I hit the ball so fucking hard that as I approached second base, I remember thinking I should probably send a letter of apology to the ball’s manufacturer.  “Sorry I obliterated your product.  Nothing personal.”

***

July, 2003, Newton, Massachusetts

To the extent that men playing softball can be taken seriously by the outside world, I assure you that our league was viciously competitive.  To be fair, most of us were competing against the aging process, against the passing of our athletic prime so many years before, and competing against the emotional scalding you endure when you try to explain to someone that you play softball competitively, as they roll their eyes.

But back to the hit.

I don’t even remember if we were winning at the time but I do remember taking a pitch deep into right center field.  As I took off for first base, I recall thinking that it had been several games since I had hit a home run.  There was no fence in the outfield, so the only way you got a home run was to outrun the throw home.  I bore down.

As I rounded second, I lost sight of the ball, which was now somewhere behind me in right center field.  I looked towards “Bips,” our third base coach, for the signal to either hold up at third or to go for the home run.

Steaming towards third, I locked eyes with Bips, who looked back at me as if I had just asked him to name his top five favorite German theologians.  His stare was blank.

I realized that Bips, though physically standing at third, was mentally somewhere in the Bahamas.  I would have to blindly gamble on whether to go for it or not.

I recall thinking, “I’m fast as shit- I’m going for it.”

And so I did.

As I tagged third and made the turn towards home plate, I caught a final glance at Bips, who continued to stare at me as if we were just meeting for the first time (we had known each other for 20 years).  I gritted my teeth and charged towards home, arms swinging to drive my momentum through the final yards.

The ball entered my vision from the left , as I was about halfway down the line.  The throw first hit the ground, then bounced up into the catcher’s mitt while I still had a good three yards to go.

Our league had a rule where you always had to slide into the base when the ball was in the player’s hand or on the way.  This was to avoid injury, both by accident and fist.  So I did not have the option of taking the catcher out.  Instead, knowing I was dead to rights I lowered my right knee to the ground and slid right into him.

What happened next is one of the most horrifying moments of my life.

Sliding forward, my left foot hit straight into the catcher’s shin guard, and then time slowed as I watched my foot bounce back into my ankle, and then seemingly fall out of the joint.  My left foot folded ninety degrees inward and I lost the next 30 seconds.

I have been told that the scream in which I then indulged was of the blood curdling variety, but I don’t personally recall it.  I just lay there at home plate, out, and thinking to myself, “Shit- all these years and I’ve never broken a bone.”

My friend Marty was the first one to reach me from our bench.  He got right in my face, looked me in the eye, and with one of those overly-calm voices that people use when everything is spiraling out of control, said, “Joe, something pretty fucked up just happened, OK?  You don’t want to look down there- OK?  Just don’t look- look at me.  OK?  Just look at me.  You don’t want to look at it.  We’re calling for help…”

I took his advice, never again looking down at my ankle.  Even worse, while I could feel my foot hanging at an obscenely unnatural angle, my right cleat was still a good foot from home plate.

Fucking Bips…

Players came by and checked on me, including the opposing team’s catcher, who offered an apology, though he was completely blameless.  It was simply a freakish accident.

I noticed the wife of one of our players getting sick behind the bleachers, apparently from simply looking at my ankle.  Her reaction confirmed the soundness of my decision to not regard my dangling extremity.


***

The guys in the ambulance were vintage Boston- thick accents and absolutely no sense of propriety.  They were wearing street clothes, too, which I thought was weird.  It was like they had been mowing a lawn when the call came to get me.  The two EMTs in the back were having a field day.

“Jesus fahkin’ Christ, buddy.  What the fahk were you thinkin’?”

“Yah, we only see shit like this in fahkin’ cahr accidents.”

“Buddy, you were a fahkin’ mile from home plate.  Didn’t yah little league coach evah tell you to look at yah third base coach?”

“Jimmy,” one of them called to the driver, “Can you see this kid’s fahkin’ ankle?”

“Holy fahk!” I heard from the front seat.

