Schansberg: Saving Bernie Carbo
by Eric Schansberg, Ph.D.
Bernie Carbo was such a rule-breaker that some of his biggest moments in baseball are blurs he can’t recall. Years of marijuana, alcohol, amphetamines, pain pills, and sleeping pills will do that to you. He doesn’t remember striking out to end the 10th inning of Game 6 in the 1975 World Series—but he does remember hitting the big home run two innings earlier.
The Boston Red Sox were battling the Cincinnati Reds. Down three games to two, Boston needed a win to force Game 7. Down 6-3 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Carbo pinch-hit a three-run home run. That made possible the iconic 12th-inning home run by teammate Carlton Fisk: Millions have seen the video of Fisk trying to “wave” his homer fair and rejoicing as it hit the foul pole to win the game for the Sox.
Carbo had been the Sporting News Rookie Player of the Year in 1970, but drugs and alcohol made him a journeyman. His career but not his troubles ended in 1980: Keith Hernandez implicated him in a federal drug distribution trial in 1985. Six years later he hit rock bottom: business failures, divorce, his dad’s death, his mom’s suicide, and his own suicide attempt.
Friends and former major leaguers got him help through the Baseball Assistance Team and took him to rehab. Then, in a hospital room with a Baptist minister, getting tested for what they thought was a heart attack, Bernie repented and professed faith in Christ. He worked his way through rehab and, despite some early setbacks, persisted in his addiction recovery.
Carbo and another former player in 1993 began the “Diamond Club Ministry,” a Christian organization that teaches hitting to young people and hosts an annual fantasy baseball camp in Mobile, Ala.
Eric Schansberg, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation and an economist at Indiana University Southeast, is the co-author of a 21-month Christian discipleship curriculum, “Thoroughly Equipped,” for developing competent lay leaders in the Church.