10 years ago today, a very special injury occurred. Usually injuries are sad news—doubly so when it’s a prominent player. But what happened on March 1, 2002 inspired a round or two of jokes made at the expense of the injured player. Even now, a decade later, all I have to do is mention the name of the injured play and you can fill in the rest.
That player? Jeff Kent.
Yup, a decade ago today was the “truck washing” heard ‘round the world. It started out simply enough. A news report emerged that Giants second baseman and 2000 NL MVP Jeff Kent had a broken bone in his wrist and would miss the rest of spring training and maybe part of the regular season. Bummer.
Then the fun began as the details emerged. How did Kent break his wrist? Well, he did it while washing his truck. Come again? Yeah, it was just a fluke accident is all—nothing to see here. Kent always prided himself on being the average guy and he said like many average guys he likes to drive around in a truck and wash it out when he needs to.
Kent climbed atop the cab of his oversized off-road truck and slipped, falling six feet to the ground. He used his left hand to break his fall, and it jammed his thumb into his wrist, breaking a bone. Ouch. It might sound weird—but you couldn’t doubt, right? I mean, he had witnesses and everything, as the injury occurred at a public, do-it-yourself carwash.
Weird. It’s a bummer, but the injury was so weird that some Giants and even Kent made jokes about his unlikely injury. So it already earned a few laughs.
Then the laughs became much louder.
You see, a new group of eyewitnesses came forward. They’d also seen Jeff Kent on the day of his injury, only not at a do-it-yourself carwash. No, they’d seen a man matching Kent’s description earlier that day on a stretch of highway on a motorcycle—doing stunts like popping wheelies.
Check that. They saw a man matching Kent’s description earlier that day attempting to do stunts on his motorcycle. He didn’t really succeed, and instead they saw him wipe out but good. He brushed himself off and moved along, and told everyone not to tell anyone what they saw. You damn well better believe he didn’t anyone to know what he’d just done. It was against his contract with the Giants to do motorcycle stunts and if he injured himself doing one, he could lose a good chunk of cash.
So Kent “washed his truck” to provide an excuse for his injury. He went to the do-it-yourself public carwash to give himself an alibi. It was the perfect crime.
Or not. It all blew up in his face and launched 1,0001 jokes at his expense.
Things didn’t work out too badly for Kent, though. Though he had a broken bone, he missed only four games of the season and went on to have one of the best years of his career, batting .313 with 37 homers and 42 doubles. Best of all, behind Kent and Barry Bonds (mostly behind Bonds), the Giants won their first pennant in 13 years and came achingly close to a World Series title.
But all that lay in the future. 10 years ago today, comedians could start revving up their jokes at Kent’s expense.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you prefer to just skim the list.
2,000 days since Rick Helling pitches in his final game.
4,000 days since Rickey Henderson signs with the Padres.
5,000 days since Barry Larkin, age 34, hits two triples in one game.
6,000 days since Greg Maddux records his 150th career win.
9,000 days since Roger Clemens wins his 50th game.
9,000 days since the Cubs trade outfielder Gary Matthews to the Mariners.
9,000 days since the Giants sign free agent Dave Kingman.
9,000 days since the last time a pitcher records a one-game WPA of 1.000 or more. It’s White Sox reliever Bill Long, whose line on the day reads: 7.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K for a 1.007 WPA. It’s all in relief in a long game.
1855 Paul Hines, star outfielder and one of the first players to top 1,000 career hits, is born.
1886 Boston sells pitcher Jim Whitney to Kansas City (which is a major league team at the time).
1903 Tom Loftus, chair of baseball’s Rules Committee, decrees that the pitcher’s mound may be no higher than 15 inches.
1910 Baseball’s National Commission, the pre-commissioner top power in the game, prohibits giving prizes to players on World Series winning teams. This won’t stick and instead prize money for winners develops over time.
1914 Harry Caray, famous baseball announcer, is born.
1936 Frenchy Bordagaray shows up in spring training with a van dyke beard and handlebar mustache. He’s ordered to cut it, baseball will feature no facial hear until the 1972 Mustache Gang. The facial hair is also what gives him his nickname “Frenchy.”
1947 The Brooklyn Catholic Youth Organization announces mass boycotts of the Dodgers to protest Leo Durocher’s “undermining moral training of youth.”
1949 The Browns move to evict the Cardinals from Sportsman’s Park in hopes of getting a rent increase from their tenant.
1954 Ted Williams breaks his collarbone.
1962 Mark Gardner, pitcher, is born.
1963 Irish Meusel dies.
1965 Del Webb sells his remaining 10 percent share in the Yankees to CBS for $1.4 million. CBS now owns 90 percent of the club, with Danny Topping holding the remainder.
1965 The St. Louis Cardinals sign amateur free agent Willie Montanez.
1969 Mickey Mantle announce he is retiring from baseball.
1974 Larry Doyle, Deadball Era star infielder, dies.
1976 With no collective bargaining agreement in place, baseball owners lock out the players from spring training.
1993 George Steinbrenner resumes his role running the Yankees, as his banning over the Dave Winfield incidents are now over.
1993 The Expos signs amateur free agent Vladimir Guerrero.
1994 Leonard Coleman is elected NL president, replacing Bill White.
1995 Baseball has its first exhibition game with replacement players. California Angels replacements take on the Arizona State University team.
2002 The Red Sox fire GM Dan Duquette. Mike Port serves as interim GM.
2004 The Yankees release Aaron Boone.
2005 A deal is reached to allow for the construction of 1,790 new bleachers at Wrigley Field will begin after the season.
2011 MLB appoints John Thorn the official historian of the game. Thorn replaces Jerome Holtzman, who served from 1999 until his death in 2008.
2011 Wally Yonamine, the first American-born player to play ball in Japan, dies at age 85.