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January 4, 2012 posted by Lenny Melnick

Top Ten Worst Excuses and Injuries

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Brian Joura is taking a (hopefully) brief sabbatical from his Top Ten article, so in his weighty absence I am pressed into duty to fill his lofty shoes. Brian is on the shelf with some unspecified excuse or injury, so in his honor here are the Top Ten Most Unique Baseball Injuries and Excuses.


10. and 9..—Jose Cardenal

Some people have nothing but bad luck. Anyone who has heard Mike Podhorzer detail his weekly pitching staff travails on the Roundtable Show knows this too well. Jose Cardenal is right out of the Mike Podhorzer mold, having some bad luck when it comes to injuries.
Well, I think it is bad luck. But with these two “injuries” one has to wonder whether it is voodoo and not just luck. Cardenal had a nice MLB career, playing 18 seasons and having his best years with the Cubs in the early 1970s. In 1972 he had an .810 OPS with 17 HR.
The spring was no harbinger of Cardenal’s good 1972 season, however. During a Spring Training game that season, Cubs’ manager Jim Marshall kept Jose out of the lineup because Jose claimed that loud crickets kept him up all night. They did have these new-fangled inventions called Air Conditioners, which not only make it cool but can cover up noise, so perhaps Jose could have turned his on.
Just to get back to the voodoo theory for a second, one thing voodoo priests can allegedly do is make someone a living zombie. Perhaps this was the problem for Cardenal in 1974. That year he missed a game because he could not open his eyes. I am fairly sure that eye drops existed, and fairly sure that they tried them. So why couldn’t he open them? Voodoo is as good an explanation as any.
Cardenal could only explain, “I woke up and my eye was swollen shut. My eyelashes were stuck together. I couldn’t see, so I couldn’t play.”
Notably, other sources, such as ESPN, say that he missed the game because he could not blink. So even here we have the possibility of a voodoo curse. Only Cardenal knows the true story.
8. Carlos Perez’ Car Accident
Those of us that were baseball fans in the 1990s undoubtedly remember the flaky Carlos Perez. There must have been something genetic in the family, as his brothers were Pascual Perez, who one got lost while driving on his way to the stadium and missed a start, and Melido Perez, who has a no-hitter to his credit.
For his part, Carlos was no slouch in the flake department, though he paled in comparison to Pascual. Carlos was a fan favorite for his Fidrych-like antics on the mound. He would even punch at the hitter when he got a strikeout, presumably because he had a “punchout.”
Carlos makes our list because he broke his nose in a car accident on July 28, 1998. While trying to pass the team bus. And despite your first thought, alcohol was allegedly not involved, though he was convicted of drunk driving in 2000, a year in which he also strangled a Dodgers’ team attendant.

7. Bret Barberie’s Chili Juice.

Nowadays Barberie is probably best known for his onetime wife, Jillian Reynolds, who was and is a hottie and a spokesmodel, in addition to being a reporter. While a pretty staid guy, especially compared to our previous entrant, Barberie gets a place on the list for missing a game because he rubbed chili juice on his eye.
I admit that while I am no gastronome, I have no idea what “chili juice” is. We are not talking about chili sauce, or chili oil, so one can only presume that he is a sloppy eater. The other option is that he is putting chili peppers in a blender and drinking the juice, and no one wants that.

6. Glenallen Hill and the Spiders. 

No not the Cleveland Spiders, though memories and thoughts of that team will give anyone nightmares. Hill was an excellent player, and to this day is the only player to hit a ball onto the roof of the building that sits across from Wrigley Field, which is quite a wallop. Hill was also the first NL Designated Hitter.
As a fielder though, his nickname was “the juggler,” which tells you all you need to know. Mariners’ pitching coach Bryan Price once described his defense as “akin to watching a gaffed haddock gasp for air.”
Hill has intense Arachnophobia, and anyone who saw the movie by that title can sympathize. One night, Hill dreamt that spiders were devouring him. He jumped off his bed, fell through a glass table, and crawled through the shards of glass. Reports differ at this point, but some say he then fell down a staircase.
As a result of the incident, his sympathetic teammates nicknamed him Spiderman.

