2002-06-22 / Sports

Reed Is Latest In History of Odd Injuries

Baseball Columnist
By Bryan Hoch

Baseball Columnist

Former New York Mets righthander Rick Reed was scheduled to return to Shea Stadium this week to oppose his former club as a member of the Minnesota Twins, but had to be scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday because he sliced his right thumb while carrying his luggage.

An unorthodox injury? Perhaps. But oddball off-the-field injuries seem to be on the rise in recent years, with the shock value diminishing with each incident. Consider that earlier this season, the Mets lost righthander Saturo Komiyama to the 15-day disabled list after the Japanese hurler jammed his finger in a garage door leaving for the stadium.

In that spirit, we’ve done a little research at the library and on the Internet this week to pull up some of the stranger baseball injuries over the past few years. Some you may remember reading about in the tabloids, some were news to us as well.

Let’s start off with one that any Mets fan worth his salt will recall. Just prior to the 1988 National League playoffs, lefthander Bobby Ojeda was spending a sunny afternoon doing a little routine maintenance in his yard when he nearly ended his career by maiming himself with a pair of hedge trimmers.

Although some speculated at the time that his pitching career might be over, Ojeda returned after the winter to pitch two more seasons with the Mets before being dealt to the Dodgers after the 1990 season. He would later find himself involved in one of the more tragic events in the game’s history, being seriously injured in a motorboat accident in February 1993 that killed fellow Cleveland Indians pitchers Tim Crews and Steve Olin.

After returning to the Indians in August that season and making a brief comeback attempt with the Yankees in 1994, Ojeda finally hung up his cleats with a career pitching record of 115-98. He is currently serving as the pitching coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones in the New York-Penn League (A).

Not all incidents have been as grisly as Ojeda’s tales; in fact, some have been outright ridiculous. St. Louis Cardinals speedster Vince Coleman was forced to miss the entire 1985 World Series when an unobservant grounds crew rolled over the outfielder as they hurried to get the tarpaulin onto the diamond during a rain delay

Grounds crew members and other team employees granted access to the field have shown negligence in other ways. Earlier this season, Yankees outfielder Juan Rivera fractured his kneecap during batting practice when he ran into a golf cart that was parked in the outfield at Yankee Stadium. "It wasn’t supposed to be there," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman later explained. Yeah, no kidding, Cash.

Speaking of cash, former San Diego Padres outfielder and future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn once missed some action in a pennant race when he made a venture to his local bank to cash his paycheck and slammed the car door of his luxury vehicle on his thumb. However, Gwynn’s got nothing on former Dodgers and Expos pitcher Carlos Perez, who once broke his nose after getting into an automobile accident -- while trying to pass the team bus on the expressway.

Outfielder Jose Cardenal hung around the majors for 18 seasons with nine different teams, compiling a .275 career batting average, but there’s no way he confused anyone more than Chicago Cubs manager Whitey Lockman.

In 1972, Cardenal had to ask out of the starting lineup for a game because he claimed he’d been kept awake all night by a pair of crickets that were sharing his hotel room on a Cubs road trip.

Fair enough, but Cardenal also showed up at the ballpark two seasons later and told Lockman that he couldn’t use him in the game because he swore his eyes were stuck open and was unable to blink.

There have been any number of major leaguers over the years that have enjoyed the nightlife a little too much, but some have had issues even when they get to sleep at the right hours.

Outfielder Glenallen Hill, a 13-year veteran who earned himself a World Series ring as a part-time player with the 2000 Yankees, was once forced to miss several games after dreaming that spiders were attacking him. Hill swatted wildly to remove the imaginary creatures and wound up falling off of the bed and right through a glass table.

Journeyman pitcher Randy Veres had enough trouble getting people out in a six-year major league career that took him through five cities, so he certainly didn’t need to head to the ballpark tired.

When a couple in the next room at the Florida Marlins’ hotel decided to get frisky in the early morning hours, Veres played the role of enforcer by banging on the adjacent wall. He eventually succeeded in quieting the lovers, but reported to the Marlins clubhouse the next day with his pitching hand bruised and swollen.

However, nothing tops the tale of Detroit Tigers hurler Denny McLain, who once dislocated four of his toes while sleeping. How can that possibly happen? We’re still baffled on that one.

*****

Back at Shea, the buzz around the ballpark is that if the Mets don’t get things going soon, heads could begin to roll.

The Amazin’s shocked the Big Apple by taking two of three from the cross-town rival Yankees last weekend, but fell right back into their familiar pattern the next game as Minnesota Twins rookie lefthander Julio Santana held them to one run through six innings.

That sort of hot-and-cold output isn’t going to cut it with management, who want to know immediately whether this $100+ million assemblage of ballplayers is a pennant contender or a pretender.

Judging by what we’ve seen so far, this club is closer to finishing in the bottom half of the National League East than at the top of it. That’s not good news for players like pitcher Al Leiter and third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, both of whom are free agents after this season and could go in a potential fire sale.

*****

Roger Clemens says he’s going to introduce himself pretty quickly to the big piece of elbow armor that Giants superstar Barry Bonds wears on his right elbow, and then plunks Bonds right in that very spot when the two teams meet at Yankee Stadium. Major League Baseball investigates the incident, but Clemens is let off the hook without a fine or suspension when he claims that he was "joking" when he made the remarks to reporters earlier in the week.

Following a long week of non-committal statements by Mets lefthander Shawn Estes, the first pitch to Clemens in the third inning last Saturday sails behind the Rocket’s kneecaps. Both benches are warned by home plate umpire Wally Bell and no batters are hit later in the game, but MLB discipline czar Bob Watson still sees fit to levy a fine of between $500-$1,000 on Estes for intentionally throwing at Clemens.

"Everyone knows my side," Estes said upon learning of the punishment. "I was throwing inside, made a bad pitch and I got fined for it. "I’m trying to figure out what justifies getting fined."

Yeah, that makes two of us, Shawn.


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