Frank Pastore (deceased): How do you know God exists? How do you know Jesus rose from the dead? Why should I believe the Bible, doesn’t it contradict itself all over the place?
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John Fuller: Well, those are questions that a young, arrogant, major league baseball player had about Christianity. And today, you’re going to hear where those questions took Frank Pastore.
This is Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, that’s right. We have a great program in store for you, today. But, before we get to it, let me remind you that we appreciate your financial support for this ministry, which enables us to share inspirational, life-changing stories, like this one, with millions of listeners around the world. We need your partnership so that more people can hear the gospel and get help for their families. So, please. Donate today.
John: We do appreciate your generosity when you donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Now, today’s speaker, Frank Pastore, really inspires me because he’s one of those super-smart people who scoffed at Christianity until he actually studied the claims of Christ. And then he saw the truth!
John: Well, there is that old saying, “As long as there’s breath, there’s hope.” And I do appreciate that.
Jim: That’s right! And in Frank’s case, he had made it to the top! A major league baseball contract. But he felt empty inside. And then the Lord intervened in his life and really got his attention. And that’s the story you’ll hear today. And in fact, it’s captured in his book, Shattered: Struck Down, But Not Destroyed. And I’d love to send that out to you for a gift of any amount, as you support what we’re doing here at Focus on the Family.
Sadly, after several years as a Christian talk show host, Frank died after a tragic motorcycle accident. And we miss him. He and I had ridden together several times in the mountains here in Colorado. And we’ll talk more about that at the end of Frank’s message.
John: Okay. Uh… for now, here’s Frank Pastore speaking to a men’s conference at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, on Focus on the Family.
Frank: You know, I was probably a lot like a lot of you guys that are here … here this afternoon. I spent a lot of my life trying to avoid events like this rather than trying to get to them. I grew up in high school thinking that the purpose and meaning of life was to get rich and famous. To accumulate all the right stuff on the outside so that you can be happy and fulfilled on the inside. And so, coming out of Damien High School in Laverne. Yes, indeed, Mark McGuire went to MY high school, by the way. (Laughter) Coming out of Damien High School I set out to get rich and famous. And so, I signed with the Cincinnati Reds at the time and uh … set out for riches, fame and glory, because I thought that’s what would bring happiness and fulfillment to my life, if I just got the right kind of stuff.
Three and a half years later I find myself on the mound at Riverfront Stadium, relieving my boyhood idol, Tom Seaver; pitching to Johnny Bench. The defense that day against the San Francisco Giants was of course, Johnny Bench catching, Dan Driessen at first, Joe Morgan, David Concepcion, George Foster, Ray Knight, Ken Griffey (his dad) and Cesar Geronimo. And it was an awesome experience for someone that had dreamed their entire life about getting to the big leagues, to be playing with … on a team with perhaps four or five Hall of Famers. The Great Big Red machine was now something that I … I was a part of, and it was a … a total rush to be there.
Tom Seaver had started the game. He got bombed against the Giants. Back then we actually did used to lose to the Giants. And gave up a few runs and they called me in from the bull pen. And I floated in from the bull pen into the game and faced my first hitter. And I struck him out and I thought, “Hey this is easy.” And then gave up a hit to a guy named Willie McCovey, remember him? And I hung a fast ball that Johnny Bench called for the inside part of the plate and I left it out over the plate. And Willie hit it so hard, it was a line drive off the left center field wall and they held him to a single, to give you a… how hard of a … an idea of how hard he hit it. And Johnny called out, and Johnny gave me his first words of wisdom. He said, “Kid, hit the location or you won’t be here long.” “Yes sir.” [laughter] So that very first day in the big leagues, after the game, I got a chance to throw three innings and gave up that only one hit. And it was just a rush.
You know, whatever your dream is, imagine actually having a chance to get it. If you’re a singer, you’re on, you know, you sing at the Forum or the Metropolitan Opera. Or if you’re a writer you win the Pulitzer, or if you’re an actor or an actress, you win the Oscar, or whatever it is in your field. You reach the top and it’s just an exhilarating feeling, for a moment.
