The 24 Most Bizarre Injuries in Baseball History
In February 1993, Cleveland Indians' catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. arrived at spring training with an aching back aggravated by the drive to Florida. How could an athlete in his prime get injured behind the wheel? An athlete who survived the rigors of the catcher position 150 games per season? Why was a man of means driving in the first place?
A sarcastic and shallow sports columnist (OK, it was me) suggested he must've been driving a Yugo. Probably a Yugo with a bumper sticker that mocked the traffic around him: "My other car is a Mercedes." As I seem to remember, Alomar was not amused. Indignant, he shook his finger in my face while saying, "I don't drive a Yugo."
He drove a luxury car. I knew that. The Yugo was a joke. Just not to him. Or even some others. Turns out the Yugo people called him to ask about adjusting his seats.
Alomar's injury, it turns out, doesn't even belong on the list of strangest injuries involving former Cleveland Indians, let alone among Major League Baseball players.
1. Outfielder Marty Cordova, who played for the Indians in 2001, missed time with the Orioles the following season because he scorched his face in a tanning bed and was ordered by doctors to avoid direct sunlight. Standing in the sun from February through September apparently didn't give him the glow he sought.
2. Brian Giles, a free-spirit, blamed his absence from the Indians lineup one year on spider bites.
3. Relief pitcher Ernie Camacho signed autographs for a charity one spring, stopped after 100 or so and made a beeline for the team doctor complaining of pain in his pitching elbow.
4. Earlier this season, Indians' rookie Jason Kipnis strained his hamstring while stretching to avoid, you know, straining his hamstring.
Those aren't the only examples of why I owe Alomar an apology all these years later.
Here are 20 more that make getting out of a car with a bad back in February seem perfectly reasonable.
5. Pitcher Jamie Easterly started a new workout regimen at home in Crockett, Texas, back in the mid-1980s. One drill included backwards running. He promptly stepped in a gopher hole and hurt his back.
6. Watching a brawl break out one game, reliever Ted Power leapt to his feet in defense of his teammates and strained a calf muscle.
7. Cubs' pitcher Ryan Dempster went on the DL with a fractured right big toe suffered while tying to jump the dugout railing to celebrate a Chicago victory.
8. In Atlanta one year, utility infielder Randy Johnson dislocated his thumb putting on his socks and spent six weeks on the disabled list.
9. Wade Boggs might've laughed at that if he didn't miss a week after straining his back while tying to pull on his cowboy boots.
10. Tough-guy Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, famous for hog-tying Robin Ventura when Ventura rushed the mound, was bitten by a very brave coyote.
11. Jose Cardenal missed a game in the 1970s, citing fatigue. His claim: crickets got into his hotel room and kept him awake all night. That was his story. Another one of his stories: In 1974 he missed a game because his eyelid was "stuck open," preventing him from blinking (but not, apparently, fabricating bogus injuries).
12. Rickey Henderson missed several games one August. The reason: frostbite. Why do I feel the need to add "allegedly"?
13. Atlanta Braves closer Cecil Upshaw missed the entire 1970 season when his ring got caught on an awning as he tried to demonstrate his slam dunk technique.
14. Reliever Greg A. Harris once missed two starts after spending an entire game flicking sunflower seeds at a friend who was sitting nearby. Diagnosis: inflamed elbow.
15 and 16. Pitcher Tom Glavine broke a rib vomiting. How weak! Kevin Mitchell only strained a muscle while vomiting.
17. George Brett broke a toe while running from the kitchen to the TV. Why the rush? To see Bill Buckner hit. I would've guessed it was to see Bill Buckner field.
18. Outfielder Moises Alou, who came from a proud baseball family, injured his knee falling off a treadmill, then hurt his knee again a year later running over his son with a bike.
19. Pitcher David Cone got bit by his mother-in-law's dog. Perhaps on command.
My Fave Five
20. Ken Griffey Jr. missed a game when his protective cup slipped and pinched a testicle. (I spent four years in journalism school and three decades as a sports writer wondering if I'd ever get to write such a sentence)
21. Reliever Steve Sparks dislocated his shoulder while ripping a telephone book in half emulating some motivational speakers he just heard speak. No word on whether he was in Manhattan at the time.
22. Kevin Mitchell didn't get hurt vomiting all the time. Once, according to ESPN.com, he showed up at spring training four days late after getting hurt eating a microwaved donut and requiring a root canal.
23. Blue Jays outfielder Glenallen Hill fell out of bed and crashed into a glass table while having a nightmare that he was covered by spiders. To which even the most sympathetic manager would say, "Yeah, sure you did."
24. According to the legend of Clarence Blethen, the Red Sox rookie pitcher in 1923 thought he looked meaner without his false teeth when he was on the mound. He supposedly didn't think to put them back in his mouth while he batted. That led to Blethen sliding into second base and getting bit in the posterior by his own teeth.
He was removed from the game for excessive bleeding.
And for some reason, NFL players still contend baseball players aren't real athletes.
Bud Shaw is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who has also written for the Philadelphia Daily News, San Diego Union-Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The National. You can read his Plain Dealer columns at Cleveland.com, and read all his mental_floss articles here.