40 Most Horrifying Comebackers in Baseball History
Baseball, like any sport, has its risks and dangers associated with it. The players aren't tackling each other many times a game like in football, but there is always the risk of injury.
Perhaps, the worst thing to see happen is a pitcher get nailed by a comeback pitch. Often, there's no time to react to it with how fast the ball is traveling, and it can knock a pitcher out of a team's lineup indefinitely.
Here are 40 of the most horrific comebackers in baseball history.
Starting off with one of the most well-known ones, Herb Score was an up-and-coming pitcher for the Cleveland Indians and was set to replace Bob Feller as the team's ace. Any Hall of Fame plans got derailed in 1957.
On May 7, Yankees infielder Gil McDougald hit a line drive right back at him, giving Score a broken nose and plenty of vision problems, and he missed the rest of the season as well. He was never really the same as a pitcher after that and retired in 1962.
12-Year Old Pitcher
While many of the instances on this list will naturally be from the major leagues, comeback pitches are certainly not limited to there. Far from it, they can be found in the minors and in amateur ball.
Take this liner that occurs near the end of the video. The hitter was Nate Young, and the pitcher's name I was unable to find. The ball doesn't rocket to his face, but I'm sure that just made it all the more horrifying for the kid as it was coming back to him.
One of the most recent comebacks of note, Juan Nicasio was a promising rookie pitcher for the Colorado Rockies last year making his 13th start.
On August 5th, he got nailed by a line drive by Ian Desmond, resulting in a broken neck and threatening his career.
He has since recovered and is pitching this year but missed the rest of 2011.
Notre Dame Matchup
Comebackers happen in pro sports as well as little league, so naturally they happen at times in college as well.
The incident happened back in 2008, and I can't make one team or the players, though the team on the mound is Notre Dame.
One thing is certain, though, with how far the ball flew after it hit the pitcher, it made it all the more cringe-worthy.
The Metal Bat Incident
In March 2010, two California high school baseball teams squared off when the pitcher had a comebacker hit right to him. Because of the use of a metal bat, the ball was traveling about 130 miles an hour.
He was put in a medically induced coma, and that had to have opened up a debate on wood vs. metal bats in high schools, even though a ball to the head is a ball to the head no matter what type of bat was used.
Natick vs. Weston
Legion baseball, as with any other type of league, is no stranger to the comebacker either, unfortunately, as we see in this video.
In a Natick-Weston matchup from 2008, a batter hits a line drive right to the pitcher.
The camera doesn't show the direct hit, but you can hear the gasp of the crowds, and on top of the usual injuries we've seen, the pitcher suffered a broken rib as well.
Arizona State's Josh Spence
The more videos I watched researching this piece, the more I'm not a fan of aluminum or metal bats at the high school level or above, as comebackers are that much worse.
Take this one from Josh Spence, who had one hit to him in an Arizona State-Missouri college matchup in 2009.
He's now advancing quickly in San Diego's farm system and might make his major league debut soon, so it hasn't affected him since.
I would have to imagine that softball comebackers would be just as painful as any in baseball, since the ball travelling in a straight line allows for a stronger impact.
In this USSSA matchup, the pitcher gets hit in the face pretty much immediately.
She's fully conscious, and they're able to get her off the diamond rather quickly, so at least she wasn't knocked out cold like many other comebackers.
Taking One on the Shin
Not every horrifying comebacker is going to be one taken to the face. Yes, that's definitely the most horrifying way a comeback can be taken, but it's not exclusive.
In this 10U fastpitch softball match, the pitcher has a line drive deflect off the shin and go into the outfield.
The pitcher tries to get off before falling back down in pain a short while later, and that delay actually makes it a lot more cringe-worthy.
Taking One on the Chin
Sometimes, a ballplayer can get lucky, and what looks like a horrifying play in progress can go well, as it did in the case of Chillicothe Paints pitcher Stephen Shackleford.
In this video, the pitch takes a bounce before hitting him in the chin, allowing him time to not only get the hitter out, but get his glove up.
He was still shaken up, but it could have been much worse.
When you're dealing with a 10-and-under softball team, any comebacker is going to be a horrific injury. Some major league ballplayers can shrug off a shot to the arm or chest, but when it's kids, it does become a lot scarier.
In this video, the line drive is hit pretty hard, and it goes straight into the pitcher's stomach. She got the wind knocked out of her but shrugged it off, which is better than I probably would have don.
Had I gotten hit like that, I would probably be done for the day.
Dizzy Dean Baseball
As noted, the further down you go in the age bracket, the more types of comebackers that are horrifying. When you get to seven-year-olds playing Dizzy Dean baseball, any shot to a head is cringe-worthy.
This one is no exception, and in this case, the coach was on the mound tossing a pitch to one of the kids, who rockets a line drive to the head, bringing him down quick.