Much like being a little kid, waiting for the wonderful Christmas presents to open out by the tree. I can remember when I was a child. My parents had gotten me a Christmas present that I knew my life would eternally change if I could just open this present. And so, days leading up to Christmas, the expectation and anticipation rise to the point where five o’clock in the morning, Christmas morning, race down, tear it open and “Yes!!” it was a chemistry set. And I played with that thing all day, all the next day, a little bit the next day, but by New Year’s Day it was in the garage.
And I didn’t know that life is just like that. You always think it’s the next car or the next relationship, the next raise, the next whatever it is that’s gonna bring you happiness. And … and there was a reason our Founders said it was the “pursuit of happiness,” because you never really arrive until you find Jesus. I didn’t know that.
So, coming out of high school, (Applause) thank you, Lord. So, setting out to get rich and famous out of high school, that very first day in the big leagues, I figured you know what? Those feelings of accomplishment are gonna overwhelm me any moment and I just waited for ’em to come. Walked off the field after the game, got a chance to go and do all the interviews, which was a blast. And then got in the actual clubhouse and in the clubhouse, it was sort of quiet. Most of the guys had gone, because I was already doing the interviews and I hear this wonderful E.F. Hutton kind of voice call me over and beckon me to his locker. And of course, it was the great Johnny Bench. And Johnny said, “Kid get here; get over here.” And back then, rookies were seen and not heard, and “Yes sir, three bags full,” and came over to his locker.
And Johnny said, “Kid, listen; I heard the interviews and there’s a couple things to share with you. First of all, it’s harder to stay here than it is to get here.” Boy, and he’s right. Five minor league teams, 10 pitchers each team, 50 professional baseball players shooting for 10 spots in the big leagues. And competition was tough because I just climbed that ‘survival of the fittest jungle.’ I climbed the ladder and was finally at the top of the food chain and I was in the big leagues. But that wasn’t the most profound thing he said. He said, “Kid, don’t ever get too cocky or too arrogant” and boy, I was. But he said, “Never get too cocky or too arrogant, because you’re always only one pitch from humility.” And of course, he’s talking about injury. Or, he’s ask… he’s saying, “What have you done for me, lately? You’re only as good as your last start, or your last appearance.” And I wasn’t smart enough to figure all of that out and I figured, hey, what does he know? He’s only going into the Hall of Fame.
That year I was the youngest player in the national league. It was pre-Fernando mania here in LA. It was me and Bobby Welch and Scott Sanderson as the young guns that threw 95 miles an hour in the National League. And of course, they went on to greatness and I slumbered into mediocrity, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
At that time in the big leagues, I had set out again, to get rich and famous and those feelings never came. Not when I got the little red sports car I just had to have. Not when I got my wife the little car that she had to have. Not when we got the house we had to have. Not when had 2.3 kids. And we got all the right stuff the people say, “You know, if you’d just get all the right stuff, you’re happy.” And so, we had a chance to start accumulating stuff! And we got all this stuff! And the feelings never came.
However, I did hang out with a group of guys that seemed to … at least they said that they had the answer. and of course, they were the goody-good guys on the team. They were the guys that didn’t cheat on their wife and do drugs. And they were actually, in all honesty, the only people my wife would let me hang around with and they were, of course, the Christians. (Laughter and applause) That’s right. (Applause) That’s right. (Applause) You know, they were living dangerously if they put anchovies on the pizza. (Laughter)
And, uh… so, I hung out with these guys for five seasons. And they’d always wanted me to come up into their room after the games and … and break open the Word and share with me. And I learned really quick that, that was just Christian lingo for “answer questions you’re not asking.” (Laughter) And then if they want to… if they want to gang up on you, they call it fellowship. (Laughter)
And so, uh… so five years go by. Five seasons go by of these guys asking, you know, wanting to “share Jesus” with me. And uh … I gotta tell you what the real reality of it was is, I didn’t believe there really was a Jesus. I’m a product of the California government schools and a liberal Catholic high school. There was no Jesus of history; there was just a Christ of faith and He’s whoever you create when you want to have a religious experience. And so, I grew up in an atheistic household. The only time I went to church was to check out the chicks during communion.