5. John Smoltz scalds his chest while ironing a shirt he is wearing.

 

Smoltz is known as a smart pitcher. But he is apparently is not as smart as the average four-year-old. He allegedly burned himself while ironing a shirt that he was wearing. But there is controversy about whether he was wearing it at the time. Smoltz denies it, of course. No one would admit to such stupidity.

Smoltz used to talk angrily to himself on the mound, and was under the treatment of a Sports’ Psychologist at one point earlier in his career for anger management issues. Is it a stretch to think he could have ironed himself in anger? T-shirts occasionally come with a label that says “do not iron while wearing.” While this may be an urban legend, we will include Smoltz anyway, as the circumstantial evidence says “guilty.”
4. Climax Blethen’s Teeth
I had never heard of this guy before researching this column. Blethen was a 30-year-old Red Sox rookie in 1923, when Lenny Melnick was a young lad of 21, wondering why they did not have baseball podcasts yet. His name probably warrants a story in and of itself. I leave it to Sooze to come up with one.
I thought about making this story number one, but since it may be apocryphal, according to Rob Neyer, we will keep it further down the list. Apparently, Blethen thought that he looked older and meaner if he took out his false teeth when he pitched, so he kept them in his hip pocket.
Like the slapstick forerunner of Tim Raines, Blethen went sliding into second base, forgetting to remove his false teeth and got nipped at second while biting himself in the gluteus maximus.
3. Johnny Broaca’s Walk of Joe Cronin
This is probably my favorite All-Time baseball story, and is probably the worst excuse for ignoring a manager’s entreaties. Broaca was no dummy, having graduated from Yale. In those days college graduates were not the norm as they are in today’s game; they were looked down upon by the hard men that were playing baseball in those days.
Broaca was pitching a shutout against the Red Sox for the Yankees, and it was 1-0 in the ninth with the tying run on first. Hall of Famer Joe Cronin was at the plate, and Joe McCarthy directed Broaca to pitch to Cronin, so he did not walk the potential winning run on base.
Naturally, Broaca ignores his manager’s direction and proceeds to walk Cronin on four pitches. This brought up Jimmie Foxx, the big-biceped slugger of the Red Sox and the most feared hitter in the game. Foxx nailed a pitch to centerfield in the old Yankee Stadium, over 450 feet away. Joe DiMaggio gives chase, speeds to the wall and makes a jumping catch over 450 feet away to dead centerfield. He was probably the only fielder who makes that play.
After the game Broaca was asked why he ignored McCarthy and walked Cronin. He, quite reasonably, explained that he walked Cronin “because I knew I could get Foxx.”
2. Billy Loes Loses It In The Sun
Loes was a pitcher for the Dodgers in the 1950s and had a fairly nice career, making an All-Star game in 1957. Loes was a “card” as they might have described him in the 1950s. Once he was asked why he had picked the Yankees to beat his Dodgers in seven games in a World Series. Loes claimed he was misquoted; “I picked the Yankees in six,” he explained.
However he makes the list here for his antics with a possibly apocryphal ground ball. After fumbling it, Loes explained that he “lost it in the sun.”
1. Chris Brown’s Eyelid
This one gets the top spot because it is both an injury and an excuse, and because I remember this one. I was a nascent fantasy player in the mid 1980s when Chris Brown was jaking it for the San Francisco Giants. Brown was fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1985, my first year of fantasy baseball. The next year he made the All-Star team on the strength of a .338 BA with 7 HR and 11 steals. In the second half he had zero HR and two steals and it was already the beginning of the end.
Brown was, perhaps, unfairly viewed as a soft player. In 1986 he complained of shoulder soreness and after tests showed nothing he was accused of faking it and bailing on his team. However, later that year an examination showed serious problems, and he had surgery.
Then again, maybe the reputation was not unfair. Brown once missed a game after claiming he had a bruised tooth. But that is only part of the reason he gets our number one spot. Near the end of his career Brown was playing for the Tigers and Sparky Anderson. That year he claimed that he strained his eyelid by sleeping “funny” on it. He was released, never to play in the majors again.
So there you have it. If I missed any (and I am sure that I did) please leave a comment below.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @LennyMelnick. Also, take me on over at http://www.FP911Challenge.com

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