The weirdest injuries in baseball history

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Ryan Murphy

July 7th, 2020

The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a game since March 11, but they did win the award for weirdest press release of the year last week when they announced starting pitcher Jose Quintana was injured while washing dishes.

The veteran left-hander has since undergone microscopic surgery to repair a lacerated digital sensory nerve in his left thumb and is expected to be on the shelf for at least two weeks while he recovers.

As odd as Quintana’s injury was, it doesn’t even crack the top five weirdest baseball injuries of all time. Here are our favorite mishaps in MLB history.

Sammy Sosa’s sinister sneeze

Sammy Sosa was known for his herculean feats, but even he wasn’t strong enough to survive a violent sneezing fit back in 2004. The so-called "sneeze heard ‘round the world" resulted in a one-month stint on the DL and marked the beginning of the end of Sosa’s reign as one of baseball’s most feared sluggers.

Oddly enough, Sosa isn’t the only big leaguer to get sidelined by a sneeze. Former Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar also missed a number of games in 2015 after a gale-force sneeze caused him to strain an oblique.

Clarence Blethen’s giant pain in the ass

Baseball has changed in innumerable ways over the past century, but one of the less talked about developments is the staggering improvement in dental hygiene. Major league clubs no longer feature a bunch of raggedy toothless players whose gums are stained with tobacco juice and regret.

One such player was hurler Clarence Blethen, who made his debut for the Boston Red Sox in 1923. The slender right-hander used to take his dentures out of his mouth and pop them into his back pocket when pitching.

Blethen’s strategy came back to literally bite him in the ass that season when his false teeth tore into his backside while sliding into second base. The 29-year-old began bleeding like a stuck pig and needed to be removed from the game immediately. It remains, without question, one of the strangest self-inflicted injuries in MLB history.

Vince Coleman and the case of the killer tarp

Vince Coleman was one of the fastest base runners in major league history, but he wasn’t fast enough to outrun Busch Stadium’s automatic tarpaulin roller. The six-time stolen base champ was warming up on the field prior to Game 4 of the 1985 National League Championship Series when the 1,200 pound roller knocked him down and pinned him to the ground.

"You know how they say, 'When you’re in fear of your life, you don’t feel a thing?'" Coleman recalled. "This thing weighed a ton, and I didn’t feel anything, because I’m thinking it’s going to crush me."

Fortunately Coleman lived to tell the tale, but the incident left him with a broken left tibia, and prevented him from playing in the World Series, where his Cardinals fell to the Royals in seven games.

Steve Sparks does it by the book

Steve Sparks was more than just a knuckleballer; he was also a knucklehead. The right-hander nearly ended his career before it began when he attempted to rip a telephone book in half during his first spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1994.

"I figured if I kept my arm low I could do it," Sparks said. "I had it halfway ripped apart when my shoulder popped out. I got a pretty good tongue-lashing from (general manager) Sal Bando and (manager) Phil Garner."

The incident delayed Spark’s big league debut by a full season and led to a permanent spot on every journalists’ list of the weirdest sports injuries of all time.

Ken Griffey Jr. goes nuts

Ken Griffey Jr. made a name for himself crushing pitches, but the 13-time All-Star was equally famous for crushing his own testicle with his protective cup. The nutty incident occurred in the early 1990s when Griffey was plying his trade for the Seattle Mariners, and forced the future Hall of Famer out of the lineup for one game while he recovered.

Surprisingly, Griffey isn’t the only Mariner to suffer a ball-related injury. Relief pitcher Josias Manzanillo lost a testicle after being hit by a Manny Ramirez line drive in 1997, and third baseman Adrian Beltre was forced to go on the 15-day disabled list after taking a bad hop to his chicken tenders in 2019.

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