You Did What? How?

June 19, 2005

Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes broke his collarbone last week falling on the stairs with an armload of venison, calling to mind another awkward hunk of deer meat, former Tigers slugger Rob Deer, who in 1992 broke his wrist striking out.

Shortly before Barmes tripped, Cubs lefty Mike Remlinger broke his pinkie while reclining in a clubhouse chair. In that same clubhouse, 20 years earlier, Steve Trout bruised his shoulder when he fell off a stationary bike.

Athletes in every sport incur ridiculous injuries. Golfer Sam Torrance cracked his sternum while attacking a potted plant that he mistook, while sleepwalking in his darkened hotel room, for an intruder. Maple Leafs goalie Glenn Healy required 10 stitches to repair the hand he gashed trying to repair a vintage bagpipe. Manchester United keeper Alex Stepney dislocated his jaw while chewing out teammates, adding injury to insult.

But if Stepney really wanted to lacerate his teammates' buttocks, he should have played baseball. In 1982 Kirk Gibson pulled the locker stool away from Tigers righthander Dave Rozema, who fell on the glass bottle of cough syrup in his back pocket, knocking him out of the rotation. "The beauty of baseball," former Detroit manager Sparky Anderson said last week, "is you don't need to use this." And he slowly tapped at his temple.

When it comes to exotic mutilation, baseball stands head and shoulders above the rest. Head? Hall of Famer Bill Dickey knocked himself out while leaping in a low-ceilinged dugout to celebrate a Yankees pennant. Shoulders? Righty Steve Sparks dislocated one of his while trying to tear the Yellow Pages in half.

Baseball injuries, like baseball players, run hot and cold. Outfielder Marty Cordova burned his face after falling asleep in a tanning bed. Rickey Henderson fell asleep with an ice pack on his ankle and was frostbitten in August. The litany of peculiar baseball ailments could fill another volume of Gray's Anatomy (if that Gray were Pete Gray, the St. Louis Brown who lost his right arm in childhood after falling off a truck).

Some so-called "baseball" injuries could happen to anyone. Who among us hasn't broken a rib while vomiting up an in-flight meal, as Tom Glavine did on a plane in 1992? But others are occupational hazards specific to the sport, as when outfielder Terry Harper separated his shoulder in the on-deck circle while windmilling a teammate home from third base.

Baseball injuries are so full of irony (Tony Gwynn fractured his middle finger while closing his Porsche door on the way to the bank) and ironing (John Smoltz burned his chest while pressing a shirt he was already wearing) that the medical journals ought to give them some ink (righthander Jeff Juden, infected tattoo).

Summer is a Benihana chef, an endless flash of dangerous blades. Outfielder Oddibe McDowell cut his hand buttering a dinner roll. Lefthander Curt Simmons sliced off a toe while mowing his lawn. And three summers ago righthander Adam Eaton stabbed himself in the stomach with a knife. He was not committing hara-kiri, or even Harry Caray, but was trying to open the vexing shrink-wrap on a DVD.

Long before the Red Sox' motto was Cowboy Up, Wade Boggs bruised his ribs while pulling on cowboy boots (and crashing into a hotel couch). But then the Red Sox have a long history of biting themselves in the ass, as Boston rookie righthander Clarence Blethen did in 1923 while sliding into second base with his false teeth in his back pocket.

It just proves that in baseball anything can be injurious. It could be something you ate (Kevin Mitchell required dental surgery after biting into an overheated microwaved doughnut). Or it could be something that ate you (like the famous automated tarp-roller that devoured Vince Coleman before a 1985 National League playoff game).

To stay healthy as a player, you'd do well to remember your mother's advice: Look both ways before crossing the street (except that catcher Brent Mayne wrenched his back doing just that in 2002). Keep your nose clean (but only your nose: Outfielder Henry Cotto punctured an eardrum while prospecting for wax with a Q-tip). And when all else fails, simply stay in bed (though A's righty Rich Harden once strained his shoulder reaching for the snooze button).

The rest of us should steer clear of anyone in double-knits. Orioles righty Dennis Martinez hurt his arm heaving luggage onto the team bus, an injury The Baltimore Sun listed as Samsonitis. Trying to knock dirt from his spikes with his bat, Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez hit his ankle instead and had to be carried from the field. Two decades ago Dodgers third base coach Joe Amalfitano broke his thumb while congratulating Steve Sax as the latter rounded third base on a home run trot.

But that wasn't the most dangerous injury incurred at third base. As Giants manager in 1992, Roger Craig cut the back of his right hand when he snagged it on the hook of his wife's bra.

• If you have a comment for Steve Rushin, send it to rushin@siletters.com.

Ballplayers incur all sorts of ridiculous injuries. Pitcher Adam Eaton stabbed himself in the stomach trying to open the shrink-wrap on a DVD.

COLOR PHOTOSIMON BRUTY

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)