Earlier this week, Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ was hit in the side of the head by a scorching line drive. Both the sight and the sound of the impact gave chills to anyone who watched it, and the blow landed the 30-year-old Happ in the hospital and then the disabled list with a fractured skull.
Of course, this was hardly the first terrifying injury in MLB history. Such incidents may be relatively rare, but they happen. And today we’re going to take a look at some of the most notable cases of all time—many of which ended up a lot worse than the situation with J.A. Happ.
Take a look.
J.A. Happ's injury this week was eerily similar to the one suffered by Brandon McCarthy last September. Pitching for the Oakland A's during their September drive to the AL West Division title, McCarthy got beaned in the head by a line drive off the bat of the Angels' Eric Aybar. And while it seemed like McCarthy would be okay at first, given the fact that he walked off the field on his own power, it was later discovered that he had a skull fracture, a brain contusion, and an epidural hemorrhage that required emergency brain surgery. So he's pretty fortunate to be back in the big leagues pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks this year.
9. Brandon McCarthy (2012)
Back in 2009, this former pitcher-turned-outfielder made an outstanding catch in center field on a line drive the by Phillies' Pedro Feliz. Then he crashed face-first into the center field wall of St. Louis' Busch Stadium. Though the guy apparently never lost consciousness, he laid motionless in center field for several minutes, which caused fans at home and in the stands to fear the worst. And although nobody thought the guy was going to be another Willie Mays or anything, after returning from this neck injury he was never the same. In 2008 Ankiel hit 25 home runs and was worth 1.9 wins above replacement. Since this scary incident he's hit no more than 11 home runs in a single season.
8. Rick Ankiel (2009)
In 1995 Pittsburgh Pirates outfielders Dave Clark and Jacob Brumfeld were involved in a nasty outfield collision that manager Jim Leyland called "one of the worst things [he'd] ever seen on a baseball field." After running into each other, Clark went face-first into the wall Ankiel-style, leaving him unconscious with a broken collarbone. Brumfeld, meanwhile, remained conscious, but he did lose a tooth.
If you're looking for something that sums up the last 21 years of Pirates baseball, I'd say this play is a good candidate.
7. Dave Clark and Jacob Brumfeld (1995)
Red Sox reliever Bryce Florie was beaned in the face by a liner off the bat of the Yankee's Ryan Thompson in September of 2000. The blow didn't just splatter blood across his face like some character in a horror film either. It also broke Florie's cheekbone and orbital socket. After that he played in just seven more major league games.
6. Bryce Florie (2000)
During spring training in 1986, the Mets' Mookie Wilson got beaned in the eye on a throw by teammate Rafael Santana during a base running drill. The force of the throw wasn't all that catastrophic, of course, but the ball hit Mookie's glasses and sent shards of glass into his eye—which sounds kind of painful.
Fortunately for Wilson and the Mets, Wilson missed only the first month of the 1986 season. Unfortunately for Bill Buckner and the Red Sox, that meant Wilson was available for Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
5. Mookie Wilson (1986)
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Herb Score was perhaps the most promising young pitcher in baseball for the first two seasons of his career. In 1955, as a 22-year-old rookie, he went 16-10 with a 2.85 ERA and an MLB-best 245 strikeouts. Then, in 1956, he went 20-9 with a 2.53 ERA and an MLB-best 63 strikeouts. So basically, it looked like the Indians had a future Hall of Famer on their hands.
Unfortunately, on May 7, 1957, Score was hit in the face by a liner off the bat of the Yankee's Gil McDougald. He would later return to pitch parts of five more seasons in the big leagues, but he was never dominant again.
4. Herb Score (1957)
Coming in at number three is a story similar to that of Herb Score. The only difference is that it involved a promising young hitter rather than a pitcher.
In 1965, at the age of 20, the Boston Red Sox's Tony Conigliaro cracked a league-leading 32 home runs. (This was, obviously, an era dominated by pitchers.) However, two years later he was hit in the eye by a Jack Hamilton fast ball, which broke his cheekbone, dislocated his jaw, and did serious damage to his eye. The injury knocked him out for the remainder of the 1967 season and the entirety of the 1968 season.
Conigliaro did manage to return for two more productive seasons in 1969 and 70, but after that his recurring vision problems forced an early retirement at the age of 26.
3. Tony Conigliaro (1967)
Speaking of early retirements...
In 2007 Juan Encarnacion wasn't the promising young hitter than Conigliaro was in 1967, but at the age of 31 the Dominican outfielder did have a lot of good baseball left in him. Just the previous year, in 2006, Encarnacion had hit 25 home runs and knocked in 79 RBI while batting .278 for the Cardinals and helping the team win its first World Series Championship since 1982.
However, everything changed for Encarnacion on August 31, 2007, when a foul ball off the bat of teammate Aaron Miles struck him on the side of the face while he was taking practice swings in the on-deck circle. According to the Cardinals' team doctor, the impact shattered Encarnacion's orbital bone like a crushed egg shell, and he never played another Major League game.
2. Juan Encarnacion (2007)
As terrifying as Encarnacion's career-ending injury was, the guy has to consider himself lucky compared to poor Ray Chapman. On August 16, 1920, the Cleveland Indians' shortstop was beaned in the temple by Yankees pitcher Carl Mays, and he died the next day.
To this day, Chapman is the only player in the history of Major League Baseball to die as the result of an on-field injury.