15 of the Unluckiest Moments in MLB History

Zachary PeterselFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2012

15 of the Unluckiest Moments in MLB History

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    Some of the unlucky moments on this list are funny and light-hearted, but as you get to the end of the list, the instances get more serious.

    Many of the game's greatest players had their careers cut short because of crazy, unfortunate instances that nobody could have prevented, while others lost their lives. 

    Baseball is a game of bounces and superstitions. The following 15 things represent some of the unluckiest moments the game has seen, and the ramifications on players' lives and the success of each franchise they were a part of felt serious after-effects. 

Arizona Diamondbacks: Randy Johnson Hits a Bird

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    Talk about unlucky timing.

    This incident is nowhere near as serious as any on the list in terms of effect on an MLB roster, but I felt it had to make the list because of how unique it is. 

    In spring training, Randy Johnson was pitching against the San Francisco Giants. As the video shows, a bird flew in the direct path of the ball, and it unfortunately died on the spot. 

Seattle Mariners: Josias Manzanillo Loses a Testicle

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    In 1997, Josias Manzanillo encountered a day no man would ever forget. 

    He was pitching against one of the best hitters in baseball in Manny Ramirez.

    The only problem was, Manny hit a line drive right back up the middle and hit Manzanillo in the groin area. 

    Manzanillo needed to have a testicle surgically removed but somehow managed to walk off the field under his own power.

    He has since been named the most courageous player in Seattle Mariners history.

Baltimore Orioles: Jeffrey Maier Catch

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    The Orioles were leading 4-3 in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Yankees.

    It was the eighth inning. Derek Jeter came up and drove a ball out to the short porch at the old Yankee Stadium, and a 12-year old kid, Jeffrey Maier, reached over Tony Tarasco's glove and brought the ball over the fence.

    Instead of ruling fan interference, umpire Rich Garcia ruled it was a home run to tie the score at four.

    The Yankees would go on to win the game in 11 innings and take the series in five games. 

    The video of the Jeffrey Maier catch can be seen here, and it will go down as one of the unluckiest moments not only in Orioles history but in baseball history as well. 

1969 Chicago Cubs: Black Cat Incident

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    For this video, you need to scroll ahead to around the 3:20 mark to see the story of the black cat that cursed the Cubs.

    The Cubs led for 157 games that 1969 season, but with the help of the cat, the Mets went on to overtake them.

    The 1969 Mets became the "Miracle Mets" and to this day they are one of the greatest underdog stories in the history of the game.

    As the Cubs in the video tell you, many believed it was over when the cat circled around Cubs third baseman Ron Santo in the on-deck circle.

New York Yankees: Mickey Mantle Trip on Sprinkler Head

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    It is hard to imagine just how good Mickey Mantle would have been had he not been injured so many times.

    536 home runs, 16 All-Star games and three MVP awards were just a few things Mantle accomplished after he tripped on a sprinkler head in 1951.

    His knee would need to be operated on (he had five procedures on his knee throughout his career), so it is incredible to think about what he could have accomplished if he had two healthy legs to play on. 

New York Yankees: The Infamous "Bug Game" in Cleveland

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    In the eighth inning of the 2007 ALDS between the Yankees and the Indians, a swarm of insects took center stage.

    The Yankees were up 1-0 and had their dominant set-up man Joba Chamberlain in the game ready to hand the ball off to Mariano Rivera to finish things off.

    All the bug spray in the world would not have helped Chamberlain that night, as the Indians rallied to score a run against him and eventually win the game 2-1. 

    Losing this game put the Yankees in an 0-2 hole in the series, and they were unable to recover. Had the bugs not appeared that night, it could have been a completely different series for the bombers.

San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey Collision

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    The Giants were a poor hitting team even when Buster Posey was healthy, but at least with him in the lineup it was good enough combined with their stellar pitching to consistently win games.

    The night of his injury, Posey was doing what catchers are taught to do—block the plate.

    It turns out, Scott Cousins was trying to do his job as well and did everything he could do to score a run. It was not a dirty play, but unfortunately for Posey and the Giants, Posey's leg got caught under his body and he suffered multiple leg injuries.

