On May 10, 2000, Ricky Bones suffered a back injury that forced him to miss his start for the Florida Marlins. Bones’ injury came in the clubhouse before the game and is one of the many bizarre misfortunes that have struck down ballplayers over the years.
Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. Aren’t we all?
That we are, Vin. It is probably because they play a game nearly every day, and are therefore more likely to miss a game, but baseball players seem to suffer more bizarre injuries than any other athletes. I don’t mean baseball-related injuries, like when Jason Kendall stepped on first base and nearly disconnected his foot from his ankle, but those impairments that can be described only as absurd.
Ricky Bones, a journeyman right hander, was tabbed to spot start for the Marlins in May of 2000. Bones was in the penultimate year of his career but at age 31 was hardly a senior citizen. He was relaxing in the clubhouse, watching television. Rising from the chair, presumably to get ready that night’s start, Bones felt a twinge in his lower back.
As it turned out, it was more than just a twinge. Bones decided he had genuinely hurt himself. Embarrassed (one hopes) Bones reported to manager John Boles that he could not make the start. All turned out well for the Marlins—replacement starter Jesus Sanchez pitched them to a victory. As for Bones, he pitched for the Marlins the rest of the 2000 season and the next but never made a start.
Compared to some others, Bones’ injury was practically normal. I’ve already described Glenallen Hill’s problems with spiders haunting him in his nightmares, but that is roughly par for the course with these sorts of injuries.
John Smoltz, so the story goes, once burned himself attempting to iron a shirt while he was wearing it. Smoltz has been denying this story for years to anyone who’ll listen, which only convinces me further that it happened.
That one falls into the category of injuries when the player in question really, really should have known better. My personal favorite in that category involved knuckleballer Steve Sparks. Sparks attended a motivational seminar which featured, among other pump-you-up demonstrations, a man ripping a phone book in half.
Returning to the clubhouse, Sparks was indeed pumped up. He found a phone book of his own and began attempting to tear it in half. In the end, the phone book got the last laugh. It remained in one piece while Sparks did not. He dislocated his shoulder.
Two things about this story get me. For one, Sparks seems like a relatively bright guy; he was a college graduate. How he failed to realize that tearing the phone book in half is as much a matter of knowing the trick as it is a matter of strength I’ll never know. (If you want to know how to tear said phone book, this is a good guide.)
The second part of the story is baseball related. What was Sparks hoping to accomplish with this feat of strength? Of anyone in a baseball clubhouse, as a knuckleball pitcher, he had the least to prove with being strong. His bread-and-butter pitch wouldn’t get a speeding ticket on most highways. I can see a big strong slugger or a rocket-armed pitcher trying to prove his mettle, but what the master of a 70-mph pitch was trying to accomplish remains a mystery.
Others in the department of injuries with no one else to blame include Jeff Kent and his infamous “truck washing” wrist injury, Marty Cordova, who once missed a game after burning himself in a tanning bed, Kevin Brown punching a wall after a bad start and Kent Hrbek, who fractured his ankle while wrestling with a clubhouse attendant.
The other department of bizarre injuries is the “Whoa, didn’t see that coming” variety. During his heyday with the Cubs, Sammy Sosa had to miss a Sunday afternoon game with back spasms. When reporters inquired about the source of the injury, it was revealed that the spasms were caused by successive sneezes.
Animals are also a source of injuries. Nolan Ryan suffered after being bitten by a coyote, one that presumably mistook the hard-throwing Texan for a road runner. At least the animal that Ryan encountered had some credibility as a predator. In 1998, David Cone missed a start after being bitten on his pitching hand by a Jack Russell terrier owned by his mother. Of course the Yankees were leading a charmed life that year and Cone’s start was taken by Orlando Hernandez, who soon proved himself more than capable.
The standout injury of his sort belongs to Adam Eaton. Now doing a terrible job pitching for the Phillies, Eaton was still with the San Diego Padres at the time of his injury. Rather than going out to enjoy what I am sure was a beautiful San Diego day, Eaton stayed home to watch a movie. This turned out to be a mistake.
Attempting to open the (always frustrating) plastic wrap around his DVD, Eaton employed a paring knife. He forgot one of the most crucial rules of knife use: Always cut away from the body. Instead, Eaton cut into the body, and ended up in the emergency room. To his credit, he later dubbed his handling of the situation “boneheaded,” and I’m inclined to forgive him, given how much of a pain that plastic wrap is.
Other injuries of that sort include Wade Boggs straining his back attempting to put on cowboy boots (there’s a Margo Adams joke in there somewhere) and Vince Coleman’s infamous swallowing up by the tarp machine. Brewers catcher Dave Nilsson missed time during the 1995 season with Ross River Fever, a mosquito-borne Australian disease so obscure that over the last 10 years it has cumulatively infected fewer people than attend your average Yankees game.
I’m sure this year will add a few more strange injuries to the list, and once more prove how all of us, but baseball players especially, are “day-to-day.”