LOVERRO: Injured hand didn’t keep Scott Christopher from a life of baseball and art

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ANALYSIS/OPINION

The 6-year-old boy was happy to see his father when he spotted him at Tyler Park in Falls Church, Va., during his Little League game. He was excited, and ran over to him. But like an excited 6-year-old boy, he tripped and fell.

At the concession stand at Tyler Park, baseball mothers sold food and soda to make money for the league. The soda came in those thick Coke bottles that marked the era. Sometimes they broke, and it was the boy’s bad luck that a pile of that broken glass was in a small hole where he fell.

The chunks of glass cut all the tendons in his right hand. His father picked him up and rushed him to the hospital. The hand was so damaged doctors thought they were going to have to amputate it.

And that’s how the strange, curious, painful and wonderful life of Scott Christopher began.

It has taken the path from that Falls Church park to the pages of Sports Illustrated to the dugout with Cal Ripken to a private moment with Michael Jackson that produced what is considered the greatest photograph ever of the pop icon. The path led from the baseball field to his New York and Santa Fe studios where he now makes a living as an accomplished artist and photographer.

All along, there was the damaged right hand to remind him where it all began.

“We called him ‘The Mobillion,’” Ripken said of his former Charlotte Orioles teammate, a name based on a science fiction novel Christopher was writing while he played ball. “He was one of the fastest guys I ever played with.”

He had impressive base running statistics during his four-year minor league career – 93 stolen bases in 325 games, including 41 in 97 games during his 1978 season with the Miami Orioles. But Ripken said he seemed destined for something besides baseball.

“He understood the joys of life beyond most of us,” Ripken said. “He was a free spirit.”

How free? He once went up to bat at home plate while playing for the Charlotte Orioles and closed his eyes as the pitch came in. “He did it just for the experience,” Ripken said.

More than a decade later, Christopher, 59, was alone with Michael Jackson in an exhibit room at the National Children’s Museum in Washington and captured a moment on film that the Huffington Post called “the greatest Michael Jackson photo” ever taken.

He has been able to forge two careers – ballplayer and artist — despite a right hand that has never fully functioned to this day. “I still struggle to pick things up like a coin or silverware,” Christopher said. “My right hand was probably 50 percent. All my tendons were tied together. I mastered a very unorthodox way of throwing. But it worked.”

He could use his right hand like everyone else when he was 6 years old and playing Little League baseball in Falls Church, Va., in 1960 before falling on that broken Coke bottle. The hand would be saved, but it would require years of rehabilitation.

His parents decided that the best way for their son Scott to rehab would be through an active sports life – always forced to adapt and come up with a way to use it. “They thought that would give me a better chance to bring my hand back to functioning,” he said.

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