Stephen Strasburg and nine other amazing postseason performances by ill or injured athletes
Stephen Strasburg originally wasn't going to start the must-win Game 4 of the NLDS presented by T-Mobile on Tuesday due to an illness and/or mold. But after the game was postponed due to rain, the Nationals' star pitcher was recovered enough to take the mound. And he was brilliant.
Strasburg pitched seven shutout innings, giving up just three hits and striking out 12 as he dazzled with his fastball and befuddled with his changeup:
In the end, whether mold or the flu, it was a glorious game from the newly christened Doctor October that kept the Nationals' World Series hopes alive and put the right-hander in a select group of players who stepped up their games in the postseason when their bodies were ailing.
Here are nine of them:
Michael Jordan's flu game
The gold standard by which every athlete playing with an illness is judged. Woozy and dehydrated, Jordan willed himself to 38 points, including a crucial rebound and three-pointer with less than a minute left to get the victory in the 1997 Finals. After the game, he even needed help from Scottie Pippen to walk off the court.
Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit homer
With an injured hamstring making it hard for Gibson to even walk, he wasn't expected to be able to play in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. But with the Dodgers trailing, 4-3, in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on first, Gibson told manager Tommy Lasorda he was available. He was given that opportunity to bat.
With the count at 3-2, Gibson remembered that Dennis Eckersley always went with a backdoor slider in this situation. Sure enough, the mustachioed reliever did. Gibson stepped in and hammered it over the fence for one of the most memorable postseason home runs.
Curt Schilling's bloody sock
After falling behind 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox stormed back and were looking for Curt Schilling to help tie the series at three games apiece.
Only problem: The right-hander had an ankle injury, and his work in Game 1 only made it worse.
To get him on the mound, doctors then tried an "apparently unprecedented" procedure that they first tested on cadavers: they sewed the skin on his legs to the tendon to help stabilize it. With the Frankensteining done, Schilling pitched seven innings and surrendered only one run -- the only sign of injury an occasional hobble and the blood seeping through his sock.
Willis Reed energizes the crowd
Willis Reed was the NBA MVP and averaging over 25 points with double-digit rebounds in the playoffs when he tore his thigh muscle in Game 5 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Lakers. He sat out Game 6 and wasn't expected to return. "I didn't want to have to look at myself in the mirror 20 years later and say I wished I had tried to play," Reed said, so he received injections and made a dramatic entrance to the court.
He played 27 minutes in Game 7, scoring four points and blanketing Wilt Chamberlain on defense, providing an important boost en route to the Knicks' victory.
Kerri Strug wins gold for the U.S. despite a broken ankle
A clean dismount appears to be one of the most difficult things that a gymnast has to do. Now imagine it's the Olympics, your team needs a nearly perfect score and you are performing with a broken ankle? That's what Kerri Strug did in the '96 Olympics in Atlanta.
Pedro Martinez's relief appearance
Martinez suffered a back injury in Game 1 of the 1999 ALDS that forced the Red Sox to lift him after just four shutout innings. In a must-win Game 5, Martinez was still not healthy enough to start the game against the Indians. But, with the Red Sox trailing 8-7 after three innings, Martinez took the mound. He proceeded to pitch as if he was in the best shape of his life: The right-hander dominated Cleveland for six no-hit innings, striking out eight, as the Sox came back to win.
He later admitted that he really did put everything on the line. "It was the playoffs, it was everything on the line, including my career, because lot of people see the game, yes, yes, yes, yes, it was a great game" Martinez said. "But I put my career in jeopardy."
Kevin Brown fights the flu
After winning Game 1, Brown was not with the team for the five previous days before Game 6 of the 1997 NLCS against the Braves. There was even debate on whether he was even on the flight heading to Atlanta in time for the game.
But he told reporters that he would pitch Game 6 "unless lightning strikes me," before being reminded that he had said he was going to start Game 5 unless someone shot him. The cantankerous Brown fired back, "Do you want to see the bullet wounds?"
There were no lightning strikes and Brown did take the mound. Despite his illness, Brown pitched a complete game -- needing 140 pitches(!) -- giving up 11 hits and surrendering four runs in the Marlins' 7-4 victory that sent them to the World Series.
Jamie Moyer's World Series cold
Moyer was 45 years old before he made his first -- and only -- World Series appearance for the Phillies against the Rays in 2008. So, naturally, he was sick. His pre-Series cold had turned into a stomach virus and Moyer was taking the mound without much in his stomach. "I didn't eat a whole lot, some soup and peanut butter, toast with bananas on it, a lot of water and Gatorade," Moyer said.
He then had to wait out a 91-minute delay before pitching 6 1/3 innings and striking out five in the Phillies victory.
Joe DiMaggio has the grippe
Though it wasn't the postseason, it was close. Toward the end of the 1949 season -- one that saw the Hall of Famer hit .346 -- DiMaggio missed the final two weeks of September with the "grippe" or flu. With the Yankees trailing the Red Sox by one game -- and with Boston coming to New York for a two-game series to end the year -- DiMaggio returned to the lineup.
He picked a good time to come back. DiMaggio went 3-for-8 with a double and triple as the Yankees won both games to take the pennant. Five games later, they were World Series champions, too.