This is a tough story for me to write, not because of the personal connection or the difficult content but because my memory isn’t so great these days and most of the story came to me second hand. First the new rule:
OFFICIAL BASEBALL RULE 7.13
COLLISIONS AT HOME PLATE
(1) A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the Umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the Umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the Umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.
Rule 7.13 Comment: The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 7.13. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 7.13. A slide shall be deemed appropriate, in the case of a feet first slide, if the runner’s buttocks and legs should hit the ground before contact with the catcher. In the case of a head first slide, a runner shall be deemed to have slid appropriately if his body should hit the ground before contact with the catcher.
(2) Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the Umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.
Now let’s take a look back in time…
A long time ago in a town not so far away…
It was a warm spring morning and I woke up before my mother was able to turn on the lights and kick the bed to wake me up, (her normal routine.) I realize I’m partially dressed in my baseball uniform.
My first thought was, “Why the #&$! am I in my baseball uniform?!”
So mom hears me and comes into the room and asks how I feel.
I felt like I had been run over by a truck.
Mom doesn’t say much, just that I need to shower as I had a doctor appointment and needed to start moving. I asked what had happened and got no response. Apparently she had instructions to keep quiet so as to test my recovery.
I felt like I was in the Twilight zone.
Everyone looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ear. (Christmas Story reference for a member of the Noise Nation Staff who has yet to see this classic)
We get to the doctor’s office, everyone there was smiling.. cracking jokes about “What day it was” and still, no one would tell me what happened. In fact, I wouldn’t find out what really happened until about a week later when I was allowed back to school. I can bore you with details of a week full of repeating myself, checking the newspaper to make sure what day it really was, trying to sneak more Tylenol to deal with the terrible headache I had and dealing with the brain fog that I couldn’t escape.
About a week later I go back to school. Back to normal, so I thought… friends, school, terrible cafeteria food. All of that was still there but I was missing one key thing and it hit me about 20 minutes in the first class of the day. I had no memory of anything from that school year. No Chemistry, no Literature, not even who I went to the Junior Prom with. Keep in mind I was about a week from Final exams. I was dealing with it well right up until my Trigonometry teacher asked me what happened. I had no idea. (I ended up not having to take the finals..)
Luckily, our centerfielder was in the class and explained it to them, and me. The opposing team had a runner on second with 2 outs late in a close game. A line drive to right field set the path for the runner and a very strong throw came into me, (I was the catcher) beating the runner by about 10 feet. My mask was off but the skull cap style of catcher’s helmet was still on. As it was described to me, the runner made his intentions well known as he leaned forward for the hit and I responded by moving up the baseline leading with my shoulder. We hit. The momentum flipped me back, the helmet flew off and my head snapped back and hit home plate.
When the dust settled I was flat on my back and out cold.
The umpire opened my glove revealing the I had held the ball and called the runner out.
A few old guys from the American Legion carried me to their car and drove me to the town doctor where I stayed until they could locate my mom. For weeks after this happened I was regaled with amusing stories of how I behaved that infamous night.
Concussions back then were not viewed as serious as they are today.
Could you imagine a 16 year old being knocked cold during a sporting event and an ambulance not being called? Even after getting to the doctor that same kid not being sent to the hospital for an MRI or CAT Scan, rather watching TV with the Doctor’s wife. It’s classic stuff right there along with no seat belts and jumping your Big Wheels Evel Knievel style into a swimming pool.
The brain fog eventually lifted, I went on to a life and career and it didn’t impact me too much but I still don’t remember anything from that year.
That experience comes back to me every time I see an athlete receive a concussion. I can relate and I am all for more stringent rules and medical evaluations when it comes to concussions and other serious injuries. Playing with injuries is foolish. Money involved or not these are still just games. Lives are not at stake. It pains me each time I hear an athlete speak of sporting events as “Battle” or “War” and having to play through pain. Sports are not war. I’ve seen both and it’s not even remotely close.
This new collision rule that MLB created is long overdue.
That’s all I have to say about that.