Take Two Fast Balls and Call 'Doc Medich in the Morning

George “Doc” Medich has added a new dimension to the baseball cliché about good pitchers “throwing aspirin tablets” (balls so fast they seem to shrink by the time they reach the plate). For Medich, 26, not only pitches figurative aspirins for the New York Yankees; he also dispenses real ones as a fourth-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh.

Since graduating from Pitt in 1970 as a chemistry major, Medich—a 6’5″, 230-pounder who throws, bats and takes pulses right-handed—has split his life between baseball and medicine. He spends spring and summer on the mound, then studies fall and winter in Pitt classrooms and local hospitals.

There have been other athletes who successfully combined pro sports careers and medical studies (former Yankee infielder Bobby Brown is now a Fort Worth heart specialist). But Medich found the big league scouts less than enthusiastic about him. “Forget it,” the hometown Pittsburgh Pirates told him. “You’re not that interested in baseball. You’ll never make it.” The Yankees did not pick him until the 29th round of the 1970 free agent draft—after nearly 700 other players had been chosen.

Medich has become a standout pitcher, compiling a 19-15 won-lost record last season after a 14-9 in 1973, his first in the major leagues. He has also progressed so well in his studies that he expects to receive his M.D. in 1977.

Doc Medich does wince when sports-writers describe him “performing successful surgery” on the mound or “being good medicine” for the Yanks. “Those silly epigrammatical stories are really getting stale,” he says.

Medich is more likely to while away his spare time on road trips reading Gray’s Anatomy than the Sporting News. Otherwise he tries to keep his careers separate, although his teammates make that difficult. Yankee slugger Ron Blomberg checks Medich frequently to see if medical research has discovered a new vitamin that might help his batting average. Another teammate once asked Medich what to do about mosquito bites. “Scratch ’em,” was Doc’s suggested treatment.

“The psychiatric overlay in sports medicine scares me off,” he says. “When a man uses his body to make his income, he becomes overanxious about things that really are minor. Players want to overtreat injuries.”

Last season Medich showed what he means. Hit on the right thumb by a line drive during batting practice, he raced to a nearby hospital for X-rays. When no doctor showed up, Medich read his own X-rays, concluded his injury was not serious and returned to the ball park.

If he is faced with a choice between baseball and a doctor’s life, Medich does not hesitate. “I’d drop baseball,” says the $55,000-per-year pitcher (who is considering specializing in orthopedics). “People need physicians and surgeons but they can get along without pitchers.”

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