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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
TAMPA - Sallie Scudder's eyes had cancer behind them.
Stage four. The worst. The stage doctors say will end a life, without chemotherapy, in three to six months. With chemo, nine months to a year.
On May 7, 2005, she sat in the Plant High softball dugout and said she was going to fight. Said she was going to fight so hard she might be the one-in-a-million. The miracle who beats breast cancer down.
A couple of days ago, Scudder, despite a determination nothing short of miraculous, died, fighting until the last.
She was 36.
"The smartest, most sincere, unselfish person I've ever met," Plant girls basketball coach Carrie Mahon said. "She was one of the dearest friends I've ever had."
"She was," longtime friend and assistant coach Dick Sanders said, "simply, the best."
Less than two weeks ago Scudder coached a game, "as intensely as ever," junior centerfielder Kayla Ficarrotta said, "the same as always."
Except for the respiratory infection festering in her chest, the one that made it the last time she would see her team.
"I saw her last Monday in the hospital," Mahon said, "and she was bossing people around as usual. She laughed, made jokes. I thought she just might fight through it and coach some more."
Mahon's voice was heavy - heavy with an ache and an undercurrent of frustration.
How did a person so smart (Plant High valedictorian 1986, master's in math from University of Florida), so happy and vital, not go to the doctor sooner? Her cough had hacked for months, her energy was draining and family history was filled with cancer, including her mother, who survived lymphoma four years earlier.
"I did get mad at myself for waiting," Scudder said in May. "By the time I finally went to the doctor (in November) I knew in my gut that something was really wrong. It was so stupid.
"But it does no good to focus on your regret. You have to think, "What do I have to do now to beat this thing?' Because that's what I'm going to do: Beat it."
She proceeded with the most aggressive attack, a chemo cocktail every three weeks that wiped her out for more than a week. For 11 months she took the cocktail, including the last few that didn't stop her from practice. From softball, the thing she said was "the best medicine."
In May, after a chemo treatment, and after coaching Plant to a playoff victory, Scudder again sat in Plant's dugout and said, "I don't want to be some kind of an icon because of (the cancer). That's the last thing I want.
"All I want is to coach and teach. That's it. That's all."
Mahon believed Scudder to the core. She was so giving. Why else did everybody - everybody, including Mahon's kids - love her so much?
"One time," Mahon said, "my family was at Pizza Hut and my daughter walked around to the booth behind me and read the back of my shirt that said, "Coach Mahon' and my daughter, though she couldn't read, pointed at it and said, "Coach Scudder, the best coach ever!'
"At the time I said, "Well jeez I'm a coach too,' and then, you know, we all laughed. Laughed so hard. Laughed because my kids loved Sallie so much. She would drive to Brandon and take (Mahon's daughters, Maggie and Martie) to Chuck E Cheese and they would have the best time. ...
"And now ... now ... You know what?
"My daughter was right, Sallie was the best coach ever.