We Remember: Freakish St. Louis Cardinals Injuries


Cardinals 3B David Freese is scheduled to make his triumphant return to the lineup tonight against the Baltimore Orioles.  This return comes after yet another David Freese injury that landed him on the DL.

This time, it was a broken hand…but it was one of several odd injuries sustained by David Freese over his relatively young career.  The oddest came late last season, when Freese dropped a weight on his left foot during a rehab stint (yes, during a different injury), breaking the captain toe and ending his season.

Freese’s return to the lineup tonight prompted us to remember several freakish injuries to hit the Cardinals organization over the past 20 years.

Below are some of the most memorable…

Vince Coleman and The Tarp

Year: 1985
Injury: Broken leg

Let’s start this list off with a bang (intentional Vince Coleman fireworks pun) with perhaps the infamous Cardinals injury of them all.  After becoming an unexpected spark all season for the 1985 Cardinals, speedster Vince Coleman suffered the ultimate ironic injury when he got his leg caught in the freakishly slow automatic tarp machine before Game 4 of the NLCS versus the Dodgers.

The injury kept the eventual Rookie of the Year out of the lineup through the rest of the NLCS and the World Series and resulted in endless “caught stealing” headlines.

Bob Gibson and Roberto Clemente

Year: 1967
Injury: Broken Leg

In the middle of the 1967 season, Bob Gibson was struck above the right ankle by a Roberto Clemente line-drive.  Gibson pitched to three more batters before collapsing on the mound with a shattered fibula.  He healed, came back in September and won the World Series MVP.

Freakin’ nails.

John Tudor and The Fan

Year: 1985
Injury: Sliced Hand

For as good as he was throughout the 1985 season, Tudor was horrific in Game 7 of the ’85 World Series (you know, the game after that one thing happened).  He was pulled from the game in the third inning of an 11-0 destruction by the Royals.  His post-game tantrum included punching an electric fan that cut his pitching hand.

To his credit, at least he waited until the season was over and refrained from making his target Don Denkinger’s beanbag.

Danny Cox and The Seawall

Year: 1986
Injury: Broken Ankle

Danny Cox suffered a bone chip in his right ankle after jumping off a seawall while fishing in St. Petersburg, Florida – the location of the Cardinals Spring Training facility.  Cox missed the first two months of the 1986 season.

One look at his 80’s facial hair and suddenly a picture of him leaping off of a seawall while wrangling fish makes sense.

Jack Clark and The Tag Dodge

Year: 1987
Injury: Strained Ankle

’87 was a career year for Jack Clark; hitting 35 home runs, driving in 106 RBI and leading the league with a .459 OBP. He accomplished all that despite missing 31 games due to a nagging ankle injury he suffered while trying to dodge a tag at first base by future-Cardinals first baseman, Andres Galarraga.

The half slide, half belly-flop tore up Clark’s right ankle and limited him to only one plate appearance during the ’87 playoffs.

John Tudor and The Lyons

Year: 1987
Injury: Broken Leg

Tudor never matched his ’85 dominance, partly because of a freak injury caused by Mets catcher, Barry Lyons in ’87.  Lyons slid into the Cardinals’ dugout trying to catch a foul ball and crashed into Tudor, who wasn’t even pitching in the game.

Lyons broke Tudor’s leg and sidelined him for close to four months, which was even more ironic because Cardinals fans hated the Mets real catcher, Gary Carter, way more than Barry Lyons.

Geronimo Pena and His Own Glove

Year: 1995
Injury: Separated Shoulder

Every year he entered spring training with the Cardinals, it was a waiting game to see how Geronimo Pena would suffer a freakish injury.  He rarely disappointed; racking up just 378 games in 7 Major League seasons.  Our personal favorite was when he separated his shoulder in spring training after tripping on his own glove…while he was wearing it.

Frankly, we’re still not sure how that’s even possible, so we’ll abstain from evaluating it further.

