A Brief History
On April 30, 1993, tennis star Monica Seles was stabbed in the back by a “fan” obsessed with rival women’s tennis star Stefi Graf. Seles was absent from pro tennis for 2 years after the attack, and despite being only 20 years old at the time of the attack never regained her championship form (formerly #1 in the world). We used this horrible incident to start our article “10 Bizarre Injuries to Athletes” back in 2014, and today we take a look at another 10 such bizarre injuries to athletes.
1. Kirby Puckett, Baseball.
In a 1995 major league baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians, Indians pitcher Dennis Martinez hit future Hall of Fame slugger Kirby Puckett in the face with a fastball, shattering Puckett’s jaw. Over the years, many players have been hit with pitches, sometimes with catastrophic consequences such as severe head injuries or broken bones, and in one case, death. Puckett’s injury was particularly unsettling because of the severity of the injury and the massive amount of blood pouring out of the injured man’s nose and mouth. The following season, Puckett was at Spring training and seeming to have recovered quite well when he developed a serious eye problem, completely losing vision in one eye. Going blind permanently in his eye meant the end of his stellar career, although supposedly the terrific injury from the Martinez fastball did not precipitate the eye problem. (We seriously believe the hit by pitch had something to do with the eye problem.) Puckett died 10 years later of a stroke at the age of only 45, again, supposedly having nothing to do with that epic facial injury from 1995. We wonder.
2. Herb Score, Baseball.
Herb Score was an ace pitcher for the Cleveland Indians from his major league debut in 1955, going 16-10 as a rookie (striking out a then rookie record 245 batters), until getting creamed in the face by a line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald in 1957. In 1956, Score improved on his stellar rookie season by winning 20 games and losing only 9, while posting an ERA of 2.53 and striking out 263 batters. A trip to the Hall of Fame seemed inevitable. The deadly line drive in May of 1957 had hit Score in the eye, breaking the bones around his eye and leaving the hurler so obviously seriously injured that McDougald ran to Score to help instead of running to first base! Score’s eyesight returned to normal by the 1958 season, but he was never the same ace pitcher after the incident. He posted a career tally of 55 wins and 46 losses, with an ERA of 3.36. Not bad, but not what his first 2 years had forecast.
3. Rashad Johnson, Football.
Arizona Cardinals’ defensive back Rashad Johnson was playing in an NFL game against the New Orleans Saints in 2013 when he tackled a Saint returning a punt, injuring his middle finger in the process. Johnson came out of the game with his hand injured, and when he took off his glove, the last section of his middle finger was still in the glove! He had somehow managed to rip off the tip of the middle finger at the last joint during the tackle. Despite later reporting that this finger injury was the most painful of his career, Johnson stayed in the game! There would be no attempt to reattach the severed part of the finger.
4. C.J. Wilson and Jason Pierre-Paul, Football.
Often enough bizarre injuries happen to elite athletes not on the field of play but at home or some other venue, goofing off, doing home maintenance or just living. In both of these cases, the 2 NFL players named here blew off fingers while goofing with fireworks over the 4th of July weekend of 2015. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Wilson lost 2 fingers to fireworks, while New York Giants defensive end Pierre-Paul lost only a single finger to a fireworks mishap. We strongly recommend against using fireworks at home. Please avoid tragedy to yourself or your family and friends and watch professional staged fireworks shows only.
5. Trevor Bauer, Baseball.
Bauer single-handedly (pun intended) derailed the Indians 2016 World Series hopes when he cut his pitching hand while fooling around with a drone at home during the Playoff season. The injury occurred to the tip of his pinkie finger on his pitching hand and required 10 stitches. As major league pitchers are not permitted to pitch with stitches on the pitching hand, nor with any sort of bandage, nor with any cuts repaired by surgical glue, Bauer was nixed from the American League Championship Series Game #2 start he would have been scheduled for, and instead he was handed the ball for Game #3, with the hope that his finger had healed enough to pitch. It did not, and Bauer was taken out of the game. Bauer pitched in Games #2 and #5 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, but did not do well, being the losing pitcher in both games. The Indians went on to lose the Series to the Cubs and failed to nail down a World Series Championship AGAIN, not having won the big prize since 1948.
