SCHERERVILLE, Ind. (AP) _ As Dave Nicholson stepped up for the first of his three tries in the longest-drive contest, a member of the gallery quipped, ``I wonder if he'll miss it.''
But it was no joke.
Nicholson was a major league baseball player from 1960-67 and was known as the easiest batter to strike out, fanning once every 2.48 trips to the plate.
``I just couldn't hit the damn ball,'' he said Monday during Ron Kittle's 12th annual Indiana Sports Charities golf outing to raise money for cancer research.
The mood was light, but the cause was serious.
``Absolutely, it's personal,'' said Kittle, who played 10 years in the majors and was the 1983 American League rookie of the year with the Chicago White Sox.
``I lost my father (James) to cancer in '94,'' said Kittle, who now manages the Schaumburg Flyers of the Northern League. ``It was pretty traumatic, seeing a grown man, a huge man, as healthy as anything, suddenly getting sick and passing away weighing about 86 pounds.
``Last year, I lost my wife's sister to cancer, and she had three beautiful little kids. Her husband's out here today, with a friend, supporting our charity,'' he told The Times of Munster.
Among the celebrities who played were Cincinnati Reds manager Bob Boone and bench coach Tim Foli; former White Sox players Billy Pierce, Rich Dotson, Greg Hibbard, Bo Jackson, Carlos May, Jim Rivera, Greg Walker and Eric Soderholm; former Chicago Bears Ronnie Bull, Brian Baschnagel, Revie Sorey and Bob Avellini; Chicago Bulls' announcer Johnny ``Red'' Kerr and former player Bob Love; and ex-Cubs Paul Popovich and Rich Nye.
``Counting the celebrities, we have 300 golfers today who paid almost $400 each to participate in this monster. Most tournaments don't offer a celebrity in every group, like we do,'' Kittle said.
``One of the kids on my baseball team in Schaumburg _ Bill Coleman _ had his wife diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her breast,'' said Kittle, who lives in nearby Chesterton. ``He was in my office, crying, and I told him, 'Billy, the word ``cancer'' is the biggest word on the planet. But when you find out how to cure it, then it becomes a small word.'
``That's how I try to evaluate everything _ always with hope.''