Stanton Hopes For Better Result Than Conigliaro


Beanballs Can End Careers

 By John Ventola

Baseball injuries are usually not serious, particularly when compared with the more serious injuries that occur in the physical game of football. Pulled hamstrings, back problems, and other minor ailments often keep professional baseball players on disabled lists for short periods of time, but the worst baseball injury continues to be arm woes that require rest and rehabilitation or Tommy John surgery. Beanballs (a pitch that hits a batter in the head or face) do not happen often, but when they do, the consequences can end a career.

Watching film of Thursday night’s beaning of star Miami Marlins player Giancarlo Stanton by Milwaukee Brewers righthander Michael Fiers was gruesome. Stanton was hit right under his left eye by an inside fastball that kept moving inward as Stanton was


Stanton Hit Flush In The Face

striding into the pitch. His reaction time was zero. Stanton hit the ground, and rolled over as blood gushed from his nose and face. Fiers was noticeably shaken and hit the next Marlins player Reid Johnson also. Neither pitch appeared intentional as both Stanton and Johnson seemed to be aggressively diving into pitches. Fiers tweeted Stanton and his family repeatedly after the game to show his concern for Stanton’s injuries.

Stanton, who will turn 25 in November, is currently one of the best young players in the major leagues, leading the majors with 105 runs batted in and the National League with 37 home runs. There has been much speculation as to whether the Marlins would sign Stanton to a new multi-million dollar contract after the season or trade him to another franchise. If traded, Stanton, before the beaning, would have almost been able to name his price. A young five-tool player, Stanton has power, hits for average, runs well, has a strong arm and is an outstanding outfielder. He had it all going for him.

The beaning of Stanton was eerily similar to the beaning of young 22-year-old Boston Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro in August, 1967. Conigliaro, who had already established himself as a star, combined with Carl Yastrzemski to lead the Red Sox that year as they won the American League pennant. He had hit 104 home runs in the first years of his career. Hit in the face at exactly the same spot Stanton was hit, Conigliaro missed the World Series that year against the St. Louis Cardinals, and struggled in his return to the game the following year. The pitch from the Angels Jack Hamilton shattered some facial bones, leaving Conigliaro with a black left eye for quite a while. Despite his willingness to try, Conigliaro had visual difficulties and would not return to his pre-beaning form. He only hit 62 more home runs before retiring.

Conigliaro’s future was bright, just like Stanton’s before today’s game. This writer is praying that Stanton will have a better recovery than Conigliaro and be able to return to baseball with his batting skills intact. Medical reports were not immediately available,


Beanings Can Be Devastating

but video showed Stanton had made his stride and was facing the ball when it hit him flush in the face. Just like Conigliaro forty-seven years earlier, Stanton was carried off the field on a stretcher.

Amazingly, New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley was hit in the face last night also. He suffered a laceration on his chin as he apparently was turning away from the pitch when hit. Teammate Derek Jeter, who will be retiring at the end of the season, was hit in the arm also during the Yankees win that keeps them in the playoff race.

A ball to the face never feels good. Fortunately, an errant throw or a bad hop only result in a few stitches most of the time. A tooth or two is sometimes involved, as I can painfully attest. Hitters always have to be alert for the high hard one or a running two-seam fastball. On the opposite side of the hitter-pitcher confrontation, the hurler has to throw his pitch, and then use proper mechanics to make sure he is ready to glove any ball hit on the ground or directly at him. There have been a few cases where the pitcher does not react quickly enough, or the ball glances off his glove and hits him somewhere on the body, leg, arm, or shoulder, but rarely the face. As a former collegiate pitcher, I can say I fielded my position fairly well, but pulled out my best matador moves on some liners up the middle.

Herb Score (my first baseball idol) was a tremendous left hand pitcher with the Cleveland Indians when he was struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Yankees shortstop Gil McDougald in May, 1957. Score, who had the same overpowering overhand motion that Sandy Koufax used to dominant hitters, led the major leagues in strikeouts during the 1955 and 1956 seasons. He went 36-19 with 508 strikeouts his first two years in the majors. He was enjoying the same success early in his third season when he threw a fastball to McDougald, followed through, looked up, and only saw a white blur.

Score, like Conigliaro, tried to make a comeback, but won only nineteen more games in his career. He became an Indians broadcaster for thirty-three years after he retired as a player. Score was 24 and Conigliaro was 22 when their outstanding careers were derailed by baseballs to the face. Considering their early statistics, both were destined to go on to the baseball Hall of Fame if they had not been injured.

Stanton is pretty much in the same situation as Score and Conigliaro when they suffered their injuries. He had a great career in front of him. Hopefully, medical advances over the past fifty years can help Stanton reestablish himself in all the areas needed to compete again. Vision plays a big part in baseball success, but mental scars from going through such a devastating injury can sometimes provide a bigger obstacle than sight recovery.

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