Not much is going on this morning so I spent some time reading some “this day in history” kind of stuff. Came across one that most fans under, say, 50, probably don’t know about. It happened 40 years ago yesterday: Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager almost freakin’ dying during a game.
The details of the story can be read over at the baseball history website Wahoo Sam. The upshot, though, is that Yeager was standing in the on deck circle as teammate Bill Russell faced Randy Jones of the San Diego Padres. Russell hit into what seemed like a routine 5-3 groundout. The non-routine part was how Russell’s bat exploded and a shard of it hit Yeager, piercing his esophagus and nearly killing him. The details are not for the squeamish but if you can handle descriptions of blood and stuff, Wahoo Sam’s story is a good one about how Yeager almost became the second on-field fatality in major league history.
Yeager would require surgery to remove the bat shards from his neck. The crazy part: he wasn’t done for the season. He came back on September 25 and played in seven more games to finish out the year. This for a Dodgers team that was ten games out of first place and which had no shot at catching the Big Red Machine in the NL West. Yeager would go on to play through the 1986 season.