6. Plaxico Buress, Aqib Talib, Football.
Burress was a wide receiver for the Steelers, Giants and Jets of the NFL who accidentally shot himself in the leg while going to a night club in 2008. Burress later reported that he had stumbled on a stair and his gun became unhooked from his waistband and slid down his pant leg, causing him to reflexively grab at the shooting iron, causing it to fire, wounding the hapless pass catcher. Adding insult to injury, Burress was charged with a gun crime for illegally carrying the pistol and served 20 months in prison. In 2016, Denver defensive back Aqib Talib did something similar, ending up with a pistol bullet in his leg outside of a strip club. Talib initially lied about the incident, claiming he had been shot by an unknown assailant, before finally admitting he had accidentally shot himself.
7. Monty Stratton, Baseball.
While we are telling tales of firearms accidents, another such tale is that of major league pitcher Monty Stratton who pitched for the Chicago White Sox from 1934 to 1938, compiling a fine 36 wins against 23 losses record. His career took a terrible turn when his leg had to be amputated after a 1938 hunting accident in which he fell while hunting rabbits, his shotgun going off and striking his right leg with the full load of pellets. The leg had to be amputated and was replaced by a wooden leg, curtailing his playing career, though Stratton did serve a couple years as a coach and even managed to pitch batting practice. Even more amazing, he tried to enlist in the armed forces during World War II but was rejected, and then founded a semi-pro baseball team and even pitched for that team. Stratton graduated to pitching in the minor leagues, notably achieving a stellar 18-8 record for the Class C Sherman Twins of the East Texas League in 1946. His remarkable story was adapted for the big screen with Jimmy Stewart playing him in the 1949 feature film, The Stratton Story, co-starring June Alyson. The film won the Oscar that year (ie., Academy Award) for Best Story.
8. Bethany Meilani Hamilton, Surfing.
Being from Hawaii, it is not surprising Bethany took to surfing at an early age, specifically at the age of 8. Showing great promise as a competitive surfer, she landed her first sponsor by the time she was only 9 years old. In 2003, at the age of 13, Bethany was surfing off the coast of the island of Kauai when she was attacked by a large (14 foot long) Tiger shark. The shark bit off Bethany’s left arm near the shoulder, but quick action by her father, brother and her friend saved her life in spite of Bethany losing an incredible 60% of her blood. In a rare display of guts and gumption, Bethany returned to surfing only 26 days after the attack, and even more amazingly returned to competitive surfing in a major event only several weeks after that! Bethany has made numerous television and other media appearances since her traumatic shark attack and subsequent recovery. She is now a married woman of 30 years old and the mother of 2. (2020)
9. Republican Congressman, Baseball.
On June 14, 2017, Republicans from the US Congress were practicing baseball in preparation for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity when a gunman, James Hodgkinson, started shooting at them with a legally purchased SKS style rifle and a semi-automatic pistol. A couple of US Capitol Police officers were present and immediately tried to protect the legislators and other civilians, while another of their police comrades took the perpetrator under fire, killing the gunman. Injured by gunfire from the attempted murderer were Rep. Steve Scalise, lobbyist Matt Mika, and congressional aide Zack Barth. Also injured was police officer Crystal Griner. The shootout with the gunman took a seemingly interminable 10 minutes and included officers of the US Capitol Police and the Alexandria Police Department. The gunman was later described as a left-wing activist that had purposely targeted Republicans. Going to practice baseball has to be one of the last places anyone would expect to be taken under gunfire, but at least the Capitol Police were there to protect the players. We hate to think of the potential tragedy had no police been assigned to the practice.
10. Ted Ginn, Jr., Football.
In the 2007 College Football National Championship game, Ohio State University’s electric kick returner, Ted Ginn, Jr., took the opening kick off all the way for a touchdown, an ultra-exciting start to the biggest college football game of the season. While in the end zone celebrating, teammate Roy Hall tackled/slid into Ginn as part of the enthusiastic pandemonium of celebration. Unfortunately for Ginn and the Buckeyes, Ginn’s foot was sprained in the celebration and the Buckeyes were without their most exciting player the rest of the game. Ohio State lost the game to the Florida Gators.
Question for students (and subscribers): What sports injury or off field injury to an athlete do you find most bizarre? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Kisiel, Jessica. Winning the Injury Game: How to Stop Chronic Pain and Achieve Peak Performance. The Pain Free Athlete, 2018.
Koestler-Grack, Rachel. Kirby Puckett. Baseball Superstars, 2007.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Stacey Warnke of Monica Seles adjusting her racket strings, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. This image, which was originally posted to Flickr, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on by TwoWings. On that date, it was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the license indicated.