“Hey pal, you evah have moah-feen?”

“Morphine?  No, never,” I said.

“Well yah gonna.”

“Great.  I can scratch another one off my list,” I said, finding a little bit of humor in this silvery narcotic lining.

One of the EMTs called ahead to the hospital and requested authorization to give me morphine.  He received it and went to town.

After a few moments, I said, “[h]ey, did you guys give me enough?  I’m not feeling anything.”

“Pal, yah lit up like a Christmas tree.  It’s werkin’.”

“You sure?”

“Yup.”

“Then can we put on some Allman Brothers or something?” I said.  “I need something to kick this into high gear,” I said, as I began giggling uncontrollably, still believing the morphine was ineffective.

The EMTs shook their heads at me as I, unable to stop laughing, continued to try to persuade them that I needed more.  Amazingly, I believed it.


***

When they wheeled me into the ER, I was still lying on my right side, clad in my dusty, sweaty uniform.  I had been in this position since the ill-advised slide, frightened to move my left leg at all, due to the freakish sensation of my left foot flapping in the breeze.

The ER doctor was a tiny woman with gigantic empathy.  She smiled sadly as she took a look at my ankle, asked me a few questions, and gently poked my silly little foot.

She said “[i]t doesn’t look like a break, but it’s a complete dislocation.  I’ll be right back.”

I lay there feeling the morphine wearing off and trying to imagine all the creative ways my girlfriend would surely find to call me a jackass.  We had, only weeks before, brought home two golden retriever puppies.

Puppies that were not yet housebroken.

Our “house” being a tiny one bedroom apartment on the third floor of an ancient building on the busiest street in Cambridge.

A building with no air conditioning.

In the hottest month of the hottest summer in a decade.

In that moment, I understood that her summer had just gone from zero to crappy in about an hour.


***

The ER doctor reappeared with two massive dudes in white doctor coats.

“Mr. Daly, you know what we have to do, right?”

Until that moment, it had not occurred to me that they would have to pop my foot back into place.  Missing this detail was likely a consequence of the morphine coursing through my veins.  But drugs or no drugs, the way she asked the question led me to believe that the process would be considerably far from pleasant.

The female doctor began directing the two other doctors to hold me down, which raised my anxiety significantly.  I could not recall any experience in my life where being held down was associated with something fun.

Then she began, “OK, on my count.  One… two…”

Hold it!,” someone shouted suddenly.  I think it was one of the guys holding me down, but I had my face buried in my forearm.  “Give him some more morphine.”

My hero.

They shot me up with more morphine and then got back to business.

“One… two…  three!”

I know my scream was loud because when it eventually stopped, the entire emergency room was silent.  Not a single word could be heard from the waiting room, the nursing station, or the other patients and doctors around us.  Just the beeps of the machines.

But my foot was back in place.

***

My girlfriend soon arrived and she did call me a jackass shortly thereafter, having long mocked me for being a grown man playing softball.  She did take fantastic care of me, which was no picnic for her on a number of levels.  While I spent the next couple months beached on the futon, whacked out on Percocets and red wine and watching “Blind Date” reruns, she had to carry two puppies up and down three flights of stairs easily ten times a day in sticky New England humidity.  This of course earned her both rock star status and lots and lots of bargaining chips in future negotiations.

I attended the final game of the series on crutches.  We won the championship, and the guys gave me the game ball, which still sits on my kitchen counter to this day.  It is the one ball the dogs do not get to chew.

My left ankle has lost a considerable amount of flexibility, and whenever I run for too long, I experience sharp pains through the area.  Still, I came back the next season, although I moved from second base to right field.

When I moved to San Diego a year later, I entered the San Diego Adult Baseball League’s open draft and got taken second in the AA division.  I lasted one season, batting somewhere around the Mendoza line before hanging up my cleats for good.  My ball playing career, which begun at age eight on a tiny field in Worcester, Massachusetts, ended on a dusty field just north of the Mexican border, twenty years later.