Kid on Deck
So far, all the shots have been a pitcher getting hit by the hitter. It makes sense, given that the pitcher threw the ball. When you're in the on-deck circle though, you presume you're safe from comebackers.
This was not the case for this kid, who got nailed by a line drive foul ball. He only suffered a concussion, but the hit makes it look like it could have been far worse.
Mike Mussina is a pitcher who had a great two decades of work and may yet be voted into the Hall of Fame. That nearly changed in 1998 during his time with the Baltimore Orioles.
He was hit with a line drive and missed nearly a month of time. He noted that the worst part was getting over the mental hump, namely, "It was mentally getting over the fear that every ball I threw, every ball that someone made contact with, was not coming back at me."
As I just noted, pitchers have to make sure that they can simply shrug off the idea of being hit with a line drive, since once that starts affecting them mentally, that's it.
Pat Neshek seemed to have the right idea here. In a college game, he got hit with a liner and surprisingly didn't go down. They took him out of the game, but it seemed more as a precaution then anything.
With that toughness, I'm surprised he didn't stick on a 40-man roster this year.
Steve Shields Part I
Journeyman major league reliever Steve Shields may have some of the worst luck, as he is unfortunate enough to make this list twice. The first instance is during his time in the Red Sox farm system.
While in Class-A ball, Shields was hit by a line drive. Video or photos aren't available of that, but as a result of that, he not only suffered a seizure, but had some memory loss as well.
Steve Shields Part II
In 1987, Steve Shields was finally able to stick with a major league team and pitched 20 games for the Seattle Mariners that season. In the second game of the season, he faced Kirby Puckett and the Minnesota Twins.
Puckett ended up lining the ball right into his cheek, breaking it. He missed a month due to the injury, and his ERA greatly inflated after his return. Ironically, in his last outing of the season, he faced a Puckett-less Minnesota lineup.
Willie Blair had both the highlight and lowlight of his career in 1997. He had a 16-8 record with the Detroit Tigers, and that was despite missing a month due to a comebacker.
In a May 4 game against the Cleveland Indians, Julio Franco hit a line drive off him, resulting in a broken jaw.
He was slated to be out six to eight weeks but was able to shrug off the injury to the best of his ability and come back June 3.
Making a Big Play
When it comes to YouTube channels for college athletics, I consider Vanderbilt's one of the best.
Pretty much any type of clip from any sport could be found if you look hard enough, and a comebacker is no exception.
In a game against Florida, Vanderbilt reliever Corey Williams took a shot to the knee, yet managed to make his way to the ball and throw it just hard enough so the first baseman could get the out.
It's an impressive move for a guy whose kneecap was just broken.
Shrugging off a Comebacker
When a pitcher shrugs off a comebacker to the stomach, or at least anywhere, that's not the face, it's nice to see. When they keep playing, it's impressive.
When you have this pitcher though, who gets hit with a line drive, then gets the ball and makes a diving toss to first base.
That's something I can't say I was expecting to see at all.
Kazuhisa Ishii is perhaps better known for his NPB career, but he did play for the Los Angeles Dodgers for a few years and the New York Mets for one. It was in his rookie year with the Dodgers that he had a bad comebacker.
On September 8 against the Houston Astros, he was hit in the face by a ball by Brian Hunter and ended up with a fractured skull, as well as a concussion, and he missed the rest of the season.
In baseball, there's one reason that you wear a cup. On the chance a ball heads right for that direction, you'll be protected. Josias Manzanillo was not quite as lucky.
During his time with the Seattle Mariners in early 1997, Manny Ramirez got him with a line drive right in the groin, tearing both testicles.
It's the type of injury where even writing about it makes me cringe.
Mark Gubicza was a long-time veteran of the Kansas City Royals for over a decade and one of the franchise's most well-known pitchers. His final season with the club, 1996, was cut short due to a comebacker.
On July 5 against the Minnesota Twins, Paul Molitor hit a liner into Gubicza's left leg, breaking it severely enough that he missed the rest of the season, and it marked the end of his career sans an attempted comeback with the Angels the following year.
Elite 24 U10
As noted, when you add kids into the equation of a comebacker, they become a lot more horrifying, such as this one.
In this 2007 video, the ball takes a rather strange angle as the pitcher falls from the liner. The pitcher played ball the next day, so at least he wasn't seriously hurt from that.
Before Billy Wagner became one of baseball's most dominant closers, he rose up as the Astros closer and was already doing a solid job, though the 1998 season threatened to derail that.
On July 15, he was hit by a comebacker in the head behind his ear and suffered a concussion.
He was conscious after the injury and spent the next few weeks on the disabled list, as well as working on his balance with physicians.
In 2010, David Huff was struggling and had a 2-6 record heading into the end of May, when he pitched against Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.
