Major boo-boos for major leaguers
02/16/2014 5:38 PM
02/20/2014 11:11 PM
Derek Holland’s dog, Wrigley, undercut him on stairs, causing Holland to take a tumble that led to microfracture knee surgery on Jan. 10.
Later that month, Joe Ortiz broke a foot when a motorcycle ran over it in Venezuela.
Strange off-season, indeed, for the Texas Rangers. But stranger things have happened.
There was Oddibe McDowell cutting himself while buttering a roll at the team’s Welcome Home banquet. Pitcher Greg Harris straining an elbow flicking sunflower seeds. Knuckleballer Charlie Hough breaking a pinky on his pitching hand while shaking hands. And Ruben Sierra spraining an ankle on a mall escalator, which when it happened during the 1990 season ended the majors’ second-longest active consecutive games played streak. Although Sierra was more than 900 games behind Cal Ripken Jr. at the time.
Just last year, Jeff Baker sprained a thumb giving an overexuberant high-five. Lance Berkman aggravated a knee injury when he slipped walking down the wet steps of a plane. And even though it was during spring training, Elvis Andrus missed a game because of “sensitivity” in his left biceps from a new tattoo.
Freak injuries are far from a Rangers-only thing, however. Throughout MLB history, there have been plenty of injuries that will make you cringe, shriek, laugh and even think twice the next time you perform that common, everyday chore around the house.
Yes, staying on their feet is a helpful skill for major leaguers. For too many, failing to do so has resulted in serious injuries.
Around Halloween of 1983, Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell was wearing a Frankenstein costume that included army boots with wooden blocks nailed to the bottoms. One of the blocks broke loose and Trammell lost his balance, tearing cartilage in a knee.
In 2003, Kaz Sasaki lost his closer’s job with the Seattle Mariners when he missed two months because of injured ribs suffered during a fall while carrying a suitcase upstairs in his home.
Moises Alou, then with the Houston Astros, tore an ACL weeks before spring training in 1999 when he tried to adjust the speed on his treadmill, lost his balance and fell. Preparing for a late-season return, Alou had a bicycle accident that aggravated the injury and halted his comeback.
In 1986, Chicago Cubs pitcher Steve Trout injured himself falling off a stationary bicycle.
In a nearly fatal injury before last season, free agent pitcher Carl Pavano slipped on ice outside his home and landed on a shovel handle. A few days later when he didn’t feel well after a workout, Pavano went to the hospital. It turned out that Pavano had lacerated his spleen. Doctors removed 6 1/2 liters of blood from his chest cavity and Pavano remained in the hospital for almost three weeks. He did not pitch in 2013.
In spring training 1986, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Danny Cox went fishing in St. Petersburg, Fla., and chipped a bone in his ankle when he landed wrong after jumping off a 3- to 4-foot-high seawall.
Toronto pitcher Todd Stottlemyre, packing up to leave after a fishing trip during spring training in 1992, reached to remove his fishing hat and a hook dug deep into a finger. Stottlemyre had to spend a couple of hours in a hospital having the hook removed.
Toward the end of his career, while a relief pitcher with the California Angels, Lee Smith tore a patella tendon in an off-season hunting accident. While running to get his hound dogs in position to flush out a deer, Smith stepped in a hole and smashed his kneecap into a tree stump. Limping back to his pickup, Smith stepped off an embankment and fell again, further damaging the knee.
Celebrations gone bad
Kendrys Morales of the Los Angeles Angels broke a leg in 2010 when he slugged a game-winning grand slam, jumped onto home plate amid a crowd of excited teammates and landed awkwardly. He wound up missing a season and a half.
Seattle catcher Rob Johnson sprained an ankle greeting Ichiro Suzuki at home plate following a Suzuki walk-off home run during the 2009 season. Johnson jumped in the batter’s box and landed in the hole in the dirt where hitters dig in at the plate.
The Washington Nationals’ Mark DeRosa, already on the disabled list two years ago, aggravated an oblique strain when Bryce Harper high-fived him in the dugout.
In 2010, Wes Helms of the Florida Marlins tore meniscus in his left knee giving a teammate a shaving-cream pie in the face.
The San Francisco Giants’ Aubrey Huff (sprained knee) and New York Mets reliever Ramon Ramirez (strained hamstring) were each hurt during the 2012 season going onto the field to celebrate a teammate’s perfect game. Ryan Dempster, when he pitched for the Cubs in 2009, broke a toe jumping over the dugout rail after a victory.
And then there was the unfortunate celebration when the Minnesota Twins defeated Oakland to clinch the 2002 ALDS. Infielder Denny Hocking had the middle finger on his right hand stepped on during the celebration and missed the ALCS with a split fingernail.
Nothing to sneeze at
When he played for the Cubs, Sammy Sosa had to be scratched from the lineup after he sneezed twice before the game and began to suffer back spasms.
Goose Gossage strained his back with a sneeze when a relief pitcher with the San Diego Padres. A sneeze sent Astros pitcher Russ Springer to the disabled list in 1997 with a strained lower back.
Pitcher Ricky Romero of the Toronto Blue Jays also went to the DL in 2009 with an oblique strain caused by a sneeze. “Now I’m afraid to sneeze,” Romero said after the injury. For good reason.
Trying to stop a sneeze can be dangerous to your health, too. Pitcher Mat Latos, when he was with San Diego in 2010, strained his left side trying to hold back a sneeze.
The cruelest cuts
Current St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, while a catcher with the Cardinals in 2000, severed two tendons in a finger when he opened a package containing a hunting knife.
Matheny missed the last three games of the season and all of the postseason. And the knife was a birthday gift.
