Fred Claire, former general manager and vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers
For the 46th year in a row, City of Hope will participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade. This year, 10 patients will welcome 2018 atop City of Hope’s Rose Parade float. The float, themed "Transforming Lives with Hope" adds a deeper dimension to the parade’s theme of “Making a Difference.”
Here, we meet float rider Fred Claire, former Los Angeles Dodgers GM and cancer survivor.
Fred Claire knows what it takes to win.
A former general manager and executive vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Claire presided over the team’s 1988 World Series championship season and continued his storied run through June of 1998, part of a 30-year career with the team.
Still, he says he faced his greatest challenge far from the bright lights of the baseball diamond.
“My cancer journey started in what seemed to be an innocent fashion,” said Claire. “I had a spot on my lip. My dermatologist took a biopsy which revealed the spot to be cancerous. I had a procedure and they felt they had gotten everything.”
Then in August of 2016, Claire started to experience severe headaches. He was introduced to City of Hope, where he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his jaw. Claire, a lifelong runner, was ready for the fight.
“I’m 81 years old but I’ve always been blessed with good health,” he said. “I have been an avid runner most of my adult life. When I first got to City of Hope, one of the nurses said, ‘Mr. Claire, you must be the only 81-year-old we’ve ever had who doesn’t take any medication.’”
But Claire knew that it would take more than strength of body to win this fight.
“It’s not enough to have strong legs or a strong body,” he said. “You need to be mentally prepared for the journey of battling cancer and I have been very fortunate to have a great support system.”
At City of Hope, Claire had 28 lymph nodes and a nerve in his jawbone removed through surgery, followed by 33 radiation treatments and seven rounds of chemotherapy. He came out the other side with a new appreciation for the teamwork it takes to treat cancer.
“I know a little bit about team play,” Claire said. “And from what I’ve seen here at City of Hope, it’s a total team effort. The whole operation is coordinated – it’s seamless and impressive. It takes everyone – from the volunteers to the nurses to the doctors – working together to create a winning team. And that’s what they’ve got here. From my experience, there isn’t a time when someone lets you down.”
That teamwork became even more important when the cancer returned to Claire’s neck shortly after he appeared to be on the road to recovery. Claire now is on an immunotherapy program at City of Hope and says he is regaining his energy and feeling better. Immunotherapy works by encouraging the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells.
But though winning takes teamwork, Claire says that doesn’t diminish the responsibility of a patient to be an active participant in his or her own treatment.
“Right after I went public with my diagnosis, I had a wonderful call from Tom Brokaw,” Claire said. “He said to me, ‘Fred, we all need to be captains of our own health ship. Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion.’ And that’s stuck with me through this whole journey. Everyone needs to be captain of their own health ship. No one else will do it for you.”
As Claire continues to go through treatment, he says he began to look for a way to give back. He finally settled on a celebrity golf tournament in coordination with City of Hope.
“It seemed like a natural fit,” he said. “I love golf and I have a lot of friends from my days in professional baseball.
The tournament quickly took shape as the inaugural Fred Claire Celebrity Golf Classic. The event featured an all-star lineup of former major leaguers and other celebrities at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, California, with all proceeds going to City of Hope and designated for its head and neck program
. In this, its first year, the event raised $200,000.
Among the athletes and luminaries in attendance were Shawn Green, Orel Hershiser, Mickey Hatcher, Maury Wills, Reggie Smith, Bill Russell, Eddie Murray, Tommy John, Ted Sizemore, Steve Yeager, Jaime Jarrin, Ross Porter, Wes Parker and numerous others.
“My hope is to have a tournament that becomes an annual event and continues to benefit City of Hope for years to come,” said Claire. “What really drives me is the thought of people who aren’t as fortunate as I am. Folks that walk through these doors who haven’t had the wonderful support system that I have enjoyed. I recognize there are people who struggle to get here and need all the help they can receive to assist them in their journey.”
As he was during his days in Dodger Blue, Claire is clearly a man motivated by passion.
“Coming here every day and walking through the doors, you just look around and see the people in need and the kind of phenomenal care that is given. It’s hard not to be passionate,” he said. “I’m just a private in the army in the fight against cancer. But I’m a competitive private.”
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