Ex-Poly Coach Cord Fights Back

Jerry Cord is remembered by colleagues as always giving a good fight during his 18 seasons as the Poly High baseball coach.

Although he hasn't coached in four years, Cord is still fighting--this time for his life.

For the past year, Cord, 56, has battled Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer that affects the lymph nodes. He met with a radiation therapist for the first time Wednesday before going to Dodger Stadium to watch Poly in the City Section 4-A Division championship game against Kennedy.

It was Cord's first trip to a City final since 1992, when Poly lost to San Pedro, 6-3. The day before the final, Cord's eldest son, Christopher, 25, died after a lengthy illness. Cord stepped down as coach the day after the game.

"It wasn't the best of circumstances," Cord recalled. "But the players worked all year for it. They did what they had to."

Cord took a leave of absence in November from his job as teacher and athletic director at Poly. He started undergoing chemotherapy about a year ago, with the treatments ending last month.

"It looks like it's turning out for the good,' Cord said. "I had a good response to the chemotherapy."

As insurance, doctors want him to begin radiation treatments.

Despite his ordeal, Cord was at Pierce College on Tuesday to watch the Parrots defeat Chatsworth, 6-4, in the semifinals. He embraced Poly Coach Chuck Schwal after the game.

"I think it's absolutely great," said Cord, who guided Poly to three City finals but never won a title. "Chuck has really done a great job with the kids. I can't say enough about him."

The feeling is mutual, Schwal said.

"Jerry has been nothing but a positive force," said Poly's fourth-year coach. "He's shown me the ropes, but he hasn't hovered over me. It's been great to have a guy with his experience walk me through."

Cord hopes to return to work at Poly when the fall semester starts.

Bobby Mesa, a longtime assistant coach at Poly who played for Cord in the mid-1970s, says if anyone can beat cancer, it's his former coach.

"You know, he's a tough man," Mesa said. "We've been through a lot together. I was with him in '92 when his son passed away.

"He instilled a lot of things in me--hard work and pride and dignity. I have great respect for him."

Perhaps Schwal paid Cord the greatest compliment the day before the City final: "If we win, I'm dedicating it to Jerry. He built that program and was a father figure to a lot of kids. . . .

"It's his program, too. I'm just glad I got 'em back to where Jerry put 'em."

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