Kelly: Six new hips keep CWS moving -
Published Friday, June 14, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 12:25 pm
Kelly: Six new hips keep CWS moving

Hip-hip. . . . Hip-hip. . . . Hip-hip . . . HOORAY!

Count 'em, that's six hips — the total number of hip replacements among three top folks at the College World Series.

In baseball lingo, each pulled off a double play — both hips. And yes, all three are cheering the results.

“We all wish we had done it earlier,” said Dennis Poppe, 65, the top NCAA official at the series.

“I feel 20 years younger,” said Kathryn Morrissey, 57, executive director of CWS of Omaha Inc.

Public-address announcer Bill Jensen, 66, joked that he feels so much better with his new hips that he has to remind himself there are still limits.

“You have to be careful not to do certain things,” he said. “Like bungee-jumping and parachuting.”

They all can laugh now, which is a big difference from last year's College World Series, when each was hobbled. In their pain, they comforted each other by joking that they would run the bases at TD Ameritrade Park after their operations.

So on Wednesday, at a mostly empty stadium, they met at home plate and jointly headed down the first-base line.

OK, they didn't “run” the bases, but they made the circuit, celebrating the medical home run they felt they had hit.

A wag in the press box wrote in lights on the giant scoreboard: “The Bionic Hip Club.”

It's all so much better than last year, when the three did some consulting with each other to see how things were going.

The TD Ameritrade scoreboard said it all. BRYNN ANDERSON/THE WORLD-HERALD

“It was more like commiserating than consulting,” Denny said. “I had lived with pain for some time and thought it was part of the aches of aging.”

Kathryn said her pain worsened over seven years, and she rode around in a cart at last year's CWS. Bill said that for part of the 2012 series, he walked with a crutch.

Dennis, who lives in Indianapolis, had his surgeries in July and October. The Omahans had theirs locally by the same surgeon — Dr. Sam Phillips.

Cracked Bill: “We call him 'Sam the Butcher.'”

The term is playful, and in one sense it's not far off — Sam the Surgeon is the “pitmaster” for tonight's smoked-meat feast for players, coaches and other invitees.

This is the 13th year he and Phil Davidson of Omaha have headed a crew of about 25 volunteers who call themselves “Last Year's Champions.” They started smoking some of the meat at midnight.

“There's a lot of scrambling to cut up 1,500 pounds of meat,” the doc said, wryly adding: “Patients I've operated on come by, or those who might be considering surgery. It's probably not the best scenario to show my skill.”

The annual behind-the-scenes barbecue on the night of opening ceremonies at TD Ameritrade Park is only for the eight teams and invitees — part of Omaha's warm welcome to the universities whose ballclubs qualify for the national championship tournament.

If it has to do with the College World Series, we're on it. Check out our CWS historical database, historical photos and our complete event coverage.

The doc's day job is as an orthopedic surgeon, and he noted that hip replacements have become “very common.”

Some reports estimate 332,000 per year in the U.S.

“People are living longer, they're a lot more active and the prevalence of arthritis is common,” Dr. Phillips said. “It's a reliable, predictable operation, and most patients do extremely well.”

Dennis Poppe wasn't doing well the past few years. His adult children told him he was walking like an old man. He noticed in a family photo that he stood slightly bent, which he realized was to take pressure off his no-cartilage, “bone-on-bone” hip sockets.

He had played four sports in high school and football in college, and he remained physically active for years. Plus, his family has a history of arthritis.

It got to the point that in getting into his SUV, he would use his arms to pull up the trailing leg.

Dr. Phillips, who said the conservative approach is to delay the procedure as long as possible, called hip-replacement surgery “a salvage operation.”

The three hipsters happily circling the bases together are grateful that their operations salvaged their health. And they are doing things they hadn't done for years.

OWH Columnists
Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.

“I go to the Y four or five times a week,” Bill said. “A half-hour on a treadmill, a half-hour on a stationary bike and upper-body work. I went biking with my wife for an hour and a half at DeSoto Bend.”

Poppe (pronounced “pope”) recalls all the pain pills he used to pop — 1,200 a year. Now, he said, “I've taken eight Tylenols since last October, and those weren't for my hips.”

Kathryn Morrissey said their trio is part of “the ninth team” at the College World Series, the many behind-the-scenes people who help things run well. It's a lot of work, and everyone needs to keep a fast pace.

“Last year we were kind of on the injured-reserve list,” she quipped. “I feel like I've got a new lease on life. It's amazing. I can't describe how different I feel.”

A new statistic in baseball — measuring how much better a major leaguer performs than a typical newcomer — is called Wins Above Replacement, or WAR.

These hipsters are no longer at war with their hips. And as for their successful surgeries?

Well, they can hardly imagine a win better than their replacements.

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Michael Kelly    |   402-444-1000

Mike writes three columns a week on a variety of topics.

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