    After his injury, the Giants were not the same team. Just a year after winning the World Series, they failed to make the playoffs.

Cleveland Indians: Ray Fosse Injury After Colliding with Pete Rose

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    Ray Fosse was a promising young catcher who made the All-Star game in his first two seasons in the big leagues. 

    When the collision with Pete Rose happened in the 1970 Midsummer Classic, even though Fosse was able to make the 1971 All-Star game, he was never the same. 

    After 30 homers in his first two seasons, not to mention two Gold Glove awards, Fosse only hit 29 home runs in the following six seasons without any more Gold Glove awards or All-Star appearances.

    With "Charlie Hustle" running the bases, Fosse was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Cleveland Indians: Herb Score Drilled with Line Drive

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    In the book The Greatest Team Of All-Time, Mickey Mantle picked Herb Score as the toughest AL left-handed pitcher he faced, and Yogi Berra picked him for his "Greatest Team Of All-Time."

    Not bad for a guy who only had two full seasons at the top of his game.

    In his first two seasons, Score struck out 508 batters in 476 innings, holding the rookie record for strikeouts until Doc Gooden's rookie year in 1984.

    He went 36-19 and was already one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. 

    However, on May 7, 1957, Score was hit in the face by a line drive by New York Yankees hitter Gil McDougald and broke multiple bones in his face. While Score recovered his vision, he never fully recovered his ability.

    After the line drive, Score only pitched 345 innings with only 290 strikeouts and finished those five seasons with a record of 17-26.

    Here is a video describing the injury.

Houston Astros: Dickie Thon HBP in Head

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    Coming into the 1984 season, Dickie Thon was regarded as one of the best shortstops in the game

    However, after getting hit in the head with a pitch from Mike Torrez, he was never the same player. 

    Thon only played five games in that 1984 season, and after hitting 20 homers in 1983, he only cracked double-digits one more time in the following nine seasons.

    The Astros were so close to winning the pennant in 1986.

    If they had a healthy Dickie Thon in their lineup, who knows if he would have pushed them over the hump?

St. Louis Cardinals: Juan Encarnacion Hit by Line Drive in on-Deck Circle

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    Late in the 2007 season, Juan Encarnacion was standing in the on-deck circle like every other hitter has for over a century.

    This time, a foul ball came straight at him and hit him in the eye, fracturing his eye socket. Suffering from nerve damage around the eye, Encarnacion would miss the rest of the season and would never play in the MLB again. 

Boston Red Sox: Tony Conigliaro's Career Spirals After Getting HBP in Face

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    Tony Conigliaro was such an incredible young player, he had more than 100 home runs by the time he was 22. 

    Unfortunately, as the video describes, after getting HBP directly under his left eye, he was never able to have the career many expected after his first four seasons.

    Conigliaro may have ended up as the greatest power hitter of his time, but he was forced to retire at the age of 26 (with a 21-game stint trying to come back in Boston at age 30), because he just was not the same.

Minnesota Twins: Kirby Puckett Forced to Retire

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    Kirby Puckett is one of the greatest players in Twins history, if not the greatest. 

    Unfortunately for Puckett and the Twins, after getting hit in the face with a pitch during the 1995 season, his career came to a premature close.

    The following spring training, Puckett woke up without vision in his right eye, and he would never play another game. 

Pittsburgh Pirates: Roberto Clemente Plane Crash

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    The video above is the last hit Roberto Clemente ever got, as just three months later, making a trip to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua, Clemente died in a plane crash. 

    While Clemente was 37 years old, his batting average over the last four years of his career was .339, so he would have continued to be a perennial MVP candidate had he not tragically died trying to help the victims of another tragedy.

New York Yankees: Thurman Munson Plane Crash

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    As Captain of the Yankees, Thurman Munson led New York to three World Series appearances in a nine-year span, winning two in 1977 and 1978. 

    After his tragic plane crash the following season, the Yankees did not make another appearance in the Fall Classic until 1996.

    Munson represented the most popular organization in the world with class and dignity, and his heartbreaking death set the Yankees back at least a decade.