And I had a couple of losing streaks in the Minor Leagues and I went to chapel and figured, hey, there might be something to it. But I never believed that it was true and real. And I learned really quick how to shut these Christians up. You simply ask ’em some questions. How do you know God exists? How do you know Jesus rose from the dead? Why should I believe the Bible; doesn’t it contradict itself all over the place? Don’t the cities of the Old Testament and the New Testament don’t [sic] exist? Hasn’t archaeology showed them to be false?
I mean, why don’t you guys read a book and enter the 20th century and realize all that exists is matter and motion? Life is a pain and then you die. There’s no life after death. You know, he who dies with the most toys wins. And all that stuff. And boy, I am just living that to the max, and that’s what I believed to be true and real, and these guys want to share with me. And the sad thing is, they simply couldn’t answer my questions. So, God chose a different route.
It’s June 4th, 1984. I’m beating Fernando in LA. There’s two outs and in the eighth inning. I’ve got a guaranteeing tra … contract, a gorgeous wife. I don’t do drugs. I’m a goodie-good; I’m playing life by the rules. But I don’t believe that there’s a God. I don’t believe there’s truth and reality. I don’t believe there’s life after death. And religion is something that you get into if you screw up in life. It’s not truth and reality. And so, God, Who often speaks in whispers, sometimes will speak in thunderclaps.
John: Let me encourage you to hold onto that thought as we listen to Frank Pastore on today’s Focus on the Family. Sometimes, God does speak in thunderclaps. That’s about to happen in Frank’s story as we’ll hear in a moment.
But we do need to interrupt because at this point in the presentation he used some video footage, so I’ll fill in the gaps, here. Frank was pitching for the Cincinnati Reds and as he said, they were beating Fernando Valenzuela and the Dodgers and Frank is about to make a pitch that will change his life.
And let me remind you that we have Frank’s book, Shattered, available to you. It’s our thank you gift when you donate generously when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or you can donate and request that book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Let’s go ahead and return to Frank Pastore on our Focus on the Family broadcast as he recalls pitching to Steve Sax of the LA Dodgers.
End of Program Note
Frank: Now I don’t know if … I … I’m sure you guys this has happened to, you fall off a bike or you fall out of a tree or you get in an accident and time seems to go really slow. Well, I threw that pitch at Steve and Steve was an out if you hit your locations right. And … and I hit … I threw a ball, left it out over the plate. I had two outs and nobody on. I was goin’ after him. And he hit a rocket up through the box and it was exactly at my face.
And so, much like what you guys would do, you flinch to get out of the way, and I threw my precious right elbow in the way of a projectile at 134 miles an hour. And as I grabbed my elbow, I realized I would never be able to compete in the survival of the fittest and climb to the top of the food chain by throwing so hard, because … because it was much like just chicken bones and Oreo’s in a baggie. I could move stuff around in it, okay? And I knew this is injury and not merely pain.
And uh … in a crisis moment like that, the … my body had some shock to it and so, the pain wasn’t terribly bad, but it was just the chaos of your thoughts. I mean, what are you gonna do now? I walked up into the clubhouse; waited for Frank Jobe, the orthopedic surgeon for the Dodgers, to come into the clubhouse and take a look.
And uh … as I did, the Christians came in. And uh… the guys that weren’t playing. And they prayed for me. And I thought, “Oh, how cute.” You know. (Laughter) This… And I’m waiting for those memorized prayers, where you go on auto pilot and wake up at “amen,” you know, like the Pledge of Allegiance. And uh … they talked like God was real and He was in the room. And Jesus could hear them. And I frankly got spooked. I had two emotions. One was anger, like get real and it’s cruel to … to play a trick like this about Easter bunnies and Santa Claus and people rising from the dead and Fathers in the sky kind of thing, at a moment like this, when reality is something that’s just painful. But the other reaction was, gee, golly, wouldn’t it be great if it were true.