Given the constant reminders that my ankle provides me, I reflect on the accident pretty regularly.  I don’t have many regrets with how it all went down, but if I could change just one thing about the entire experience, it would be this:

I would have asked someone to take a picture of me lying at home plate with my foot hanging off.  Seriously, how fucking cool would that be?




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JOE DALY writes for a number of publications, including the UK's Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazines, Outburn, Bass Guitar Magazine and several other print and online outlets. He is the music and cultural observer for Chuck Palahniuk's LitReactor site and his works have been published in several languages. When he is not drafting wild-eyed manifestos, Joe enjoys life in San Diego's groovy North County, teaching music journalism, doing yoga, running, playing guitar and spending tireless hours in deep and meaningful conversations with his beloved dogs, Cabo and Lola. You can check out his rants at http://joedaly.net and follow him on Twitter: @JoeD_SanDiego

109 responses to “My Left Ankle”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    No one took a picture, Joe?
    They told you not to look and now you’ll never know.
    That is just not fair.

    Great story, glad it happened to you and not me.
    (You wrote it like it happened to me, though, I felt it! Stop that!)

    • Joe Daly says:

      >>No one took a picture, Joe?<<

      Can you believe it? I could have been an internet sensation. Just think of all the captions people could have come up with to ridicule me, lying there a foot short of home plate with my foot hanging down. It was 2003, so I don’t think many/any people there had cameras in their phone.

      Sorry for messing with your ankle like that. Go soak it for a bit and you’ll be fine.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Soaked it in Epsom salts & everything,
        but it’s swelling up something awful and
        is kinda twisted funny & a little greenish too.
        You have to be less realistic.
        It’s dangerous to have these powers!

        • Joe Daly says:

          Can you get a prescription for Percocets? If so, I can propose a delightful course of treatment for you, involving red wine and reality tv.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I could settle for getting some sleep, but Lenore arrives around 8 pm and my ankle is throbbing!
          Cut back on the “You Are There” stuff, eh?
          You’re hurting the unprepared.
          (At the very least, you could put a cautionary note at the beginning….)

  2. Brandy says:

    “Pal, yah lit up like a Christmas tree. It’s werkin’.” Oh Joe!! You need to write with a Bostonian accent more often!

    This of course earned her both rock star status and lots and lots of bargaining chips in future negotiations. (Every girl wants to be a rockstar).

    I went between grimacing and laughing while reading—kudos. And I’m sorry you didn’t get a picture. It would have been a great Christmas card. 😉

    • Joe Daly says:

      >>It would have been a great Christmas card. <<

      So many possibilities…

      Yeah, I pretty much lost the right to ask my girlfriend for anything once I was bipedal again. It was sort of funny to see her with a puppy in each hand and a roll of blue poop bags in her back pocket, storming out to let the dogs whizz outside while I sat there giggling on the couch. Funny for me, at least…

      • Brandy says:

        No doubt!! Two golden retriever puppies would have been pretty hefty!! I could barely carry Ozzy when he was 3 mo. old. The fact that she could make it up and down that many flights of stairs, balancing wriggling pups and accessories is nothing short of amazing.

        …although with that being said it’s fun to carry all the bargaining chips.

        • Joe Daly says:

          We’d only had them for two or three weeks. They paid us NO mind- they just did whatever they wanted. But they only weight about 12 pounds each, so she was able to manage.

          The funny thing was that once I got back from the ER, I stretched out on the futon in our living room, and both dogs got really quiet, then they jumped up on the futon and sat next to my cast, like they were guarding me. Really funny and pretty cool, too.

        • Brandy says:

          …animals know–doesn’t that rock? When I’m sick TMC curls up on me and purrs. He’s better than hot tea.

          ::sighs:: You make me miss puppies (in a good way).

  3. dwoz says:

    Isn’t it great though…that feeling on the bat on hits like that, where you don’t even feel the ball on the bat, it’s just…gone. Like the ball suddenly “gets” Jesus, and experiences an unbearable lightness of spirit.

