Popular San Francisco Giants broadcaster and former 20-game-winning pitcher Mike Krukow revealed Tuesday that he has suffered from inclusion-body myositis, a degenerative muscle disease which could eventually force him to use a walker or scooter to get around.
Krukow, 62, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he found out he had the condition eight years ago, but has kept his struggles a secret — partially over fear of embarrassment from possible falls caused by his severely hampered mobility.
The toughest part of having this disease for Krukow? "There is nothing more humiliating than falling in front of people," he says. "The biggest, most stressful thing is thinking about being on the field and falling in front of 40,000 people."
According to the report, "IBM causes progressive weakness in the muscles of the wrist and fingers, the front of the thigh, and the muscles that lift the front of the foot. There’s no cure and no solid theory for what causes it."
Krukow’s wife, Jennifer, told the Chronicle that her husband tried hiding the disorder for years to avoid calling attention to himself. Krukow’s broadcast partner Duane Kuiper, also a former major leaguer, admits it was even difficult for his friend to start using a walking cane in the past year.
"You are talking about a guy who used to run the steps at every major-league ballpark," Kuiper said. "Now he can’t even go up steps. Guys would ask what’s going on, and he’d say, ‘Oh, it’s my back. Or it’s my knees. I’m just an old pitcher.’"
Finally, this April Krukow fell when departing the team bus. The spill was serious enough to tear the rotator cuff in his shoulder and happened in front of enough people that the whispers and questions could not be ignored for much longer. According to the Chronicle:
"He fell in front of the whole team," Jennifer Krukow said. "Everybody was saying, ‘What’s wrong with Mike?’"
She and their five children urged Krukow to join a support group — or at least to tell people about his condition.
"He said, ‘Do people ask about what’s wrong?’" Jennifer said. "I said, ‘Mike, they ask me all the time.’ He didn’t want anyone to know."
Krukow pitched 14 seasons in the majors (1976-89), including the last seven of his career with the Giants. He won 124 games in his career, highlighted by his lone All-Star season in 1986 when he went a career-best 20-9 with a 3.05 ERA in San Francisco.
Krukow joined the Giants broadcast team as a part-time analyst in 1990 and earned full-time status in 1994. He has won 7 local Sports Emmys for his work.