The violence of a
MAY 7, 1957
A pitcher’s worst nightmare
happened to a promising 23-year old Cleveland
Indians starter on this day in baseball
history. There was one out in the top of the first when
Herb Score was
hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of
Gil McDougal. Score was
in the vulnerable position pitchers always find themselves immediately after
releasing the ball. The ball struck him in the right eye, ricocheted over to
Al Smith who threw out McDougal. Score had to be carried
off the field on a stretcher. He missed the rest of the season with broken
bones in his face and a damaged right eye. His career was never the same.
Score was more than promising.
He was proven. He won 16 games as a rookie in 1955 and was 20 – 9 in ‘56. His
ERA was below 3.00 each year. He tried to make a comeback with
Cleveland in 1958 but could not find the
magic. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1960. He never finished a
season with an ERA below 3.00 again. In 1962, Score retired to the Indians
broadcast booth where he spent more than 35 years.
Other promising careers have
been cut short, or worse, by injuries on the field. They include:
Tony Conigliaro – Boston
Red Sox outfielder beaned while batting in 1967. He was just 22 but already had
104 home runs. He missed the rest of ’67 and all of ’68 and was out of baseball
at age 30.
Ray Chapman – Cleveland
Indian shortstop knocked unconscious by a beaning August 16, 1920. He never
regained consciousness and died the next day – believed to be the only modern
major league player to die as a result of being hit by a ball.
Baseball has been described as a
pastoral, deliberate, non-contact sport marked by long stretches of inactivity.
This “inactivity” builds anticipation of the potential of violence; the
collision of a play at the plate, bodies flying through the air as a double
play is attempted at second, players crashing into walls, railings and each
other trying to catch fly balls and line drives, a pitcher throwing the ball as
fast as he can at a target inches from a batter protected only by a helmet, a
ball being hit – often at far greater speeds – back at an even less protected
pitcher barely 50 feet away after he releases the ball.
Baseball is a much more subdued
sport than football, basketball or hockey, but the threat of what happened to
Herb Score, Tony Conigliaro and Ray Chapman is always a possibility.
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