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Petaluma physical therapist Theo Atkins dies

Published: Friday, January 10, 2014 at 1:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 10, 2014 at 1:02 p.m.

Theo “Ted” Adkins, a Petaluma physical therapist who played professional baseball and fathered two entertainers, died Jan. 3 in Petaluma of complications from several long-term ailments. He was 85.

Adkins was born in Mississippi but grew up in the Sierra foothill town of Tuolumne, where he was a star athlete and earned a full scholarship to College of the Pacific in Stockton, now University of the Pacific.

In college, he excelled in baseball, football and boxing, but he chose to focus on baseball as a career.

“He was good at all sports, but he always wanted to play pro baseball,” said Gwen Adkins of Santa Rosa, his former wife and advocate caregiver. “He was just a natural athlete. He could not play golf for 10 years, then go out and break the course record.”

After graduating in 1951, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and played first base in the team's minor league system.

Adkins had a .305 batting average and hit 28 home runs in four seasons in the minors according to Baseball-Reference.com, a baseball statistics website.

In 1950, Adkins' Hutchinson, Kan., Elks played the New York Yankees affiliate Joplin, Mo., Miners, who had an up-and-coming slugger named Mickey Mantle. After Mantle reached first on a base hit, Adkins chatted with the future Hall-of-Famer, according to Adkins' friend, Steve Lucanic, who recalled Adkins' story:

“Ted said, 'We were about to play a game with this kid named Mickey Mantle that we had all been hearing about for weeks and weeks. I was playing first base and got a first-hand look at this incredible ball player. Mickey's first time up, he singled and there we both were, shaking hands at my bag and talking about the game.

“'In the middle of our conversation, Mick told me that he couldn't talk any more because he was going to steal second base on the next pitch. Excited to find this out in advance, I signaled for a pitch-out, so we could cut him down at second. Mickey beat the throw with ease.'”

Adkins' baseball career was interrupted by his Army service during the Korean War. Stationed stateside, Adkins played baseball for his unit's team and helped the team doctor treat injuries. The experience would lead to his career in physical therapy.

After the war, with his baseball career stalled, Adkins returned to school to earn a degree in physical therapy. He moved to Santa Rosa to work for a physical therapy practice, then to Petaluma, where Adkins started his own practice that lasted 40 years.

In 1958, he married Gwen Shepherd, his college sweetheart. The couple had two children, Dana Adkins of Palm Springs and Clay Adkins of West Hollywood.

Dana, a singer and actress, has appeared in TV shows including “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Days of Our Lives” and starred in “Beach Blanket Babylon.” Clay's credits include “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Millionaire Matchmaker,” and he was also in “Beach Blanket Babylon.”

Adkins had a great singing voice, Gwen Adkins said.

“He was a natural tenor and a great dancer,” she said. “He was very outgoing. Everyone really liked him. He was an outstanding physical therapist.”

Adkins was active in the community serving as president of the 20/30 Club in Santa Rosa and the Petaluma Rotary Club. He coached softball and Little League baseball and enjoyed hunting, fishing and boating. He also enjoyed traveling and visited Asia, Europe, Canada and Mexico.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Parent-Sorensen Mortuary, 850 Keokuk St. in Petaluma. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of Petaluma.

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