As Cleveland pitcher Trevor Bauer stood there on the mound Monday night, his right pinkie spouting a distressing amount of blood onto the clay, the Indians were put in quite a bind in their ALCS matchup with Toronto.
They survived nicely. But more important, an impressive new entry was chiseled into the monument to Athletes Who Hurt Themselves Stupidly/Weirdly.
You would rank a pitcher slicing his pitching hand in the postseason while repairing his drone below receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shooting himself in the leg (2008). But certainly ahead of St. Louis Cardinal Matt Holliday having to leave a game after a moth got stuck in his ear (2011).
The march of technology may be measured by the bizarre ways our athletes unnecessarily damage themselves. The Cardinals' Vince Coleman missed the 1985 World Series when one of baseball’s fastest men got tangled up in the team’s automated tarp, wrecking his leg. Sacramento Kings rookie Lionel Simmons missed a couple of games in 1991 with tendinitis in his wrist blamed on too much Nintendo Game Boy. And now, the first recorded drone casualty in the sports pages.
What next? Quarterback trips over clone, dislocates elbow?
Other mishaps are timeless. Like 1980s and '90s-era hockey goalie Glenn Healy slicing his hand while attempting to remove the bag from his bagpipes.
We are rightly amazed and amused by such tales because there are so many work-related injuries besetting the athletic class. That is the daily cost of their craft. How those injuries are apportioned determines the fates of franchises.
That these graceful and gifted souls are also so vulnerable to the clumsiest kind of mishap, that they risk the valuable asset of their bodies in some of the goofiest ways, becomes legendary.
Even if some of the athletes’ explanations may be a bit suspect, covering up more reckless behavior (former Tiger pitcher Joel Zumaya recently suggested as much concerning the 2006 report he injured his wrist by playing too much Guitar Hero).
We hold on tightly to such stories even when they are in dispute. Braves Hall of Famer John Smoltz insists that on a long-ago road trip hot water from a spitting steamer burned his chest while he was trying to remove some wrinkles from a shirt. Not, as the persistent fable has it, that he did it by trying to iron his shirt – while wearing it. The world just does not want to stick a pin in such a story.
When NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson breaks a wrist falling out of a golf cart, or former tennis champion Kim Clijsters injuries an ankle dancing at a wedding, we all are served notice about the humanity of our sports figures.
Such tales are not always humorous. Ron Gant’s Braves career was ended by an ATV accident. NFL lineman Orlando Brown suffered persistent vision problems after being struck in the eye by an official’s flag. Former Marlins and Twins pitcher Carl Pavano almost died when he fell while shoveling snow, rupturing his spleen. Giants lineman Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a disfiguring injury by mishandling fireworks. But they remain memorable.
So, welcome to the club Mr. Bauer.
And, a memo to the Indians starter: If you are going to cut your hand, better to do it as did former San Francisco manager Roger Craig – on a bra’s metal piece. As the late Jerry Greene of the Orlando Sentinel once wrote: “Men find that admirable ... as long as it wasn't his bra strap."