Dick Vitale Relates Choking Episode

Wednesday, July 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — He couldn't ``call a TO, baby!'' but Dick Vitale was rescued by a ``prime-time player'' when the college basketball TV analyst choked on a piece of fruit.

Vitale was back in his usual front-row box seat at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, two nights after needing medical assistance while taking in a game at the ballpark.

``I choked on a piece of melon and it gets lodged in the windpipe and it won't go down,'' Vitale, a Devil Rays season ticket holder, recounted.

``And now I start getting panicky. I'm drinking water and it's still not going down. I finally stand up, and fortunately in the room was a guy — he's big and strong and he's a member of the St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue squad.

``He came running over, grabbed (me) in the Heimlich, and the first two times it won't come out.

``Now I'm really scared, and my wife said my face was changing colors and I was panicking because I couldn't breathe. It was the first time in my life I felt totally helpless. Finally, the third time he bent me over and he really used all his strength and it popped out.

``Oh my God. I was shaking. It was scary.''

Vitale said he plans to send the paramedic, John King, a cash gift and some basketball books.