SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ernie Bowman received his devastating diagnosis last summer: Stage IV prostate cancer with a prognosis of two months to live.
Doctors asked the former Giants infielder whether he even wanted to undergo treatment or just let things take their course.
On Friday, the 76-year-old Bowman arrived at AT&T Park for San Francisco's home opener and 50th anniversary celebration of the 1962 World Series team with a far brighter outlook — he might have 10 or more years left thanks to Hall of Famer pitcher Gaylord Perry's big assist.
"I feel so good now. I'm so happy to be here," Bowman said before the Giants hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates. "I used to get as good an ovation as anybody. I love the fans here. I'm a country boy from Tennessee. It's amazing to me I even got to come to California and play in the World Series."
Perry last fall reached out to the Baseball Assistance Team to help cover medical costs for Bowman, who played parts of three major league seasons and wound up 27 days shy of earning a full pension. Now, Bowman's monthly co-payments of nearly $900 are covered for chemotherapy, radiation and other costs. He will have another chemo session later this month and has undergone eight biopsies for his inoperable cancer.
"Gaylord's a good man. He saved my life," said Bowman, who still lives in his native Johnson City, Tenn., about 45 minutes away from Perry's North Carolina home. "They took me on like I was a Hall of Famer. I was important to them."
Bowman is hardly a well-known former Giant like Perry or fellow Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey or Orlando Cepeda. The Giants lost the '62 Series in heartbreaking fashion — in the deciding Game 7 to the New York Yankees.
Bowman played a total of 165 games for the Giants from 1961-63, finishing as a career .190 hitter with one home run, two triples and four doubles, 10 RBIs and 33 strikeouts. He also stole one base. Bowman never earned more than $12,000 a year as a utility infielder.
Yet Perry is quick to point out, "He stopped so many line drives for me," that this is the least he could do for a longtime friend. Perry has been to visit Bowman, too.
Perry began his efforts in September, then attended the B.A.T. banquet in New York this past January and made sure Bowman was still in the mix for aid.
"We're supposed to help our fellow people out," Perry said. "I was just so blessed I knew the people who could do it. I just called and told them his story. I had to call two or three times, and it got done. This program is to make sure we don't lose anybody in the system."
Bowman went blind for two months last year before he woke up one day able to see, and his wife, Magdalene, rushed him to see doctors. They don't have an explanation.
"If it weren't for that money, I couldn't have done it," Bowman said, fighting tears while grabbing hold of Perry's hand. "It was amazing. If I continue to do what I'm doing, I could live another 12 to 15 years.
"I want to thank baseball."