    For you non-players…the usual feeling on a marginal swing is like you’ve just walloped a brick. thud.

    • Joe Daly says:

      You are so right. When you hit that ball right on the button, you know everything in that one single moment- you know that you crushed it, you know what direction it’s going in, and you know that the pitcher probably isn’t going to look for a couple of seconds.

      And the worst? Getting a “handful of bees” on a cold day. Remember that one? When the handle of the bat hums so badly it’s like your hand is getting stung? Ugh!

  4. Dana says:

    I remember this so clearly, I feel like I was there. And I for one am sincerely grateful there is no picture. Ugh. (Of course it also gives me Bill flashbacks.) When we walked those marble stairs in that building I couldn’t imagine you negotiating them with crutches, let alone two puppies. Now the truth comes out! 😉

    Your “fahk” is perfection.

    • Joe Daly says:

      The building was awful. It was something like 100 years old- literally. It had the worst wiring in Cambridge. So we had crappy fans in all the windows, but of course, once someone fired up the microwave or a hair dryer, or even the tv, we’d lose all power. Then someone would have to take a new fuse down four flights of stairs to the crappy basement to fix it.

      I really dodged a bullet in a lot of ways. 🙂

  5. Dana says:

    p.s. ” Steaming towards third, I locked eyes with Bips, who looked back at me as if I had just asked him to name his top five favorite German theologians.”

    LoL!

  6. Lorna says:

    “I know my scream was loud because when it eventually stopped, the entire emergency room was silent. Not a single word could be heard from the waiting room, the nursing station, or the other patients and doctors around us. Just the beeps of the machines.”

    This reminds me of when I gave birth to my daughter. No time for the epidural as she was coming too quickly. They shut the door quickly with the foul language started. Later when one of the nurses came to take my blood pressure she commented. “oh, you were the lady screaming. I can’t believe you didn’t take the epidural”. Like I would have turned it down?

    “Hold it!,” someone shouted suddenly. I think it was one of the guys holding me down, but I had my face buried in my forearm. “Give him some more morphine.”

    My hero.

    I was wondering throughout the story if you would go back to playing. I am happy to hear it did not end your softball career.

  7. Joe Daly says:

    >>“oh, you were the lady screaming. I can’t believe you didn’t take the epidural”. Like I would have turned it down? <<

    No kidding! I cannot remotely relate to anyone who denies perfectly good pain relief when offered to them by a health care professional. Or anyone, for that matter.

    I have some friends who stoically throw away their Vicodin prescriptions after dental procedures, opting instead for aspirin. Now, I’m aware that there is certainly a class of people who cannot, for legitimate reasons, safely take painkillers. But if you’re not in that class, take the damned painkillers!

    The funny thing about my return to the softball field the next summer was the first time I had to slide. All the guys on the bench sort of grimaced and looked away, just in case. I was fine. 🙂

  8. Becky Palapala says:

    I only ever had to be held down at the doctor’s office once. I was 11 or 12, had my leg pinched in a wood splitter, and had developed a clot in my calf muscle.

    The solution to this, according to my old-school doctor–the doctor who delivered me and was my doctor until i was about 15–was to poke a hole in my calf with a scalpel and SQUEEZE the clots out.

    My sister (12 years older) restrained me, and he, old school like he was, simply slashed my leg open, ignored my screams, and got to it. I think I had novocaine, but that only helped with the tiny scalpel hole. My muscle was SUPER injured, and he was squeezing it with from either side with all the force in his upper body. I kept looking down at it, because I’m stupid like that, and screaming, and looking and screaming, and blobs of blood were gooping out, and just as he finished, my sister turned green and her arms went limp and she drooped towards the examination table behind me, *this* close to either passing out or puking.

    It was just a normal doctor’s office, you know. A pediatrician’s place. Kids were in the waiting room for the sniffles, for poison ivy, for their yearly check up. Muzak playing…

    And then, screams of bloody murder.

    Good ol’ Doc Norquist.

