Mick Foley limped to the pitcher's mound at Bowman Field on Saturday night, the decades of using his body as a human crash test dummy evident in every step.
He's walking now, at 46 years old, on knees that doctors said resembled those of an 80-year old And that was 10 years ago he was told that. He's a modern medical marvel with doctors enjoying scanning his X-rays for the oddities that his high impact style of wrestling have produced.
But Foley doesn't want you to feel sorry for him, and for the shape he's in. Wait until he walks down a set of stairs to feel sorry for him.
"I also hiked the White Mountains a few weeks ago with my family, which is one of the biggest mistakes of my life," Foley said while sitting in a desk chair in the offices of Bowman Field. "Coming back down was horrible. I was leaning and putting all my weight on the walking stick. It was sad."
Foley was in Williamsport on Saturday to do an appearance at the Crosscutters' game against Mahoning Valley. The former WWE superstar hasn't wrestled a match in a year, and he hasn't been a major part of WWE storylines in a decade. But when he was introduced prior to the game doing an on-field interview with Cutters Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Gabe Sinicropi, the throngs of fans assembled in Bowman Field cheered, clapped and whistled at a level that's only been heard once or twice at Cutters' games this year.
It's the reactions of people like that which Foley spent his entire career as a professional wrestler trying to induce. It was the reason he got involved in the sport in the first place, and it's the reason he still makes appearances to this day. Sure, the ovations aren't what they were when he wrestled in places like the Arrowhead Pond in the main event of WrestleMania 16, but they're reactions nonetheless.
"The reaction is very minimal now, but I squeeze every drop of happiness out of it," Foley said. "If I had a problem with being noticed, I'd probably change my wardrobe and cut my hair a little bit. But then I wouldn't get free access to Knoebels Grove. Life really isn't worth living without a ride on the Phoenix."
He still looks like the same guy who twice wrestled the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year and won the WWE Championship three times. Under the opened, white with red sleeves, No. 62 Crosscutters jersey he wore during his appearance Saturday night, he wore a tie-dyed T-shirt and sweatpants. He still sports the long, black, curly hair that used to stick out of his leather mask when he portrayed the character Mankind, along with the goatee that's now a little salt and pepper-colored.
Foley made his name in the wrestling world as a high impact wrestler willing to do almost anything to his body to get a reaction out of fans. As Cactus Jack, he was a hardcore wrestler involved in matches with barbed wire ropes on the ring, and falls from 10-foot ladders onto barbed-wire-covered baseball bats.
As the deranged Mankind in the WWE, he was once thrown 16 feet off the top of a steel cage by The Undertaker in a Hell in the Cell match at King of the Ring in 1998. A year later, he took 11 consecutive blows to the head from a folding chair being swung by The Rock that opened a gash above his forehead that bled profusely until the controversial end to the "I Quit" match at the Royal Rumble.
But that was the type of wrestler Foley wanted to be. He watched professional wrestling as a kid, going over tapes to figure out how the professionals performed moves without getting hurt. He enjoyed finding the loopholes. His idea was to wrestle a style in which there were no loopholes.
"I was intrigued by the moves I couldn't figure out," Foley said. "For better or worse, I decided to create a style that was without loopholes that nobody could actually figure out. The trick was, all of them hurt.
"It was like a magician who really does saw somebody in half. Of course, that's probably a better idea when you're in your early 20s and not in your 30s. But for better or worse, that was my way of doing things."
He became the WWE's first Hardcore champion in 1998. And after the title was retired, Foley was presented with the Hardcore championship for his contributions to hardcore wrestling.
He was the definition of a hardcore wrestler. Someone willing to do just about anything in a match, but never something he didn't feel comfortable with. In the same match in which he was hit 11 times with a steel chair by The Rock, he was also thrown off a ladder into a bank of electrical equipment that caused sparks to fly and the lights in the arena to briefly go out.
In the Hell in the Cell match, after being thrown off the top of the cage, he was later thrown through the top of the cage with a choke slam from The Undertaker onto thumbtacks that had been spread across the ring. But Foley stresses to this day that he never did anything he wasn't comfortable doing, although it's tough to imagine what those things may have been.
"I always thought that my style was high impact and not high risk," Foley said. "Pro wrestling is all about treating your opponent with respect, believe it or not. And if they're not going to respect you, they shouldn't be in it."
The match with the Rock at the Royal Rumble was as brutal as any match he had ever been in. And as he said during his interview with Sinicropi, "I probably added to my children's future the most with matches against Triple-H and The Rock." But the brutality he endured during the match ended up being an eye-opener.
At the time, a camera crew was following Foley for part of the documentary called Beyond the Mat. And the documentary shows footage of Foley's wife and two youngest children cringing and crying at the beating he was taking with the blows from the steel char. The visuals were so excruciating for his family to watch that they left their ring-side seats before the match was over.
The documentary showed Foley backstage after the match consoling his children despite his face being covered in blood, trying to tell them he was OK. In the film, Foley later sits in his living room and watches the tape of the reactions of his wife and kids.
"That was one of a few eye openers. But there were others, too," Foley said. "I decided to get out of full-time wrestling while I still functioned at a fairly high rate. Of course, I didn't think I'd still be in the ring for sporadic matches 12 years later, but who knew the economy was going to collapse a couple times. I haven't had a match in a year and I'm not planning on doing another one. But once a year, or twice a year probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world."
It was those two hardcore type of matches that made Foley change his character Mankind from the deranged lunatic to a fun and humorous wrestler with a sock puppet named Mr. Socko that helped apply his finishing move, the mandible claw.
"That Mankind made people laugh and smile which is more important than the Mankind who made people wince and cringe," Foley said. "By the time I retired, I had a pretty large audience of kids who like the humorous aspect of the characters. By bringing in the humor I was able to extend my career for a couple years. Clearly you can't just go along absorbing huge impact every night for a number of years."
Foley went as long as he could absorbing those high impact blows. And because of it, he's become a legend in the business of wrestling. And that's why, even as he hobbles to the pitcher's mound in the home of a short-season Class A baseball team like the Williamsport Crosscutters, he can still elicit a reaction from the fans only matched by a walk-off win.