The amazing story of 'Uncle Robbie' Robinson's plane-assisted grapefruit catch
Yesterday, we brought you the story of Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez's cactus-related Cactus League injury. Our own Dan Wohl wondered aloud whether the Grapefruit league had ever seen a comparable injury.
It turns out that yes, it has -- and Thursday happened to be its 99th anniversary.
Back in the heady days of 1915, catcher-turned-manager-turned-Hall of Famer Wilbert "Uncle Robbie" Robinson (pictured above, upper left) decided he was going to do something no one had done before:
He was going to catch a baseball dropped from a passing airplane.
Robinson was the manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time, and his club was down in their Spring Training home near Daytona Beach, Fl preparing for the upcoming season.
Around the same time, famed aviator Ruth Law had been dropping golf balls out of her plane to advertise for a local golf course.
Eventually, the idea sprang forth to try catching a baseball tossed from Law's plane. The 52-year-old Robinson volunteered.
As Law was passing 525 feet overhead -- so the story goes -- she realized she accidentally left her baseball on the ground. Ever the resourceful pilot, she quickly grabbed a grapefruit that happened to be on the plane and tossed it outside.
Back at ground level, Uncle Robbie went to make the play, only to have the grapefruit hit his mitt and explode all over his face, showering him with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.
Unfortunately, the highly acidic juice stung Robinson's eyes, leaving him in so much pain that he thought he'd lost an eyeball.
Of course, he hadn't -- he was just covered in a combination of liquefied grapefruit and overmatched hubris.
So, to answer my colleague's question: yes, there has been a grapefruit-related Grapefruit League injury, and it's even better than you imagined.