mental health, and practical life skills

People leave with the ability to land their dream job, have autonomy and flexibility with their lifestyle, travel the world, and create from their heart and soul.


Davidson was once broke, insecure, low-confidence, and frustrated by doing all the wrong activities. Addicted to drugs, validation, and wallowing in self-pity. No relationship to family, and at the mercy of other people’s suggestions and opinions.

It was hell.

After spending $100k hiring different coaches, traveling the world doing workshops around the world, reading>1000 books, and through curiosity, have created the most effective system to remove people from that situation. My life’s work is to bring joy and abundance to people who as on a similar path as I was and bring back the joy and abundance of their life.

Through shared experiences and storytelling, I inspire and model behaviors that lead to a richer, more fulfilled life full of joy, experiences, passion, and ecstasy from the richness of relationships and being able to experience the depths of the human experience.

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