San Diego’s Andrew Cashner, a former TCU pitcher, suffered a lacerated tendon last year when he and a friend were dressing a deer and the knife slipped in his friend’s hand and got Cashner’s thumb.
Adam Eaton, when he was with the Padres in 2001, was trying to open a DVD package when he accidentally stabbed himself in the stomach with a small knife. That cut needed two stitches to close.
Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt sliced his nonpitching hand late in the 2011 season while using a knife to separate frozen hamburger patties.
Blue Jays pitcher Brett Cecil cut a finger cleaning a blender. Jose Valentin of the Milwaukee Brewers cut his hand on a pineapple. Arizona Diamondbacks closer Matt Mantei cut a thumb opening a can of dog food. And the Yankees’ Tommy John missed time after he reached into a shaving kit and cut his left index finger on a razor blade.
In 2005, Twins pitcher Terry Mulholland rolled over in his hotel bed, rubbed up against a feather sticking out of his pillow and scratched an eye.
In his 19th and final season with the Baltimore Orioles, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer said he didn’t think he could pitch in an early April game because he had slept the night before on a pillow that was too soft. Later that month, he took himself out of a game after he pulled a neck muscle while checking a runner on first base.
In one of baseball’s more famous (and suspect) “injuries,” Detroit third baseman Chris Brown once told manager Sparky Anderson that he couldn’t play in a game because of a strained eyelid he came down with because he “slept on it wrong.”
Jose Cardenal, when he was with the Cubs during the ’70s, was struck by a couple of sleep-related incidents. First, he missed a few spring training games because of an eyelid that had become stuck shut from sleeping on it wrong. Later in his career, Cardenal said he couldn’t play in one game because a cricket under his hotel bed had kept him awake all night and he was too tired to play.
Then-Oakland Athletics pitcher Rich Harden strained a shoulder in 2004 when he rolled over to turn off his alarm clock.
Best of the rest
Pitcher Lefty Gomez, not known for making much contact as a hitter during his days with the Yankees in the 1930s and ’40s, stepped out of the box during one plate appearance to bang the dirt out of his spikes.
When the on-deck batter called out to Gomez by name, Lefty turned and, distracted, hit his ankle with the bat and had to be carried off the field. And this took place during a pennant race.
Two seasons ago, Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy was reaching under his hotel bed for a sock when his wife accidentally knocked a suitcase off the bed. The suitcase fell onto Lucroy, fracturing the fifth metacarpal in his right hand.
Nolan Ryan, when he was with the Astros, missed a start in 1985 because he reached into a dog pen that contained three young coyotes and one of the pups bit him on the hand.
Marty Cordova of the Orioles burned his face in 2002 when he fell asleep in a tanning bed and had to limit his exposure to the sun — that included day games, obviously — until he healed.
Wade Boggs, when he played for the Boston Red Sox, bruised his ribs in 1986 removing his cowboy boots. He used one foot to take a boot off the other foot, then lost his balance and fell ribs-first onto the arm of a couch.
Rickey Henderson, with Toronto in 1993, missed three games during the summer with frostbite. Henderson had an ice pack on his left foot and fell asleep.
Tigers’ hard-throwing reliever Joel Zumaya missed three games of the 2006 ALCS with a sore arm because of too much time playing Guitar Hero.
Even amid a lengthy list of bizarre injuries, Vince Coleman’s during the 1985 NLCS stands out. The Cardinals’ rookie leadoff hitter got caught under an automatic tarp being rolled onto St. Louis’ field before Game 4. Coleman suffered severe bruises to his left knee and ankle, and a bone chip in the knee was later discovered. He missed the rest of the series and the World Series.
Jose Guillen of the Kansas City Royals missed several days of spring training in 2009 after he ripped out an ingrown toenail with a pair of tweezers. Then in July, he partially tore the lateral collateral ligament in his knee bending over to put his shin guard on before an at-bat and missed almost six weeks.
In 1999, Ryan Klesko of the Atlanta Braves pulled a muscle in the upper part of his back at a restaurant when he picked up his tray and turned around. Five years later, while playing for San Diego, he missed more than a week with a back strain that occurred when he stood for the national anthem.
Arizona pitcher Brian Anderson, in 1998, put an iron to his face to see if it was hot. It was, and the burn on his cheek remained as a reminder.
In 1994, Bret Barberie of the Marlins made nachos in the clubhouse. But when he put his contact lenses in before that day’s game, he still had some jalapeño juice on his fingers and burned his eyes.
Milwaukee pitcher Steve Sparks was so inspired by a motivational speaker during spring training in 1994 that the next day — able to do anything he set his mind to! — he tried to rip a phone book in half. Instead, he dislocated his shoulder.
Oakland pitcher Eric Show went to the DL in 1990 with an infected finger that resulted from a self-inflicted stab wound received while removing a toothpick from a sandwich.
In 1993, the Cincinnati Reds lost setup man and UT Arlington product Steve Foster for a month because of a strained shoulder. He went on the DL after throwing baseballs at milk bottles on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Glenallen Hill, an outfielder with the Blue Jays in 1990, had a severe fear of spiders and during a dream in which he was trying to escape from the creatures, Hill knocked over a glass table and fell down stairs. He suffered carpet burns on his knees and cuts on his toes and elbows.
Technically, this injury doesn’t meet the major league criteria for this piece, but it’s worth inclusion.
According to SABR researchers, Clarence Blethen was playing for the Knoxville Smokies in 1933 when this doozy occurred.
Blethen wore false teeth and liked to remove them and place them in his back pocket when he pitched because he thought the toothless look made him appear meaner.
For one plate appearance, however, Blethen forgot to put his teeth back in. Blethen reached base and when he slid into second base to break up a double play, yes, Clarence Blethen was injured when he bit himself in the butt.
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