Tuesday, February 19, 2013
5,000 days since Larry Dierker’s seizurePosted by Chris Jaffe
5,000 days ago, one of the scariest and creepiest moments of recent baseball history happened. It was an event that so shook up players, the game was suspended, even though the field conditions were still fine.
It was in the eighth inning of an Astros-Padres game on June 13, 1999, when Houston manager Larry Dierker nearly died from a sudden and massive seizure.
At first, it was just an ordinary day. Houston entered the game with the best record in the NL, 37-23, and hosted the second-division Padres. There was a bit of a revenge factor for Houston. Though San Diego was having a lousy season, they had defeated Houston in the NLDS the year before en route to the pennant.
Mostly, though, it was a typical day. After San Diego scored an early run, Houston rallied to take an easy 4-1 advantage.
And that’s how things stood as the game reached the eighth inning. San Diego went down quietly in the top of the frame, then Jeff Bagwell led off the bottom of the eighth by fanning. The game had just five more outs to go. It looked like it would be over in 10-15 minutes.
But that’s when things got ugly. Scary ugly. In Houston’s dugout, Dierker suddenly collapsed. That got people’s attention. He lay on the dugout floor, twitching and convulsing.
Medical staff was soon upon him, but they couldn’t revive him. No one could know exactly what had happened right then and there, but it turned out he’d suffered a grand mal seizure. In the days leading up to his seizure, Dierker had suffered through many severe headaches, but he just assumed he was having a lot of bad headaches. Hey, it happens.
Doctors later would report that Dierker had a tangled bunch of blood vessels in the front of his brain. He was rushed to the hospital and would soon have five hours of emergency brain surgery.
As horrifying as those moments were when Dierker’s body lay jerking by his players’ feet, the story had a happy ending. Dierker survived, recovered, and went back to managing the Astros. He missed a month but returned on July 16. In his first game back, Houston overcame a 6-0 deficit to Detroit and won, 8-6. The team took the division (though it lost in the NLDS), and Dierker stayed on the job another two seasons after this.
So it’s rather understandable why the game was suspended when it was. Who wanted to go back to playing ball after seeing something like that, especially when at the time no one knew if Dierker would even live? Houston and San Diego resumed the game on July 23, fittingly, shortly after Dierker’s triumphant return to the job. San Diego attempted a rally, with a pair of solo homers by Phil Nevin and Ruben Rivera, but Houston pulled out the win, 4-3.
But it was a horrible thing that happened on June 13, 1999, or 5,000 days ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since a 15-minute power outage happens at Wrigley Field during a night game, and it happens with the ball in the air to the plate in mid-pitch.
2,000 days since Kenny Lofton receives a walk-off walk to win the game.
3,000 days since the Yankees trade Kenny Lofton to the Phillies for Felix Rodriguez.
5,000 days since the Orioles beats the Braves, 22-1. Cal Ripken gets six hits in the game. It’s the best game of his career, with two homers, a double, six RBIs, and five runs. Will Clark, also an Orioles, also has his best game. He’s 4-for-4 with three doubles and a home run, five RBIs, and four runs.
5,000 days since Toronto loses, dropping Jim Fregosi 86 games under .500, his low point (888-974).
6,000 days since Paul Molitor joins the 3,000-hit club.
6,000 days since Tim Raines sets a personal record by getting six RBIs in one game. He’s 2-for-5 with two homers in a 10-0 Yankee win over Toronto.
9,000 days since Illinois lawmakers grant state subsidies for a new stadium in response to the White Sox's threatened move to St. Petersburg.
10,000 days since Tim Raines has the first of seven career multi-home runs games.
1855 John Morrill, first baseman, is born. He’ll play for over a decade and top the National League in strikeouts in 1887.
1912 Dick Siebert is born. He’ll be an All-Star for the 1943 A’s while playing first base.
1919 The Reds trade Hal Chase to the Giants.
1935 Russ Nixon is born. He’ll be a backup catcher for many years before becoming a manager in the 1980s.
1935 Lou Gehrig gets a raise to $30,000, making him the game’s highest-paid player.
1942 Former star first baseman Hal Trosky retires. His once-promising career was derailed by migraine headaches.
1946 Danny Gardella of the Giants becomes the first major leaguer to jump to the Mexican League.
1948 Bob Groom, pitcher, dies at age 63. He went 119-150 in his career, three times leading the league in losses, including a 7-26 rookie campaign with the 1909 Senators. He wasn’t that bad of a pitcher, but he had terrible offensive support.
1949 The Indians sign free agent Luke Easter.
1954 The Dodgers sign Roberto Clemente to a minor league contract. He’ll later become the greatest Rule 5 draft pickup ever.
1957 Dave Stewart, pitcher, is born. He’ll win 20 games in four straight seasons.
1957 The A’s and Yankees engage in a 13-player trade. The Yankees get Art Ditmar, Bobby Shantz, and player-to-be-named-later Clete Boyer. The A’s get Tom Morgan and Mickey McDermott.
1959 Tim Burke, reliever who led the NL in games pitched as a rookie, is born.
1962 The Mets debut the uniforms for their inaugural season.
1969 Doc White, early 20th-century star pitcher for the White Sox, dies at age 89. He led the AL with a 1.52 ERA in 1906 and with 27 wins in 1907.
1970 After a five-and-a-half-hour meeting with Denny McLain, Bowie Kuhn announces that the star pitcher is suspended indefinitely for bookmaking, effective April 1.
1971 Miguel Batista, pitcher who played in his 18th season last year, is born.
1977 Mike Gonzalez, a Cuban backup catcher who played for 17 seasons in the major leagues, dies at age 86.
1987 Vida Blue unexpectedly announces his retirement. He signed a contract with the A’s just a month ago.
1987 Josh Reddick is born.
1991 The Mets sign Edgardo Alfonzo as an amateur free agent.
1995 The Blue Jays assign manager Cito Gaston and his coaching staff to serve with minor leaguers, all year if need be. The goal is the preserve the atmosphere once the strike is over. At the time, the major leagues are planning to use scabs, and making Gaston manage the scabs might cause problems later. That’s the thinking anyway.
1996 Charles O. Finley, former A’s owner, dies just shy of his 78th birthday.
2001 Baseball enters the Think Factory era. Baseball Think Factory website has its first link.
2008 The Nationals sign free agent Bret Boone.
2012 Mike Cameron announces his retirement.
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.