Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

'B' is for Beneficence (and Baseball)

By Margaret R. McLean, Ph.D.,

I am an avid baseball fan--I subscribe to Baseball Weekly and read the box scores before the daily headlines. I grew up with the San Francisco Giants--Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and the Alou brothers. I wore my black and orange Giants cap everywhere.

For those of us who love the "boys of summer," the winds of Fall bring the end of the season, hope for next year and, to two surviving teams, The World Series. If you truly love baseball, it's the happiest and saddest time of the year. And, if you truly love baseball, you had to love the 1996 World Series--two determined teams, six games under the lights, a fly ball to Hayes at third, and the Yankees win it!

But, this series was unusual, not for what happened on the field--fly balls, ground outs, fast balls and sliders--all fairly routine. It was unique for what happened off the field, for a team manager and a team who had the heart to win it all. The banner on the outfield fence in Yankee Stadium said it best, "This One's for Frank."

Frank Torre waited in a New York hospital as his brother, Joe, managed the Bronx Bombers through the season and into the Series. Joe would call him from the dugout--just to see how Frank was doing and to get a few words of advice. And, Frank waited--waited for a new heart. Joe managed with heart; the Yankees played with heart; Frank waited for a heart. And, on Friday, the only day-off in the Series, Frank got his heart and a second chance at life. During the final game of the Series, Frank lay in intensive care, eyes glued to the television, with a nurse monitoring every beat of his new heart--the perfect "stress test" and Frank and his new heart and the Yankees passed with flying colors!

A new heart--a transplanted heart--the gift of a stranger--something good. Those of us in ethics speak of "doing good," of helping others. We call this "beneficence." It was beneficence, the thought of doing something good, that prompted the donor of Frank's new heart to give the gift of life. Organ donation is an example of "doing good," of practicing beneficence, of having heart.

A version of this article appeared in the Winter 1997 edition of the O'Connor Health News, a publication of O'Connor Hospital, San Jose, California.

Margaret R. McLean is the Director of The Applied Ethics Center at O'Connor.

Copyright 1997 Margaret R. McLean, Ph.D.

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