Mike Matheny and The Knife

Year: 2000
Injury: Lacerated Right Ring Finger

Despite being considered “The Toughest Man Alive” across baseball circles, Matheny missed the remainder of the ’00 season after slicing his hand with a hunting knife while opening a birthday present.  Because he missed the playoffs, this injury also paved the way for Rick Ankiel’s implosion.

For better or worse, baseball players learned an important lesson from Matheny’s injury: during the season, open birthday presents with your bare hands, not devices usually reserved for gutting a deer.

Julian Tavárez and The Dugout Phone

Year: 2004
Injury: Broken Hand

Tavárez suffered breaks in his left ring finger and fifth metacarpal after punching a phone in the Cardinals dugout after he was pulled from Game 4 of the ’04 NLCS. To his credit (well, and because he’s nuttier than squirrel poop), Tavárez played the rest of the ’04 postseason with a protective wrap in his glove.

Heck, the guy had enough courage to go out there and surrender a game winning HR to Mark Bellhorn and the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Series.

Scott Rolen and The Hee-Seop Choi

Year: 2005
Injury: Tore Shoulder Labrum

Who would have known that a simple and potentially avoidable run-in with Cubs Dodgers South Korean first basement Hee-Seop Choi in May 2005 would potentially pave the way for Scott Rolen to be shipped out of St. Louis.   But the seemingly harmless collision caused recurring shoulder injuries that kept him out the majority of 2005, and reappeared late in 2006 ultimately causing a rift between Rolen and Tony LaRussa.

So, using the transitive property, the reason that Scott Rolen is having an MVP-caliber season in Cincinnati instead of St. Louis is Hee Seop Choi.

Brad Penny and The Grand Slam

Year: 2010
Injury: Upper Back Strain

The Cardinals have traded first place in the National League Central with the Cincinnati Reds a handful of times already in 2010, but they’re division-presence may be more stable if Brad Penny, their Opening Day #3 starter, remained healthy. But during his ninth start, Penny injured his back doing probably the last thing one would expect a Major League pitcher to do – stroking a grand slam.  He hasn’t pitched since.

JD Drew and Whatever

Year: Whenever
Injury: Whatever

JD was placed on the DL during that one season when he suffered a crucial injury to his body while doing something.

He went through an extended rehab stint and made his way back to the lineup before tweaking a past injury and sustaining another setback.

That’s all we know.




  • Averagejoe says:

    How could a list of Cardinals injuries be complete without Donovan Osborne? He once hurt himself in a car accident, but my favorite was during the 1996 celebrations, he cut his finger.

    “In 1996, Ray Lankford tore the rotator cuff in his left shoulder making a diving catch on the second-to-last day of the regular season, and pitcher Donovan Osborne cut his pitching hand when he pulled a broken bottle of champagne out of a box during the clinching celebration.”

    via: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/09/29/sports/main237423.shtml

    Still, a great list.

  • mattsebek says:

    Ah, nice call on the Donovan Osborne injury. Clear oversight.

  • While more horrific than freakish, Juan Encarnacion’s career ending eye injury in 2007 should probably be mentioned.

    From Wikipedia:

    “The injury was regarded by the Cardinals’ head team physician, Dr. George Paletta, to be the worst injury he’d ever seen to the face on a baseball player. Paletta said the eye socket was essentially crushed on impact, comparing the injured area to the disintegration of an egg shell or ice cream cone, and that the optic nerve had sustained severe trauma. Paletta also said the eyeball had not been ruptured.”


  • filth says:

    one very specific – and perhaps most outrageous – of j.d. drew’s myriad of ailments was the incident where he missed time due to a strained neck. ever the man’s man, he came upon the affliction whist swimming in a friend’s pond. i guess the next mickey mantle hadn’t yet saved up enough shiny nickels from his contract to buy that above ground pool from lowes he’s had his eye on…

  • sophiachen says:

    That’s all we know.

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