  9. Nicole says:

    I love hearing/reading about other people’s gruesome sports injuries. Your description of the Boston EMTs was priceless, as was the slow motion of realizing you’re about to be fucked (and not in a remotely pleasurable way).

    I still remember the first time I dislocated my shoulder. I was about three minutes into a high school judo match, turtled up on the mat. The other girl was trying to turn me on my back by cranking my arm, and we both felt it pop out. She froze, and instead of screaming I thought, “Hey, great time to get out of this crappy position!” As I faced her, my shoulder popped back in at a different angle. My coaches told me later that it had rotated like a Barbie doll arm and dangled awkwardly for the rest of the match. People still cringe when I crack my shoulder on cue. =)

    I feel like the best way to gauge the severity of your own injuries is by the reactions of others, and you definitely captured that here!

    • Joe Daly says:

      Your shoulder dislocation made me cringe. I’m looking forward to hearing more classic TNB sporting injuries!

      The fun thing about sports injuries is that everyone’s got at least one great story about one. And even if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid one (for now), you can always fall back on the Joe Theisman ankle story, or one of the other great televised bone breaks of the last 30 years.

      I always wondered how painful shoulder dislocations were. When Mel Gibson voluntarily dislocated his in “Lethal Weapon,” then popped it back in, the implication was clear- this is a very painful thing.

      So you got a bonus out of yours, eh- you can crack it at will? Very cool! A nice complement to telling the story. Thanks for sharing that!

  10. Brian Eckert says:

    Fahkin pissah story guy.

    I offer the following maxim: never trust a man named Bips.

    Let’s hope that something like this befalls Kobe Bryant tonight, or it could be a long off season. Celtics!

  11. Brother, you nailed it. I will not bore you with the details of the ugly end of my pick-up hoops career, but suffice it to say I was right there with you. Feeling that pain. And the Percocet. And the stairs. No puppies, but, yeah, all the rest. Even, most wistfully, the quiet hanging up of the glove/ball/cleats. The tell-tale switch to right field. The inarguable sailing into the next, sweatless, hi-five free phase of life. It aches right now, as a matter of fact. I think they call that Couvades Syndrome, like a sympathy pregnancy in my knee.

    • Joe Daly says:

      >>I will not bore you with the details of the ugly end of my pick-up hoops career,<<

      I insist (insert “I can’t, I can’t;” “You must, you must;” dialogue from “Blazing Saddles” here)

      >>The inarguable sailing into the next, sweatless, hi-five free phase of life.<<

      It’s all right there, isn’t it. It’s like, when there are no more leagues, no more playoffs, no more talking smack with the guys on the bench after the game, it’s just you, your job, maybe a wife and/or kids… it’s like, “where’s the meaning, man?”

      • Let’s just say it involved the phrase “hamstring harvesting”….

        A month ago I was traveling and went to the hotel gym to hit the treadmill, and they had a basketball court, so I shot a few baskets afterward. Five guys show up and start to stretch, watching me out of the corner of their eye to see if I can shoot, can I go left or not, milling around with that undeniable feline thing, like “We need one more. You wanna run or no?” I so, so, so wanted to. But I pussed out. It’s not even the pain, which sucked. It’s that I just cannot take a chance on being out of commission for another year, crutching it around, worthless. So, I slunk back to the treadmill, half-listening to their observations about my relative masculinity.

        By the way, did I mention you are the anti-Ben Affleck? Meaning, your Boston accent is not only consistently believable and funny, it didn’t make me want to chew tin foil?

        • Joe Daly says:

          >>>milling around with that undeniable feline thing, like “We need one more. You wanna run or no?” <<

          Know that well. It’s funny how even in our most amateurish of sporting exploits, we still want to make sure we don’t get stuck with the kid who can’t play. Although 90% of the time, just the fact that a dude is hanging out at the field/court means that he’s just as good (if not better) than anyone else.

