You have probably watched the first bizarre injury of the 2011 season a dozen times. It starts with 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton anchored on third after legging out an RBI triple to right-center. Now, Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre lofts a high foul halfway up the third-base line. Tigers catcher Victor Martinez and third baseman Brandon Inge converge. Inge calls him off. The players are perhaps two feet apart when Inge makes the catch.
But wait ... righthander Brad Penny is watching the play unfold from the mound, which makes him 60 feet and 6 inches of useless. The plate is as wide open as an NBA All-Star Game. Hamilton gets a tag-up call from third-base coach Dave Anderson, a call that triggers what the superstar later calls, "a stupid play," leaving his coach with a chest covered in tire tracks. Martinez is a human lava flow, but Hamilton had to run 90 feet against a man with a better-angled route to the plate without the baseball. The most impressive part of the play was Inge leading Martinez with a perfect outlet pass, like a basketball rebounder starting a fastbreak.
The fragile slugger belly-slid across the plate, clearly out thanks to the catcher's airborne lunge. In the background, an embarrassed Penny had started for the plate, as if there was anything he could do to help.
On the Richter scale of bold plays, Anderson sending Hamilton to perform what the alertness of Inge and Martinez turned into a fool's errand was no more egregious than soon-to-be-fired Brooklyn third-base coach Milt Stock challenging Rich Ashburn's below-average arm with the below-average running speed of leftfielder Cal Abrams. If Abrams had scored from second on a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tied game with the 1950 pennant on the line, the Dodgers would have engaged the Phillies in a one-game playoff. But Whitey threw a perfect one-hop strike and Abrams was out by plenty, setting the stage for Dick Sisler's 10th-inning homer.
So, Josh Hamilton, who has a Body by Jake but who bruises like a snowflake, is out six to eight weeks with a small fracture of the shoulder. Somebody tell the Illustrated Man it was just a baseball play. Hamilton, who has been accorded many breaks during his checkered career, may have created a wider fracture by calling out his coach.