A-Rod hit a line drive that shot off Huff's head and went right into the outfield. It looked bad, but tests were negative and he was actually able to make his next scheduled start.
In 1995, Norm Charlton was a struggling reliever for the Philadelphia Phillies who was gradually bringing his ERA down during May. At the end of May, he faced Steve Finley and the San Diego Padres.
On May 27, he took a line drive to the forehead from Steve Finley, and a bloodied Charlton was eventually able to get up and make his way out of the game.
The ball, meanwhile, landed all the way in the Phillies' dugout.
Joe Martinez was a young rookie for the San Francisco Giants in 2009, and yet, was the victim of a comeback very early on in his career.
In just his second game, he was hit by a line drive off Mike Cameron, suffering hairline fractures and a concussion.
He did not play again in the major leagues until August.
Finishing the Play Despite Comebacker
I have found it interesting, so far, how for every horrifying comebacker video out there, there's one that seems horrifying when it happens, yet the pitcher continues the play in spite of that.
In this video, Griff Anderson clearly gets hit and falls for a second but seems to get right back up and finish the play.
I don't know whether it wasn't quite as bad as it seemed or if he was running on adrenaline, but either way, it's something to see.
While most of these took place during baseball season, Carlos Zambrano's brush with a comebacker came this past November in the Venezuelan League.
There, he got hit by a line drive and suffered soft tissue damage and received 18 stitches on the side of his mouth as well.
Matt Clement was having a career year in 2005, and with the Boston Red Sox, it seemed like his career was continuing to progress. That changed on July 26 in a game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Carl Crawford hit a line drive to Clement and was carried off the field on a stretcher.
He made his next start, but mentally he seemed done, and after struggling majorly in 2006, his major league career was over.
Hiroki Kuroda was in his second season for the Dodgers in 2009, and in August, was finally getting back on track after missing most of the first two months of the season.
On August 15 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Kuroda went down immediately on a ball hit by Rusty Ryal, and he was carried off on a stretcher. He ended up only missing a couple of starts, but at the time, it looked very bad.
Comebacker Puts 12-Year-Old in Coma
For the most part, the players we've seen so far either missed some playing time or were back to pitching pretty much immediately. Not everyone can be that lucky.
In 2006, Steven Domalewski was playing a game of baseball when a line drive off a metal bat hit his chest. It stopped his heart, and he fell into a coma, and he remained in a hospital for over eight months.
Bo McLaughlin was a pitcher in the late 1970s and early 1980s who spent his last two years with the Oakland Athletics. It was in his first season with them, 1981, that his career almost ended.
He was hit by a liner from the bat of Harold Baines on May 26. He was unconscious for a few minutes and was carried off on a stretcher and did not return to the mound until September.
Al Leiter had been a long-time veteran of the Mets rotation when, in 2004, he was hit by a line drive at the end of spring training.
He left the field on a golf cart and had some facial swelling along with some bad eye and head pain.
Aluminum Bat Comebacker Kills Pitcher
If anyone isn't sure about the dangers of aluminum bats, then all they would have to do is look at the tragic case of Brandon Patch in 2003.
When the 18-year old was playing American Legion ball, he was hit in the chest by a line drive, and later died of his injuries.
Whether it could have happened with a wood bat, the fact remains that he did not have time to react, and this and the following slide are just what they appear—very tragic situations dealing with comebackers.
Spectator Killed by Comebacker
When you are a spectator simply watching the game, you don't expect to be the victim of a comebacker, and even having that idea is horrifying, especially if it can become tragic.
Fourteen-year old Alan Fish was sitting along the first-base line at Dodger Stadium in 1970 when a line drive hit him.
He died of the injuries five days later, and it remains the only fatality from a hit ball in MLB history.
A couple of the people I'm going to add were not the pitchers themselves, but coaches who were unfortunately where the ball was travelling. Such was the case for Luis Salazar.
In a 2011 spring-training game pitting the Braves against the Cardinals, Brian McCann hit a liner right to Salazar.
The injury resulted in him losing an eye, though, he did return to his coaching duties later that year.
This was not a comebacker to the pitcher but as a comebacker to a first-base coach that went from horrifying to tragic all too quick. I felt it had to be included.
On July 22, 2007, Coolbaugh got hit by a line drive in the ninth inning of a Tulsa Drillers game, hitting an artery in his neck, essentially killing him on impact.
The tragedy led to the ruling that coaches had to wear helmets on the field the following year.
Saving perhaps one of the most gruesome and most well-known photos for last, Bryce Florie was a solid reliever who spent the 2000 season with the Boston Red Sox. He pitched most of the season without incident until the September 8th game that changed everything.
A hit by the Yankees' Ryan Thompson got him right in the face, causing broken bones, eye damage and the disturbing image above.
He tried mounting a comeback the following season but wasn't able to bounce back after such an injury.