Scary outfield collisions from Babe Ruth to Bryce Haper
Last week, both Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Shane Victorino of the Red Sox ran into outfield walls. Neither player went on the disabled list as a result of those collisions but both were scary, especially Harper’s. The 20-year-old budding superstar left the field with blood streaming down his neck after being cut by crashing into the rightfield fence at Dodger Stadium. Baseball history is littered with incidents of players injuring themselves by running into outfield walls, many of them coming away far worse off than Harper and Victorino. Here are a few recent examples, followed by some memorable ones from baseball’s long history (including one by Babe Ruth):
Aaron Rowand, May 11, 2006
Rowand, then with the Phillies, broke his nose on this tremendous catch and suffered additional fractures around his left eye that needed to be surgically repaired, but he only missed the minimum 15 days and had a great season at the plate in 2007. (Watch here.)
Jason Bay, July 23, 2010
Bay was already having an awful season when he was injured on this play, in which he suffered a season-ending concussion in his first year with the Mets. Two years later, on June 15, 2012, he suffered another concussion when he slid head-first into the wall after attempting a diving catch.
Josh Hamilton, September 4, 2010
Hamilton broke two ribs making this leaping catch at the wall and missed 24 games in September with the Rangers heading to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Hamilton won the American League MVP that season despite playing in fewer games in a 162-game season than all but three previous Most Valuable Players.
Carlos Gonzalez, July 3, 2011
Gonzalez sprained his wright wrist making this catch. He initially missed just four games but was ultimately forced to the disabled list by the injury, which effectively cost him a month of the season.
Mike Baxter, June 1, 2012
Baxter was sidelines for 58 days with a sprained sternoclavicular joint in his chest after making this crucial catch to preserve Johan Santana’s no-hitter last year.
Matt Kemp, August 28, 2012
In 2007, Kemp suffered a separated right shoulder running into the same portion of the rightfield wall in Dodger Stadium that Harper hit while trying to track down what turned out to be an RBI triple by Jeff Baker of the Rockies in the fourth inning of this game. Kemp spent 17 days on the disabled list. Five years later, he ran into the centerfield wall at Coors Field and left the game, though he didn’t go on the DL. Related or not, Kemp has not been the same player since. Before that play, Kemp had a .988 OPS in 2012, an excellent follow-up to his 2011 season in which he finished as the NL MVP runner-up. In 71 games since that his OPS is .678, including .672 this year.
This is certainly not a new phenomenon. Players have been crashing into outfield walls as long as there have been outfield walls and players to crash into them. These four stand out:
Babe Ruth, July 5, 1924
Babe Ruth got a bad jolt when rushing headlong into the concrete wall in right after a foul-liner off [Joe] Judge’s bat in the fourth. The Bambino was knocked unconscious for about five minutes and badly bruised his left hip, but gamely insisted in sticking in that game and also in the second (going 3 for 6 on the day with two doubles and a run scored). –Washington Post
First, check out this amazing photo. Then consider that Ruth didn’t miss a game that entire season and didn’t see his performance suffer at all. Also: it was Babe Ruth, for crying out loud!
Pete Reiser’s entire career
Reiser hit .343/.406/.558, led the league in a variety of offensive categories and finished second in the National League MVP voting as the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 22-year-old centerfielder in 1941, but World War II and outfield walls conspired to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
According to an Associated Press story at the time of his death in 1981, Reiser suffered five skull fractures and seven concussions from collisions with outfield walls over the course of his career. Reiser was taken away on a stretcher 11 times, was once temporarily paralyzed after a collision with the wall and was given his last rites after a collision with the wall in Ebbets Field in 1947. On one play in St. Louis’s Sportsman’s Park, Reiser was chasing a ball hit by Stan Musial, hit the outfield wall at full speed and broke both clavicles. “He never was able to throw the same,” remembered his manager Leo Durocher, “and he had a great arm. If he hadn’t run into walls, he certainly would have been in the Hall of Fame.”
Bobby Valentine, May 17, 1973
Valentine was a well-regarded, if fading, prospect who had been the fifth overall pick in the 1968 draft and hit .340/.389/.522 in Triple-A as a 20-year-old shortstop in 1970. Traded from the Dodgers to the Angels the previous offseason, Valentine was hitting an empty .302 when, playing centerfield, he broke both bones in his lower right leg in a collision with Anaheim Stadium’s outfield fence. The injury, which ended his season and robbed him of whatever potential he had left as a player, was described in gruesome detail by Sports Illustrated‘s Ron Reid the following June:
Chasing a home-run ball hit by Oakland’s Dick Green, Valentine fractured both bones in his lower right leg when his pursuit ended in a freakish collision with the tarp serving as an outfield fence in the Angels’ park. . . .
“Not spending another thousand bucks for a solid fence was the worst mistake of my life,” said Angels General Manager Harry Dalton.
“Because the fence was vinyl,” Valentine says, “I wasn’t hesitant about running into it.” He should have been. The ball missed Valentine’s glove by an inch, and his leg drove into the vinyl between two support poles so that the tarp first yielded, then ensheathed his calf like a vise before flinging him back to the ground with a grotesque bend in the middle of his shin.
Ken Griffey Jr., May 26, 1995
Griffey broke his left wrist making this circus catch against the wall and missed 73 games in a season in which the Mariners needed one of the greatest comebacks in major league history to win their division by one game.