Baylor broken leg conjures memories of odd injuries
The broken leg suffered by Angels hitting coach Don Baylor is a reminder that baseball history is replete with strange injuries that have nothing to do with getting hit by a pitch or getting into a smash-up on the bases.
Baylor suffered the injury behind the plate trying to catch the ceremonial first pitch from Vladimir Guerrero on Opening Day. He required surgery that lasted more than four hours.
It was just two seasons ago that Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was shagging baseball in the outfield during batting practice -- something he's done hundreds, thousands of times before. On this particular day in Kansas City, however, he suffered a torn ACL and missed the rest of the season. The good news was that Rivera came back last year, saved 44 games and retired on his own terms.
Still, fans of a certain age can't help but think of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on the cop show "Hill Street Blues." He'd close each start-of-the-shift meeting with some variation of the admonition, "And, hey, be careful out there."
The 2010 season featured a couple examples of these odd injuries. On July 25, Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan tore the meniscus in his right knee while pranking a teammate with a shaving-cream pie after a win. He missed the rest of the season.
That came less than two months after Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales jumped on home plate after a walk-off homer, fracturing his left tibia in the process. He not only missed the rest of that year, but the entire 2011 season as well.
In 1994, a week after signing one of the most lucrative contracts in Braves history, outfielder Ron Gant broke his right leg in an ATV accident. He was released during Spring Training and didn't play again until 1995.
One of the most infamous odd injuries occurred before Game 4 of the 1985 National League Championship Series when, somehow, the automatic tarp at Busch Stadium rolled over Cardinals outfielder Vince Coleman's leg. Coleman, who would go on to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, missed the World Series, which St. Louis lost in seven games to Kansas City.
Coghlan, Morales, Gant and Coleman all were able to resume their careers. Some players haven't been as lucky.
Brad Bergesen pitched so well for the Orioles as a rookie in 2009 (7-5, 3.43 ERA in 19 starts) that he was asked to appear in a promotional video that offseason. Except that when it was taped in December, he didn't take into account that he hadn't thrown off a mound for awhile. And when Bergesen did, he strained his right shoulder.
Bergesen has never been quite the same since. He was claimed off waivers by Arizona in July 2012, and released at the end of the year. Bergesen pitched in Japan for the Chunichi Dragons in 2013 and is currently a free agent.
Then there was Mets reliever Duaner Sanchez. He was beginning to establish himself as one of baseball's best setup men, with a 2.60 ERA in 49 games, when in the early morning hours of July 30, 2006, the cab in which he was riding outside Miami was broadsided.
Sanchez suffered a separated right shoulder that required season-ending surgery, and he was unable to regain the effectiveness he had before the accident.
Some injuries, while obviously not funny to the players involved, are at least humorous in retrospect. Like right-hander Steve Sparks -- trying to psych himself up with the Brewers during 1994 Spring Training -- dislocating his pitching shoulder trying to tear a phone book in half. Or right-hander Adam Eaton missing a start for the Padres in 2001 after stabbing himself with a paring knife while trying to open a DVD.
Like Indians outfielder Brian Giles missing several games in 1998 because of spider bites, Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa going on the disabled list with back spasms after a sneezing fit in the dugout, or Phillies right-hander Jeff Juden being sidelined during Spring Training when his new tattoo became infected because he went sunbathing.
Like Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya developing right elbow problems from playing too much "Guitar Hero," Cubs outfielder Bret Barberie missing a game after getting chili juice in his eye, or Reds pitcher Steve Foster injuring his right shoulder knocking over milk bottles while taping a segment of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Like Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs bruising his rib cage when he fell while taking off his cowboy boot, Marlins right-hander Randy Veres going on the disabled list with a sore pitching hand after pounding on the wall of his hotel room, trying to get the people next door to be quiet, or Rangers knuckleballer Charlie Hough missing his Opening Day start after fracturing his right pinkie finger high-fiving a friend.
Baylor's injury was serious, but it's at least ironic that in a season where Major League Baseball has taken great strides to eliminate injuries caused by runners colliding with catchers, the first serious injury of the year at the plate came on a coach catching a first pitch.