          I’m the anti-Ben? Sweet! Although oddly, we share the same birthday. Sigh…

  12. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Joe! Ouch! I love the ambulance dialogue. Being in Texas now, I really miss the sort of no-filter, no sugar-coating conversations I regularly heard on the East coast …

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Cynthia! Yeah, there’s a fun way about that East Coast jargon that I always enjoy when I go home. For me, half the hilarity of it was that these guys were dressed in shorts and t-shirts, sticking all sorts of needles in me, while making fun of me. I think even then I realized it was pure comedy gold.

      Have you picked up a Texas accent?

      • Cynthia Hawkins says:

        Ha! Probably have. I’m a natural chameleon. A quick study of my environment. I think from moving around a lot as a kid. When I was visiting Dallas, though, years ago when I still lived in NY, someone in an elevator asked me if I was from England (!?).

  13. Matt says:

    Yeeeeooooouuuucchhhh.

    I am going to be limping just from reading this!

    Now, want to know the funny thing?

    Like you immediately prior to this, I have never broken a bone.

    As rough-and-tumble a life as it’s been–cliff jumping, bicycle accidents, karate tournaments, getting hit by a car, that ratfucker who tried to stab me–it would’ve happened by now. But, no.

    Though I should specify, I’ve never broken one of my own bones. Other people’s, well…..yeah.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Matt-

      Be careful what you warrant, brother! Knock on wood or something. I have to think that kicking a board would count, too.

      You got hit by a car? Should I be searching your story archive right now?

      • Matt says:

        Knocking every piece of wood I can see!

        Yeah, I was hit by a car. While zipping along at about 40 mph on a bike, too. I haven’t written that one yet, though I think it’ll appear here before the summer is over.

  14. Julie says:

    Joe,
    Moose broke his right ankle in 1999. Can’t remember if you were around still then, but he was riding his bike from Honeywell work to home and went to dismount and “snap”, it broke. He called Mongo to come get him. Mongo and Kristen, using a spare pair of boxers as a sling, put Moose in the back of her 2 door Ford Escape, put the bike on top of him and drove him to the hospital. Next day he had surgery and the doc came out after what felt like 6 hours and told me they got the tattoo lined up right. Put a staple right in the nose of that Longhorn tattoo.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Julie-

      I do remember that one. Different ankle than the one he broke at Slugger’s, right?

      My favorite Moose story is still the one where he passed out from overdoing it, and they decided to throw him down the stairs before calling an ambulance, just so they wouldn’t have to discuss the circumstances of him passing out with the ambulance guys.

  15. Richard Cox says:

    Holy shit!! I haven’t laughed this hard at a post in a while. That whole scene in the ambulance had me lit up like a fahkin Christmas tree. The dialogue was perfect. And the line, “Mr. Daly, you know what we have to do, right?” sent shivers up my spine even as I kept laughing out loud.

    I mean, the injury sucks, but the way you rendered it was spectacular. Easily my favorite post of yours. Sorry to laugh at your misfortune.

    This is the best punditry I’ve read in ages. (Sorry. I can’t stop myself.)

    • Joe Daly says:

      >>This is the best punditry I’ve read in ages. (Sorry. I can’t stop myself.)<<

      When I got to the second paragraph of your comment, I thought, “What the hell is wrong with him?” I was a little worried. Way to redeem yourself!

      Yeah, if we can’t mine a little comic gold from our sports injuries, what good are they?

  16. Fredo says:

    OB
    Can’t believe you never told me that story!!!

    Give Bips a break…Flannery would have been waving you home without thinking twice…with no regard for body parts!

    • Joe Daly says:

      Dude, you’re right on about Tim Flannery. His motto is still, “send them to home and let God sort ’em out!”

      And if Flan wasn’t paying attention to a runner, it would have been because he was waving into the stands.

  17. Casey Kasem says:

    Disgusting. I have a private message to share with you. Awesome story. It makes me want to amputate my feet so it can never happen to me.

  18. Zara Potts says:

    Great piece, Cupcake.
    I’m with Richrob, you had me laughing so hard about the ambulance scene.
    Farhkin hell.

