As an ex-baseball player, I can safely say that there is nothing more terrifying than looking down the barrel of a pitcher's gun, his bullet being a freakishly fast pitch coming right at your head.
Forget having the potentially last out of the big game be hit your way or even being up to bat with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning. If you want to make a baseball player shake in his cleats, throw a ball directly at him without warning.
Still, I will give beanballs their due credit. Despite being scary and often quite painful, they do provide for some good baseball entertainment from a fan's perspective. I mean, come on. How many of us here didn't think that Sammy Sosa getting hit in the head and staying on his feet despite the shattered helmet was at least kind of awesome?
Thus, let's give these unfortunate events a moment of glory and take a look at the nastiest hit-by-pitches in modern baseball history.
On May 19, 2011, the New York Yankees engaged in what turned out to be an epic showdown with the Baltimore Orioles. After being deadlocked at 1-1 most of the game, the Yankees finally took the lead in the top of the 15th inning and had a runner on third with nobody out. At that point, reserve outfielder Chris Dickerson stepped in to face Baltimore left-hander Mike Gonzalez.
On a 1-1 pitch, Gonzalez threw a 93-mph fastball that hit the bill of Dickerson's helmet and sent the big outfielder to the ground. Despite the fact that Baltimore had no other pitchers reportedly available, the home-plate umpire threw Gonzalez out of the game. As a result, manager Buck Showalter sent regular starter Jeremy Guthrie to the mound on what would have been an off-day under normal circumstances.
Dickerson came out of the game and his pinch-runner was, of all people, pitcher A.J. Burnett. It was not only a scary moment in general, but also one that resulted in one of baseball's funniest moments.
In the end, Dickerson escaped with his head on his shoulders and just a mild concussion, not to mention a welt near the eye. The entire ordeal can be viewed here.
Here we have another instance of Sammy Sosa getting beaned in the head. This one occurred during his final season, his 2007 campaign with the Texas Rangers.
In terms of scary beanballs, this one really isn't that bad. Sosa just falls to one knee rather than right to the ground like most batters would after taking a shot to the noggin.
Still, the fact that the video was taken from a far-ish distance and the sound of the ball hitting the helmet is that loud makes this beaning one that stays with you for a while.
Based on the look on his face in that picture, it's beyond obvious that Mark Teixeira is not feeling 100 percent comfortable. That's understandable considering how this picture was taken mere seconds after a 90-mph pitch from Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester hit him square on the right knee. The All-Star first baseman had to come out of the game and missed a couple of days as a result.
This hit-by-pitch is tame compared to others, but the reaction is what puts it on this list. Having watched it at home, the camera's microphones picked up Teixeira screaming "OW!!!" perfectly and all fans watching at home cringed.
For those who are feeling brave, the video may be seen here.
Los Angeles Angels prospect Mike Trout has a knack for knowing how to get on base, be it by a base hit, a walk or even a hit by pitch. In this particular case, we're going to focus on when he got beaned in the minors while playing for the A-ball Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
I've heard of players getting hit and doing a little bunny-hop dance or maybe falling to the ground, if there's any reaction at all. But to get literally spun around full-circle? That's got to be one nasty pitch to elicit a reaction like that.
Fast forward to about 1:57 into the video, and you'll see just what this one pitch does to Trout.
There's nothing awesome about being hit in the face with a pitch. I'm guessing pitcher Evan Meek (currently of the Pittsburgh Pirates) and catcher/infielder Todd Jennings (last seen in the independent Atlantic League) didn't get that memo when they were playing against each other in the minors and this unfortunate incident occurred.
Still, you have to give Jennings credit for getting up so soon after getting hit by a fireballer like Meek.
It was the fifth and final game of the 2000 NLCS and the New York Mets were beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-0. Even though the game was basically over and the Mets would be representing the National League in what would ultimately be coined "The Subway Series," Cardinals closer Dave Veres uncorked a fastball that was just a bit too inside.
Of course, when I say too inside, I mean it nailed outfielder Jay Payton right above the left eye and opened up a nasty cut. Sure enough, Payton popped right up and charged the mound as blood streamed down his face.
