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Frank Pastore dies at 55; ex-major league pitcher, talk radio host

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In the end, professional baseball pitcher turned religion talk-show host Frank Pastore probably would have been philosophical about the motorcycle accident that claimed his life.

Pastore, 55, died Monday from injuries suffered one month earlier when a car swerved into him on the 210 Freeway in Duarte as he was riding to his Upland home after finishing his daily show on KKLA-FM.

His talk show, which aired from 4 to 7 p.m. on the Glendale station, was popular with conservative Christians and sometimes touched on his own baseball background as proof that divine intervention can change people forever.

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Pastore had talked about his mortality on that final radio show.

"You guys know I ride a motorcycle, right? At any moment, especially with the idiot people who cross the diamond lane into my lane, without any blinkers – not that I'm angry about it – at any minute, I could be spread all over the 210. But that's not me, that's my body parts. And that key distinction undergirds the entire Judeo-Christian worldview," he said.

Born in Alhambra on Aug. 21, 1957, he was a baseball star at Damien High School in La Verne when he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1975.

Pastore pitched for the Reds from 1979 through 1985 and for the Minnesota Twins in 1986. But his pitching career was derailed at Dodger Stadium in 1984, when a line drive by Dodger second baseman Steve Sax smashed the elbow of his pitching arm in a moment that "eternally changed my life," as he would later put it.

"Immediately, I knew my arm would never be the same again, and my career, as I had known it, had come to a tragic end," he wrote in 1998. "The crack of the bat still echoed through the stadium as every eye focused on me as I clutched my elbow and grimaced in agony.

"The eerie silence was broken by a collective gasp as the crowd turned to watch the replay on Diamond Vision. As I glanced up to take a peek at it myself, everything seemed to be happening in slow motion -- it was like a bad dream -- and I just wanted to wake up from the nightmare. 'Why, God? Why?' I prayed desperately on my way to the training room, but I had to remind myself no one was listening."

Pastore often recounted how he had grown up as a "practical atheist, an evolutionist," who viewed Christianity as mythology. After the line-drive accident, however, several teammates invited him to a barbecue and then encouraged him to stay afterward for a Bible-study session.

When Pastore voiced criticism of Christianity at the end of the study session, his teammates responded by handing him several books on the subject, urging him to critique the authors' conclusions. He swallowed the bait "hook, line and sinker, pole and dock," Pastore would later acknowledge.

He emerged a changed man after studying the books and failing to debunk religion as he'd intended to do, he explained. "I knew my life would never be the same. I had always derived my sense of security and self-esteem from my athletic performance."

After leaving major league baseball, Pastore enrolled in college, earning graduate degrees in theology and political science. His 8-year-old drive-time KKLA-FM program was said to be the most-listened to Christian talk-show in the country.

In a 2010 memoir, "Shattered: Struck Down but Not Destroyed," Pastore told of how his dysfunctional childhood had turned him against organized religion and convinced him that baseball was the fastest way to become rich and famous. In an interview this year with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he explained his personal evolution.

"And so I've come to the place where no matter what happens in my life, I know God is there and involved, even if it's the loss of my children, my grandchildren might get messed up in a motorcycle accident or whatever, God can still bring good out of this," he told the network.

Known for his love of motorcycles, Pastore commuted on one to the broadcast studio each day, boasting that he had logged more than 150,000 miles riding them.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Pastore was thrown from his Honda Shadow motorcycle on Nov. 19 when it was struck by a Hyundai Sonata driven by a 56-year-old Glendora woman as he rode in the eastbound freeway's car pool lane near Buena Vista Street. Investigators said the woman was not under the influence.

Pastore suffered critical head injuries in the 7:33 p.m. crash and was unconscious when rescuers arrived. He had remained hospitalized since the accident.

His survivors include his wife Gina; two adult children, Frank and Christina; and one grandchild.

bob.pool@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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