The Angels will finish the “first half” of the season against the Seattle Mariners. One of the best hitters on the M’s this year is former Angel, Kendrys Morales. And when I think of Kendrys Morales, I immediately think back to May 29, 2010. The Mariners were in town for a three-game series, and the May 29 game was a marquee match-up featuring Jered Weaver against Felix Hernandez. The game was a pitchers’ duel that was tied at one run apiece through nine innings. The bases were loaded in the bottom of the tenth inning for the Angels’ first baseman, Morales. He hit the first pitch he saw from Mariners’ closer Brandon League to deep center field. The Anaheim crowd went nuts. The Angels came out onto the field to celebrate Morales’ walk off grand slam. Morales rounded third, flipped off his helmet, and jumped high into the air to put an exclamation on the run that would score once his foot touched home plate. The problem was, his cleats slipped on the hard plastic base, his ankle twisted, and his 225-pound body drove it into the plate and burst all kinds of pieces that hold an ankle together. He would need two surgeries and two years to heal before he could play baseball again.
Players jump onto home plate to celebrate walk off victories all the time, but Angels fans shouldn’t have been too surprised that Morales seriously injured himself on such a benign play: the Angels suffer from a bizarre injury curse.
We saw it rear its ugly head earlier this year at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington when Jered Weaver broke his elbow ducking out of the way of a Mitch Moreland comebacker that came screaming into Weaver’s follow-though.
In August of 1997 Angels pitcher Chuck Finley slipped while running to back up home plate, fell awkwardly and broke a bone in his wrist and was out for the remainder of the season.
Or how about 1981, when Angels relief pitcher Don Aase sneezed so hard on September 22 that he dislocated a rib?
In 1994, Angels pitcher Steve Sparks was demonstrating to his teammates how he could rip a telephone book apart with his bare hands. Turns out the telephone book tore up Sparks’ shoulder instead and the knuckleball pitcher missed almost the entire season due to the injury.
In 1982, Angels pitcher Dave Goltz sliced a finger on the toilet paper dispenser in the Fenway Park clubhouse and missed three weeks.
After the Angels had clinched the first playoff spot in franchise history in 1979, starting pitcher Jim Barr went to a restaurant and celebrated with Angels fans by punching a prop that consisted of a toilet seat and the message: Flush the Royals! Barr thought the toilet seat was cardboard. Turned out to be the real deal, and Barr broke his hand and was unable to play for the Angels during the playoffs.
In 1964, Angels relief pitcher Bob Lee broke his hand at Fenway Park during a game when he punched a rowdy Red Sox fan who was heckling the Angels pitchers.
Lest you think that Angels pitchers have borne the brunt of this curse, position players like Morales have had their fair share of suffering through the years as well. In 1962, outfielder Ken Hunt was stretching his arms by holding his bat behind his shoulders while on deck in a spring training game and broke his collar bone. He healed in time to rejoin the team right before the season ended.
When the great Baltimore Orioles second baseman Bobby Grich became a free agent, he signed with the Angels. In the winter just before spring training with his new team, Grich herniated a disk in his back while moving an air conditioning unit in his apartment. He tried to play through the pain, but he couldn’t, and had surgery to repair his back in July.
Another big Angels free agent signing was that of Mo Vaughn prior to the 1999 season. In the first inning of his first game with the Angels, the Indians were visiting the Angels and Omar Vizquel popped up over by the first base dugout. Vaughn raced over, and with his eye on the ball, stepped onto the steps leading down into the dugout. He didn’t catch the ball, but he did fall all the way to the bottom of the Indians’ dugout while remaining on his feet. He sprained his ankle, however, and took himself out of the game in the sixth inning when his ankle was just too stiff to walk on. His ankle would bother him for the majority of the season. Angels management put up a fence in front of the dugouts to prevent any further similar mishaps, much to the chagrin of Mike Butcher.
The Vaughn incident was a case of the curse double dipping in 1999 because earlier that year it took out Angels shortstop Gary Disarcina. Just a few days into spring training, after Disarcina had taken his batting practice hacks in the morning, he walked by first base coach George Hendrick who was hitting fungoes to infielders. As Disarcina was walking, the follow-through on Hendrick’s swing smacked into Disarcina’s forearm and broke it. “You see that happen and it kind of changes the mood of the team in a hurry,” outfielder Darin Erstad said in the locker room the day it happened. “This is as freaky as it gets.”
“I guess I passed the baton to DiSar,” Finley said referring to his broken wrist a few months before. “It’s always somebody around here.”
Thanks to Joe Haakenson’s excellent book, 100 Things Angels Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, Mike DiGiovanna’s April 7, 1999 Los Angeles Times article “Mo Falls, Angels Get Up,” and also his February 22, 1999 Los Angeles Times article, “Disarcina Breaks Bone in Forearm.”