Veres claimed that it was an accident, but I'm having a hard time believing that since his WHIP that year was a solid 1.18. Still, regardless of intent, this HBP was nasty not only because it literally drew blood, but because of the result afterward.
For the past few years, Vicente Padilla has developed a reputation as a headhunter. If he's having a bad game, he chooses to take his anger out on hitters and throw at them instead of regaining focus on pitching well for the rest of the contest.
The Padilla beaning I've chosen to spotlight occurred on April 16, 2010 at Dodger Stadium. After a first inning that saw San Francisco Giants starter Todd Wellemyer throw dangerously close to outfielder Matt Kemp's chin, Padilla waited until the fifth inning to get his revenge.
In the top of the fifth, the Dodgers were up 7-2 and the Giants had two runners on with one out as Aaron Rowand stepped up to bat. On the first pitch, Padilla threw an 86-mph pitch that "mysteriously" connected with Rowand's cheek. When the dust settled, Rowand had a fractured cheekbone and a concussion.
Though he may not be a household name, Boston Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves is packing some heat behind that fastball. Chicago Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd learned that the hard way, when a 92-mph pitch from Aceves smacked him square in the face and he was forced to leave the game. It was so bad that even Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis was wincing.
Sure enough, Byrd was placed on the 15-Day-DL the very next day with "multiple facial fractures."
Whether it's a soft-toss or a 98-mph heater, getting hit in the face with a baseball hurts. There was no exception in September 2010 when the Chicago White Sox faced the Minnesota Twins and first baseman Paul Konerko got nailed by pitcher Carl Pavano's 89-mph fastball.
Not only did the ball come high and tight, but it found a way to connect with Konerko's jaw. The White Sox captain and first baseman dropped to the ground and was stunned for about 30 seconds before getting up and insisting that he stay in the game. He did and hit a home run his next at bat.
Still, the beaning was enough to make some of us rub our own jaws as we could almost feel Konerko's pain.
Take a look at Jimmy Rollins' face in this picture as the ball hits him square on the nose and between the eyes. Does he look like he's having a good time?
Nope, I didn't think so either.
On April 21, 2003, one of the craziest moments in baseball history occurred. In a game that pitted the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates against each other at PNC Park, Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa stepped up to bat in the fourth inning against Pirates pitcher Salomon Torres.
Torres threw high and inside and hit Sosa in the head, but here's the crazy part. The pitch was so fast and hard that Sosa's helmet shattered into pieces. Even crazier, Sosa stayed on his feet.
He was removed from the game and taken to a nearby hospital after walking off the field on his own. Thankfully, he had only received a couple of small cuts from the helmet pieces. Still, the fact that such a thing could happen in baseball definitely made hitters think twice about crowding the plate, or at least improve on their reaction time.
In the summer of the 2000 season, the New York Yankees and New York Mets met for their usual "Subway Series." In the top of the second inning of this particular game, at Yankee Stadium, power-hitting catcher Mike Piazza was up to bat against Yankees ace Roger Clemens.
On an 0-1 pitch, Clemens threw a 92-mph pitch that hit Piazza square in the helmet and sent the 6'3" catcher tumbling to the ground, where he lay in a daze for a few seconds. Eventually, Piazza was helped off the field and put on the disabled list with a concussion. As a result, he was forced to miss that year's MLB All-Star Game.
This beaning evolved into a rivalry that reached its boiling point in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series, where both teams faced off against each other. With Piazza at the plate, the Mets catcher shattered his bat as he hit a ball that rolled foul. Clemens then picked up the barrel of the bat and tossed it towards Piazza and the two exchanged words.
And to think that such actions all resulted from one beanball.
He may be a pitcher by trade, but Micah Owings is so talented as a hitter that he actually took home a Silver Slugger Award in 2007, when he hit .333 with four home runs and 15 RBI. The man is so talented at the plate that he is often used as a pinch-hitter, as he was on September 6, 2009. In the game, his then-team, the Cincinnati Reds, were tied 2-2 against the Atlanta Braves with the bases loaded and one out in the 12th inning.
After working the count 2-2, Owings was then drilled on the earflap of his helmet by a 92-mph pitch from Braves hurler Kenshin Kawakami. Sure enough, he went down like a sack of potatoes and literally sat in the batter's box for a few minutes as the training staff checked to make sure he was OK.
