10,000 days since Vince Coleman and the tarpby Chris Jaffe
February 28, 2013
10,000 days ago, one of the most bizarre injuries in baseball history happened. It was Oct. 13, 1985, when a tarp machine ran over Cardinals star basestealer Vince Coleman.
Weird, huh? Making it even more memorable, it happened in the postseason, just when the team could least afford to lose its leadoff hitter.
Coleman was a rookie in 1985. In most aspects of the game, he wasn’t anything special. He had speed but was put in left field anyway, not a sign of the best fielding acumen. He could hit a little, but not much more than a little, with a .267 batting average. His 50 walks were nice but nothing special. He surely had no power, with just one homer on the year.
But in one aspect of the game Coleman was great; he could run. Lord, could he ever run. In 1985, he stole 110 bases, easily topping the league. It would be the first of three straight 100-steal seasons. Whitey Herzog’s 1980s Running Redbirds loved to gamble on the bases, and no one was better at it than Coleman.
So you’d think if anyone could outrun a tarp, it would be him, right? I guess not.
It was before the game, and Coleman was doing some pre-game drills. There was also a light rain, and the grounds crew decided to bring out the tarp. However speedy he was, Coleman lacked eyes in the back of his head and failed to notice the tarp roller coming at him. Uh-oh.
The tarp rolled over Coleman’s left leg, badly bruising it and chipping a bone in his knee. Coleman was done.
At the time, it looked pretty bad for the Cardinals. Though Coleman wasn’t their best hitter—that was MVP Willie McGee—he was a key part of their offense, and they couldn’t afford to be without him at a time like this. The Cards had dropped the first two games of the NLCS to the Dodgers and entered today trailing two games to one.
St. Louis needn’t have worried. The Redbirds exploded for nine runs in the second inning and evened the series at two games apiece. They also won each of the next two games to claim the pennant. However, St. Louis also lost Coleman for the World Series, which they lost in seven games to the Royals.
But the part most people remember about the 1985 NLCS isn’t the games, though, it’s the bizarre injury to Vince Coleman. And that injury occurred 10,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to skim.
1,000 days since Baltimore fires manager Dave Trembley. They’ll use coach Juan Samuel as an interim skipper until hiring Buck Showalter.
2,000 days since B.J. Upton has the best ever WPA game by a Tampa hitter—and it’s just a pinch-hit appearance. His two-run, walk-off homer for a 5-4 Tampa win over Toronto has a 0.896 WPA score.
3,000 days since Texas signs free agent outfielder Richard Hidalgo for what will be the last season in his disappointing career.
5,000 days since the Cubs overcome an eight-run deficit to beat Colorado, 13-12.
9,000 days since Chris Speier, of all people, hits for his second career cycle.
9,000 days since Nolan Ryan wins his 100th game as an Astro. He’d previously won 100 games with the Angels and now is just the seventh pitcher to record 100 victories for two clubs.
9,000 days since Texas releases Larry Parrish.
10,000 days since the Royals, down three games to one to Toronto in the ALCS, began their pennant-winning comeback. Danny Jackson threw a complete-game shutout for a 2-0 win.
20,000 days since second baseman Bill Doran is born.
40,000 days since Ed Killian, pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1881 Terry Turner, infielder, is born.
1893 It’s a rare Hall of Famer-for-Hall of Famer trade as Cleveland sends shortstop George Davis to the Giants for catcher Buck Ewing. The Giants get the better of this deal, as Ewing is winding down.
1894 Baltimore pitcher Edgar McNabb shoots his mistress (Louise Kellog, a married actress) and then kills himself in a Pittsburgh hotel. Ghastly, isn’t it? He dies, but she survives.
1900 John McGraw and his longtime friend Wilbert Robinson sign contracts with Baltimore in the National League. They’ll soon be reassigned to Brooklyn when Baltimore’s team falls apart, but they’ll both refuse to report and end up in the fledging American League.
1903 Pirates owners Barney Dreyfuss heads a syndicate that purchases the Phillies for $170,000. It’ll be another few years until this sort of deal will be outlawed.
1907 The Browns trade catcher Branch Rickey to the Yankees.
1926 John McGraw arrives in spring training saying he’s done investing in real estate. He says he lost $100,000 last year on it.
1926 A train carrying the Cleveland Indians derails, but fortunately everyone is okay. Heck, pitcher George Uhle even sleeps through it.
1929 The White Sox trade outfielder Bibb Falk to Cleveland.
1930 Frank Malzone, third baseman, is born.
1943 Texas League suspends operations for the duration of the war. There are now just nine minor leagues left.
1963 Hall of Fame starting pitcher Eppa Rixey dies at age 71.
1966 Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale jolt the baseball world by announcing a joint holdout. They seek a joint three-year pact for $1,000,000.
1969 As recounted in Ball Four, in spring training for the Seattle Pilots, Jim Bouton gets his old buzz cut to get the nickname Bulldog back as he tries any little angle to make the team.
1972 WWII-era Tigers ace pitcher Dizzy Trout dies.
1973 Atlanta trades Pat Jarvis to Montreal for Carl Morton.
1975 The Giants sell the talented but frustrating Dave Kingman to the Mets for $150,000.
1978 Texas trades former uber-prospect David Clyde along with Willie Horton to the Indians for John Lowenstein and Tom Buskey.
1981 Sabermetrically-inclined pitcher Brian Bannister is born.
1981 The Cubs trade slugging but boorish Dave Kingman to the Mets.
1985 The Pirates sign free agent pitcher Rick Reuschel, who will soon revitalize his career.
1986 Seven players are suspended for drug usage: Keith Hernandez, Dale Berra, Dave Parker, Lonnie Smith, Jeffrey Leonard, Enos Cabell, and Joaquin Andujar.
1988 Former batting champion and Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn dies at age 57.
1995 The White Sox sign free agent reliever Rob Dibble.
1999 Arizona pitcher Kenny Robinson dies in a car crash. John Rosengren, his teammate, is arrested for second-degree murder in the alcohol-related crash.
2000 John Hirschbeck is elected the first president of the World Umpires Association, as the umps try to recover from the previous year’s self-immolation of their union.
2002 MLB announces that it will re-hire five of the umpires who lost their jobs in the mass resignations of 1999: Gary Darling, Joe West, Bill Hohn, Larry Vonover, Larry Poncino. Just think, for a bit, Cowboy Joe West was out—and they intentionally brought him back. Maddening.
2009 Tom Sturdivant, one of the pitchers on Casey Stengel’s Yankee teams, dies.
2010 The Yankees sign free agent pitcher Chan Ho Park.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.