Donnie Evans had a stroke four years ago when he was only 39. It left him with a dead arm, a pronounced limp and the ability to deal with a little bad timing.
“It looks like the boat from Staten Island just came in,” he said as the 1 train rolled into South Ferry. “I’ll give the crowd a few minutes to thin out. That makes it easier for everyone.”
Evans stood at the far end of the platform while the crush of people cleared. Then he headed for work with stiff, labored steps aided by a cane.
“I’m like a puppet with someone yanking my strings,” Evans said with a laugh. “I used to be embarrassed by how I walk, but that’s all behind me.”
Evans left a lot behind.
“I had to ditch the self-pity and take a hard look at myself,” Evans said. “It wasn’t easy, but I’m a better person because of it.”
He’s also better because of a single meeting with baseball legend Buck O’Neil.
“I talked to him at a Minor League game several years before I had the stroke,” Evans explained. “He packed so much kindness and wisdom into the few minutes we shared that it all came back to me when I hit my lowest point.
“Buck went through so much and never felt sorry for himself,” Evans continued. “I know our situations are different, but I’ve tried to face the rest of my life the same way he faced his: With honor and decency.”
O’Neil liked to say that he came along right on time.
Evans smiled and said:
“He sure did for me.”