I mean, the story that there’s a loving God that created the universe, has the plan for humanity, but man in their … his own free will, rebelled against that plan, sought his own way rather than God’s way, brought a curse upon himself and now, nothing works until that relationship with God is healed. And Jesus Christ came as God in the flesh—the Incarnation, the in-fleshing, the in-meeting. Oh, what a great story!
They called the owners in Cincinnati. They said, “Yeah (Clearing throat), get him back here.” I flew back to Cincinnati. The team went on to ‘Frisco and Houston, and I’m by myself in Cincinnati. And yeah, it was bad. They had just invested a big contract in me and now I couldn’t pitch. And that was getting Marge Schott a little antsy.
Long story short, Tommy Hume, who was the chapel leader called me from Houston. It was a Sunday afternoon game and the guys were gonna play golf, as they often do, flying West to East on Monday. And the guys … some of the guys are gonna go do that and so, Humey called and just said, “Hey, you want to ride along in the cart and stuff?”
And I’d always found a reason not to go after the first time when they wanted to quote “share with me and have fellowship.” And … and this time, Humey invited me and said they were gonna go to his house afterwards and grill out. And I … I went to say, “No, of course not.” And a voice just like mine went, “Sure, I’ll be there.” (Laughter and Applause) So (Applause) … so at the … so, we go to Tommy Hume’s house and the condo and they do the hot dog and the hamburger thing. And the Christians are acting really suspicious, you know, and making faces and signs behind their backs like, “No, you go. No. Shh-shh. No, you go first.” And they’re acting really suspi…like, you know, pagans don’t see that, right? And I’m… I… I obviously see that. (Laughter) And so. we finally sit down, now. We sit down and this is gonna be my first Bible study. And I know all about the Bible. I know it contradicts itself; it’s unhistorical. You can make it say whatever you want and of course, I’ve learned all these things without ever having read it for myself. I’m taking everybody else’s word for it. And so, we sit down and … and start the Bible study. And uh … I interrupt in about 3.4 seconds and I just blast these guys. And I just ask all questions I had learned from kindergarten on. And probably everything that you guys have heard. All the questions. All the skeptical questions, all the chiding, all the ribbing, all the stuff and I just bombed these guys.
And so, they get … they get wiped out, except for this one guy. And I just thought he was a rich ball… businessman that liked to hang out with ball players. I had no clue who he really was. They had just introduced him as Wendel. And Wendel wasn’t really impressed. I mean, he looked at me after I had finished my tirade and he says, “Finished?” (Laughter) And I went, “Yeah, I’m finished.”
And he said uh … “Wow, the guys said you were smart, and you read books, huh?” And I said, “Yeah, I read books.” And he says, “You know, you said … you … you asked a lot of questions that I can’t answer.” And I said, “I know.” And he said, “You’ve asked a lot of questions, and I don’t even understand the questions.” And I said, “I know.” And he said, “But you said one thing. You said you want to believe in what’s true and what’s real. That has evidence behind it. You don’t want to believe in fairy tales and fiction, and Easter Bunnies and Santa Claus. You want to build your life on what’s true, and what’s real. And I want to believe in what’s true and what’s real. And guys! Don’t you want to believe in what’s true and what’s real?”
