Here are the strangest injuries in Brewers history

April 3rd, 2024

MILWAUKEE -- From Steve Sparks’ failed feat of strength to Matt Wise’s losing battle with a salad, here are some of the strangest and most unfortunate injuries in Brewers history.

Robin and the dirt bike
A few weeks before the start of Spring Training in 1978, and reliever Bob McClure took their families to vacation amidst the sand dunes of San Luis Obispo, Calif. Yount hopped on his dirt bike in tennis shoes for a warmup ride and flew off the back side of a dune, landing so hard that his left foot wrapped around the foot peg and tore ligaments.

When he got to Arizona, “I had to come to that realization that I can’t play,” Yount said. “And I don’t know what to do. I think Timmy Johnson was in the locker right next to me, and he knew my foot was hurting. I said, ‘God, if I keep having this, I might have to go play golf or something.’”

Saying that was a mistake. When Yount disappeared for a few days, the story spread in the press that Yount was threatening to go play professional golf unless he got what he wanted in his new contract.

In reality, he was holed up in a hotel, terrified.

The story actually has a happy ending. The revelation Yount was injured prompted the Brewers to hastily rescind the optional assignment to the Minor Leagues of another first-round pick, who would fill in for Yount at shortstop to open the 1978 season.

Save for a couple of rehab assignments, Paul Molitor never saw the Minor Leagues again.

Ernest Riles and the broken glass
In January 1987, the rising infielder severed tendons in his right index finger while picking up broken glass in his kitchen at home. He didn’t make it back to the Majors until late June.

and the phonebook
In 1994 Spring Training, general manager Sal Bando and manager Phil Garner held a team-building exercise designed to bring players closer together by watching grown men partake in odd, improbable behavior.

Enter Radical Reality, a motivational group that did things like blow up hot water bottles and bend bars with their teeth.

"And they tore these phonebooks..." recalled Sparks, the former Brewers reliever.

The next day, Sparks decided to give it a try. He started off by cheating, tearing eight pages at a time until he had built up enough to make the rest of the phone book easier to rip in one motion. Or so he thought.

"Everyone started chanting my name," Sparks said. "And I dislocated my left shoulder."

Sparks never went on the injured list, but the antics did get him shipped out to the Minor Leagues. He had to wait another year-and-a-half to get his first big league callup.

-- Alyson Footer

Curtis Leskanic and the… well, you know
“No need to panic,” they said when Leskanic took the mound during his stint as Brewers closer, but an unfortunate medical malady was a genuine cause for concern in 2000. Leskanic worried he had cancer when he developed severe swelling in an area healthy young men don’t like to get severe swelling. Instead, he was suffering an infection that cleared up with antibiotics and a 17-day stay on the injured list. 

and the cap
Sexson strained his neck adjusting his cap during the Brewers’ annual photo day at the start of Spring Training in 2003. According to one account, it was a “tiny cap,” whatever that means. The malady may have cost Sexson a couple of days, but he was well enough during the regular season to play all 162 games, hitting 45 homers with 124 RBIs.

and the salad tongs
Wise, now the White Sox bullpen coach, was a Brewers reliever with a terrific changeup that was rendered ineffective after he cut the middle finger on his pitching hand in Kansas City in June 2006. Wise thought he was doing something healthy when he decided to make a salad. Instead, he missed a few days of work.

The wiry Wise kept his sense of humor about the situation.

"At least it was something in my weight class," he said a few days later.

and the hardwood
Greinke’s friends warned him against playing basketball, but he didn’t listen. After being traded to the Brewers for the 2011 season, the right-hander cracked a rib when he went up for a rebound and fell to the hardwood during a pick-up game in the first week of Spring Training.

“I’ve been doing this for a couple years now, and people are always saying, ‘You’re going to get hurt,’” Greinke said. “It finally caught up to me.”

That season featured two odd injuries for starting pitchers. In August, left-hander Chris Narveson missed a couple of starts with a deep cut on his left thumb suffered while using scissors to fix the leather lacing on his glove.

and the suitcase
Teammates were left shaking their heads as word spread in the visitors’ clubhouse at Dodger Stadium in May 2012 that their catcher had broken his right hand in a bizarre hotel room accident. According to Lucroy, he was reaching under his hotel room bed for a lost sock when his wife shifted a suitcase, which fell on her husband’s hand.

"I tried to 'wear it' today, to see if I could swing with it," a despondent Lucroy said upon arriving at the ballpark. "I didn't want to say anything because I don't like not playing. I want to play. But I went down and took some swings and it didn't feel good, so I had to spill it."

Lucroy wound up needing surgery and missed two months.

K-Rod and the cactus
While chasing one of his children in the backyard of a Spring Training rental home in 2014, stepped barefoot on a cactus. Every couple of weeks that season, a spine would work its way to the surface and be pulled free.

"I don't know if you guys have stepped on one, but you know how little some of the [spines] are?” manager Ron Roenicke asked reporters. “And they're in there for a while."

Scooter and the shower caddy
was showering at PNC Park after an April 2015 game against the Pirates when he sliced open a knuckle on his left hand. Gennett needed five stitches to close the wound but missed only two weeks.

"It was definitely a freakish thing," Gennett said. "I tried to grab some body wash, like I would normally grab body wash, and scraped it on the bottom [of a metal rack]. I didn't feel anything then it started bleeding everywhere. At a certain angle, those are sharp. I found the right angle and sliced it open.”

and the shoe
Smith, Milwaukee’s co-closer at the time, returned to the clubhouse after pitching in a Minor League game during 2016 Spring Training and attempted to take off his right shoe while still standing. The shoe didn’t budge, but Smith’s knee did. He suffered a torn lateral collateral ligament and didn’t pitch for the Brewers until June.

“I was standing on one leg, trying to take the shoe off and I pulled hard and it stayed on. My knee just went up and popped,” said Smith. “It sucks.”

Devin Williams and the right hook
Williams was certainly not the first pitcher to lose his cool and suffer a broken hand as a result, but what made his injury so odd was the timing. Williams suffered his “boxer’s fracture,” as it’s aptly called, the night the Brewers clinched the NL Central with a win over the Mets at American Family Field in 2021.

As famously depicted in the film "Bull Durham," don’t they teach pitchers to punch with the opposite hand?

“They do,” teammate Brandon Woodruff said. “But when you get ticked off and you’re seeing red, you just don’t think. If you’re going to do anything in our job, especially as a pitcher, do it with you off-hand. But I feel for Devin. That’s tough."

and the outfield wall
Tellez -- a first baseman already on the injured list at the time – tore up the ring finger on his left hand trying to make a catch at the outfield wall during batting practice in Cincinnati in July 2023. The incident occurred on the same day he was eligible to return from a right forearm injury, and wound up extending his IL stint by an extra month.

“I actually saw it,” then-Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It looked like an innocent thing. He somehow got his finger stuck in the wall.”

Tellez’s finger lodged between padded sections of the outfield wall, tearing off the nail bed and causing a small fracture at the end of his finger. Tellez required 17 stitches to close the wound.

and the fainting spell
Megill, a hard-throwing reliever, was ill during the Brewers’ season-opening series in New York in 2024 before fainting in a retail store in Milwaukee on the off-day before the team’s home opener. He fell and hit his head, landing on the 7-day concussion IL a few days later.

“This one’s scary,” Brewers manager Pat Murphy said.