Like most youngsters of that era who spent many hours in the backyard under the lights taking wicked cuts at a Wiffle ball, Ewing had dreams of someday becoming a Major League Baseball player.
His dreams remained on track through high school as a star for regional American Legion powerhouse Rapid City Post 22, and then as an All-American at the University of Wyoming, where he set the national home run record in 1976.
The progression toward the majors seemed to be going nicely when he was drafted by the California Angels in the fourth round of the 1976 MLB June Amateur Draft.
He spent his first two years (1976-77) playing Class A ball at Quad Cities in the Midwest League and at Salinas in the California League before being promoted to El Paso in the Class AA Texas League in 1978.
Although he didn’t know it at the time, his blossoming baseball career took what later proved to be a career-ending turn during his very first season at Quad Cities.
In a game in which he couldn’t remember who the opponent was, Ewing had doubled. The next batter hit a ground ball to the left side that he thought was going to get through the infield and into left field. But the ball was cut off by the shortstop, who threw the ball to third base. Ewing elected to go into the bag with a head-first slide.
“I tried to avoid the tag, and my shoulder came completely out,” Ewing recalled. “It actually dropped several inches inside my skin.”
No surgery was done at the time, just rehabilitation.
Although there was some numbness, Ewing played through the next season at Salinas virtually pain free. He was then promoted to AA ball in El Paso, where he continued to nurse along the shoulder and the numbness that went with it.
Ewing had surgery on the shoulder after his lone season in El Paso and before being promoted to Class AAA Salt Lake City in the Pacific Coast League in 1979.
He spent the ‘79 season in Salt Lake rehabilitating the shoulder and was primed to make the jump to the major leagues the following year.
During an Angels spring training game in 1980 with the San Diego Padres, on the first ball hit to him, his big-league dreams came to an abrupt end.
“I picked the ball up and meant to throw it, and everything that had been done surgically on my shoulder ripped out,” Ewing (http://bit.ly/1me7aP6 ) told the Laramie Boomerang. “As it turned out, the operation wouldn’t let the shoulder rotate back. If I had known what was to come, I would have just lived with the numbness and played through it.”
What was to come was Ewing undergoing a procedure known as the Bristow, a surgery that is rarely done anymore.