And they had been practicing. “We want to believe in what’s true and what’s real.” (Laughter) And so, Wendel … Wendel turns to me and says, “Frank, will you help us?” And I said, “Sure. Sure. What would you like me to do?” And he says, “Well, you obviously know a lot more about this kind of stuff than we do and I just happened to have brought three books here and if … if you would read these books and then write down where the authors are wrong and then … and just sort of correct it and all of that, we’ll get back together again, guys, won’t we? That’s right, and we’ll get together again, and you can share with us everything that you’ve learned. And then you can enlighten us to what’s true and what’s real and then we can become happy and fulfilled just like you.” (Laughter)
Now, they didn’t say who Wendel was. Wendel … his name is Wendel Deyo. He’s the National Director of Athletes in Action–the world’s largest Christian sports ministry–who had been dealing with overpaid prima donna professional athletes for 20 years. (Laughter) They had just said, “Wendel.” (Applause)
So, uh … so Wendel hands me three books. Now, I wish I had more time to get into the whole thing in great detail, but… but I don’t. But I came to this realization. You know what? Jesus Christ was a real historical figure that claimed to be God. He was sentenced to death by both a Roman and a Jewish tribunal. He was sacrificed, crucified, buried in a tomb for three days. He rose bodily from the dead, not as a spirit creature, but He rose bodily from the dead. Was seen by over 500 people for a period of 40 days. Changed … radically changed the lives of 11 cowards, to the point where it basically took over the Roman Empire in three centuries. And Jesus Christ said that He’s coming back and He’s ticked, and you better get right or get left.
Audience: (Cheers and Applause)
Frank: So (Clearing throat) … so I became a Christian that afternoon in Pittsburgh. After the game, [now] this is during the game. After the game the guys come in. And there’s like five, six Christians on the team. And I go up to Tommy Hume. And remember, he’s been trying to share with me since 1979. It’s now 1984, right? And he’s been tryin’ to share with me. And I go up to him and I said, “Humey, I’d really like to get together with the guys.” “Praise Jesus!” (Laughter) I [said], “Sh!” (Laughter) Uh … and so, uh … so, we go back to the hotel. And sure enough, we meet up in Tommy Hume’s room. And uh … we sit down, and the guys thought that they were all gonna teach me their songs, you know, like Kum-ba-ya and all this stuff. And… and I had a different agenda. And that’s the agenda I have for you here this afternoon. If you’re a Christian here this is going to totally hit you right between the eyes, because it usually does, and it hit me between the eyes just as it hit those guys between the eyes. It went something like this.
Now I didn’t know diddly about “churchianity.” I just knew that Christianity was true. So, we got in the room and they wanted to … to say something and I interrupted. And I said, “Guys…” And of course, my language was much worse than it was, now… But I said, “Guys, for five years you’ve been ‘trying to share with me’ and I’ve asked you legitimate questions and because I thought Christianity was false, I never seriously considered it. And I now realize that you guys are in violation of I Peter 3:15. (Laughter) It says ‘To set… to sanctify Christ uh … in your hearts and to every man an answer, a reason for the hope that rests within you and to do it with gentleness and respect.’ And I asked you legitimate questions and my blood was on your hands, because you didn’t know why you believed what you believed. So now, let’s get things straight. When I asked this, you should have said this.’” And I taught my first class that afternoon. (Applause) Amen. (Applause)
You know, if you’re a Christian here, you better know why you believe what you believe. We’re in a culture that doesn’t believe in truth. We believe that you can create your own reality as you go. We’re in a hostile environment. Indeed, we’re in Athens; we’re not in Jerusalem. And we need to know how to minister as Paul did in Acts 17, as he did in Athens. And that simply means for all of you to know why you believe what you believe, to be able to give to every man an answer, a reason for the hope that rests within you.