He exited the game and luckily did not have a concussion, but just a perforated eardrum. Still, this beaning was pretty scary.
Poor Mark Reynolds. The man can't seem to catch a break. When he's good, he hits home runs and when he's off, all he does is strike out. Without a middle ground, he just can't win.
To add insult to injury, in 2010, he got clipped with a 95-mph fastball that left him with a cut above the left eye.
In July 2009, the San Diego Padres were tied 1-1 in a game against the Colorado Rockies. Infielder Edgar Gonzalez was up to bat against Colorado right-hander Jason Hammel, and the rest is history.
Hammel's 93-mph fastball got away from him and struck Gonzalez square on the head, knocking him flat on his back for a few minutes. He was eventually helped to his feet and taken out of the game, later being diagnosed with a concussion. He was placed on the disabled list and missed seven weeks as a result.
How is this beanball nastier than some of the other shots to the head we've seen thus far? Well, I forgot to mention one important facet of this HBP. When Gonzalez left the game, it was by means of him being carted off the field.
OK, so maybe there's one thing more terrifying than being hit by a pitch: being hit by a pitch thrown by Randy Johnson. The 6'10" lefty was known to throw over 100-mph and during a spring training game in 2001, a passing dove learned that the hard way.
Then pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnson threw his pitch just as the dove was flying a few feet in front of home plate. Unfortunately, the bird met an unfortunate end as Johnson's pitch struck it right as it was about to move out of the vicinity and the feathers went flying everywhere.
Yes, it's awful that an innocent animal died in this instance, but one must admit that the absurdity of it all is kind of funny.
On August 15, 2009, the New York Mets faced the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field. In the top of the fourth inning, with the game scoreless and a man on first with no one out and the count 0-2, Matt Cain's 93-mph fastball slipped and beaned Mets third baseman and fan favorite David Wright on the side of the helmet.
Naturally, Wright fell to the ground and lay face down for a bit before laying on his back as the training staff examined him. Despite sustaining what was later determined to be a concussion, he walked off the field, albeit with some assistance.
Having actually been at this game, I can tell you that the entire place was deathly silent immediately following what happened. On top of that, despite being way up in the nosebleeds, I could hear the crack of the ball hitting the helmet.
Footage of the hit can be seen here.
The next two are famous for being serious enough to derail careers, but they're important inclusions to end on since they highlight how dangerous a hit-by-pitch can really be.
Considering how popular a player Kirby Puckett was, the way his career ended just seems unfair. His last career at-bat occurred on September 28, 1995 in a game that featured his Minnesota Twins against the Cleveland Indians.
Against pitcher Dennis Martinez, Puckett was up at bat looking to get his 100th RBI on the year. Instead, he got hit in the face with a fastball and was on the ground with a bloody nose and mouth.
It turned out that Martinez's pitch had broken Puckett's upper jaw and had also burst an artery in his mouth. Unfortunately, it would be the last at-bat of Puckett's career as in an even crueler twist of fate, he was diagnosed with glaucoma during spring training the following year and retired from the game in July.
No pictures or videos of this beaning could be found, but apparently it was so bad that Martinez almost asked to be taken out of the game.
1967 was a memorable season for the Boston Red Sox, who would eventually represent the American League in the World Series after clinching the pennant on the last day of the season. Unfortunately, there was a major bump on the road to the World Series as All-Star outfielder Tony Conigliaro was out from August 18 of that season up until the start of the 1969 campaign due to a horrific beanball.
On that fateful day, the Red Sox were facing the California Angels at Fenway Park and Conigliaro stepped up to face Jack Hamilton in the fifth inning. Hamilton's pitch hit Conigliaro on the left cheekbone and immediately rendered him unconscious. The popular outfielder was just 22 years old at the time and was hitting .287 with 20 home runs and 67 RBI.
He was carried off the field on a stretcher and was later diagnosed with a fractured cheekbone, dislocated jaw and severe damage to the retina. The severity of the injury was later blamed on the lack of protection for his face, as batting helmets back then did not have the protective flap we see today.
Even worse, even after he came back in 1969, Conigliaro was never the same and was forced to retire at age 26 in 1971.