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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blood on the Diamond

The scary incident last night in which Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a hard one-hopper off Seattle first baseman Justin Smoak's face -- leaving Smoak with a broken nose and potentially more injuries -- got me thinking about moments in which blood has been spilled on the Fenway diamond in this manner.

One jumps immediately to mind. On Sept. 8, 2000, I was watching the Sox-Yankees game on TV when Red Sox reliever Bryce Florie was hit flush in the face by a Ryan Thompson line drive. Florie went down in a heap behind the mound, and scenes of his bloodied, stunned face (he suffered multiple broken bones and a severely damaged eye) were played over and over on ESPN and NESN during the next several days.

 Florie, to his credit, returned to pitch in Boston the next year, but he was ineffective and released in August. He never pitched in the majors again, but he also didn't gave up, hanging on in the minors for several effective years. Here's a nice video about his last comeback, for the '07 Macon Music of the Independent League (Warning: there is footage of his 2000 injury):

Of course the other big one people think of is Tony C. It's been described in countless books including mine so I'll just reflect on it a bit here. I interviewed Billy Conigliaro for Fenway Centennial, and he told me that the entire family was at the August 18, 1967 game when his big brother and future Red Sox teammate was struck by a Jack Hamilton pitch. I had always assumed that everybody knew right away how serious the injury was, but Billy's memory indicates this was not the case. "He got hit all the time," explained Billy C. of Tony, who crowded the plate. "We just figured he'd get up and brush it off like he always did." Tony did get back up, with brilliant results, but it  took a lot longer this time -- his next game at Fenway was in April of '69.

Another near-fatal incident started on the Fenway diamond but wound up in the stands. On August 7, 1982, Boston first baseman Dave Stapleton hit a foul ball into the second row of box seats by the Red Sox dugout that struck 4-year-old Jonathan Keane of Greenland, NH in the head. It was apparent very quickly that Keane needed help, and it came from an unexpected source. Rice sprinted into the stands, grabbed the boy, and ran carrying him into the Red Sox clubhouse --  where Keane was examined by team physician Arthur Pappas and then loaded into an ambulance headed for Children's Hospital Boston in two minutes. Rice played the rest of the game with blood on his jersey, and responded to reporters' inquiries after the game by posing his own question: "If it was your kid, what would you do?"

Keane suffered a lacerated skull and a laceration over his left eye, but in time he recovered and returned to Fenway to throw out the first pitch at a later game (with Rice at his side). Pappas credited Rice's cool head and quick actions for saving the boy's life, and all who saw the drama unfold had one more reason to respect the future Hall of Fame slugger.

Were you at any of these games? Have your own scary Fenway memory to share? Let's hear about them.

1 comment:

  1. Another great trip down memory lane. S from Atlanta.