If you’re not a Christian here, here’s the message I have for you. You could reject Jesus Christ for simply wanting to rebel against the Holy God you know is present. But don’t ever say that Christianity is false, irrational or does not have the evidence behind it, because when you pursue truth, you will end up at the cross of Jesus Christ, because He is truth incarnate. (Applause and Cheers)
You know, just up the road, there’s Disneyland here (Clearing throat). And I can remember taking my son, Frankie and my wife, Gina uh … to Disney World in Spring Training. And my son was about 3- or 4-years-old and we hopped in the car and we drove an hour to Orlando. And we parked and walked 3 ½ miles to the front gate and forked over 200 bucks to get in, you know. (Applause)
And you get in. And uh … in … in Disney World, just like Disneyland, you walk in and there’s that center area and you’ve got Mickey and flowers and the choo-choo train and the two chutes on the side where you go onto Main Street. Well, my son, bless his heart, was only 4 years old. And … and we walk in and we’re sorta getting ready to attack Disney World. And we go in and Gina and I are doin’ all the jackets and stuff and now it’s time to go and I grab my son’s hand, little Frankie and … and I started going and he jerks my arm back. And back then he was very compliant. He’s 18 now, but… uh… he jerked my arm back and uh… he basically said, uh… He looked at me with those eyes like…”You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re an idiot. We just got in the car for an hour and we drove all the way here to be at DISNEYLAND. And we’ve got Mickey and the choo-choo train, and I’m not ready to go yet! Are you crazy?” And he gave me that look.
And it dawned on me, he thought this is all there is. This is Disneyland; you’ve got Mickey and the choo-choo train. And it was quite a price to pay to grab that 4-year-old and drag him screaming through the tunnel, until he finally got to Main Street and then he was okay.
Every one of you here are one pitch from humility. It could be called cancer, infidelity, leukemia, a car wreck, bankruptcy. Whatever it is, there’s something in your life that can happen to where the main thing would become the main thing and then you’ll get your priorities right. Isn’t it sad that the most important things in life we have so little time for? And yet, we get consumed with the trivial things in life.
And I hope you don’t have to have an event like one pitch from humility for you to hear God’s voice. God bless you guys. Have a great day. (Applause)
John: What a great presentation from our good friend, the late Frank Pastore. Uh… the author of the book, Shattered. And we have copies of that we can send when you make a generous donation of any amount to the work of Focus on the Family.
Jim: John, as we said at the top of the program, Frank died in 2012 as a result of a terrible motorcycle accident. He was just 55 years old. And uh… he’d been the host of “The Frank Pastore Show” on KKLA. A great Christian Talk station in Los Angeles, for about nine years. And just a few hours before that accident, Frank was hosting a discussion about life after death. Let’s hear what he had to say.
Frank: “I mean look, you guys know I ride a motorcycle, right? So, at any minute I could be spread all over the 210 (Freeway). But that’s not me. That’s my body parts.”
Jim: John, isn’t that stunning? Unbeknownst to Frank, he was prophesying. He was saying what would happen on that very same freeway later that very day. As he continued that discussion further, Frank said that his body is just a shell. You know, a container for his soul.
Jim: And when he died, yes, his soul went to be with the Lord.
John: And that is a great comfort to his family, and the friends, and all the coworkers there at KKLA.
Jim: Well, I’d imagine that’s a Truth they cling to every day. And let me conclude with some lessons we can all take from Frank.
First of all, success does not satisfy you if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. No amount of fame or fortune can fill that God-shaped vacuum in our hearts. We’re made to know the Lord. We all have a responsibility to know what we believe, and why we believe it, so that we can share the good news of the gospel with others. Man, Frank was so good at that.
Jim: And finally, we could die on the way home from work today. Just like Frank did. Are you ready? Do you have the assurance of eternal life? If not, pray this prayer with me: Lord Jesus Christ, I agree that I am a sinner. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I repent and turn away from my past sins. I open the door of my life and receive you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. Amen.
And if you prayed that prayer, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
John: We would. And we’d also like to send a follow-up booklet called, Coming Home: An Invitation to Join God’s Family. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. You can also find that little booklet, Coming Home, on online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
If you enjoyed today’s program, please tell a friend to tune in next time. We’ll share one couple’s journey of conflict as they fought to save their marriage.
Mrs. Elicia Horton: Well, we did discover, after getting married is that we realized that there were a lot of layers, a lot of layers to our past, our brokenness. A lot of things that we brought into our marriage. And I feel like God was just showing us a preview of how we were going to start unpacking those things with each other.
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