  19. pix says:

    the ONLY ball they aren’t allowed to chew on? REALLY?

    kinky.

  20. Jordan Ancel says:

    It takes a big man to admit he played softball, and a bigger man to admit that he actually incurred an injury from it. Good on you, Joe 😉

    All kidding aside, it sounds like it was extremely painful, especially for your saintly girlfriend.

    • dwoz says:

      CO-ED softball carries no stain or social stigma. But men’s league softball, even fast-pitch….oy.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Jordan. Playing softball as a guy falls squarely in the “Inverse Cool” category- the act becomes exponentially less cool with each attempt one makes to pretend that it really is cool.

      And yes, she won the MVP award for the Summer of ’03!

      • Jordan Ancel says:

        Ya know, Joe, I shouldn’t really give you shit. I’ve secretly always wanted to be on a softball league, but resisted, for the sheer fact that I would be the guy who was totally into it. I just think it would be way fun.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Oh man, it was so fun! I mean, our two aces were both guys well into their 50s- hired guns who could bring the heat up over 60 MPH. We got really into it.

          Sounds like you need to steer clear of the softball fields when you get home! 🙂

      • dwoz says:

        Sometimes it doesn’t matter.

        One of my “cool sports moments” happened in softball. When I say softball, I mean soft-around-the-middle ball.

        I had played in the league the previous year, because well, there simply wasn’t a men’s recreational league available to me. Either it simply didn’t exist, or it was hiding behind the drugstore until I drove away.

        This year, I was too busy, so didn’t manage it. But one weekend, I came back, and drove by the field as a game was in progress, with my old team. I stopped. “The Fish Heads” was a co-ed team, mainly drawing from the ranks of the magazine publishing industry in town, to which I was also attached. A rag-tag bunch of people who had made an art of sports-avoidance for most of their lives. In reality, the league and team were just an excuse to go out drinking after work.

        Anyway, the team was short a player, so my serendipitous arrival was welcome, indeed. The umpire and other team’s coach waived the regulations and allowed me to play. Now, me and baseball. I am not really a power player. In fact, if I were to play professionally, I would have done best in the game of the 1930’s…the time of the “small game”, where it was a pitchers’ duel, and lots of strategic hitting. Meaning, nothing like today’s swing-for-the-fences.

        At my first at-bat, I stepped up to the batter’s box, and with large motions scaled to throw to the back of the theater balcony, I pantomimed the big batter stereotype…adjusting my crotch, knocking the dirt out of my cleats, spitting chaw, the whole thing. As I stepped into the batter’s box I pointed to the left field fence with my bat. A very snotty little display of arrogance. The pitcher was visibly pissed off at my little bit of theater, and true to the script, tossed one into the batter’s box at my head. We’re talking slow pitch, so I would have a harder time getting out of the way of a pickup line at a cougar bar than this pitch. Again, I pointed to the fence. This time the pitch came in, and I hit it….over everything, over the fence, the netting, over the building past that. Exactly where I had pointed.

        I have to admit that I felt a little too good about it, at the time.

  21. Gloria says:

    I could not recall any experience in my life where being held down was associated with something fun. Really? ‘Cause I can? Heh.

    Anyway.

    Yeah, so that description was nauseating. Nicely written, Joe. Wow. Holy shit. Ick. *barf*

    I have photos of myself after my accident. I’d sustained a head injury and, as is common with head-injured people, I demanded to be naked. So all of my hospital room photos from that time are of a seventeen-year-old girl covered in hundreds of scabs – some covering glass – completely naked except for a washrag over her chest. My leg was crushed, too. It was green for two years. My foot still juts off to the left. I limp in the fall. Yet, I still think about going for a jog from time to time.

    • Joe Daly says:

      >>I could not recall any experience in my life where being held down was associated with something fun. Really? ‘Cause I can? Heh.<<

      I was wondering who was going to pick up on that! Well played, Ms. Harrison!

      Sounds like your injuries were pretty intense. Glad you bounced back though. Funny about limping in the fall- I thought that whole bit about knowing when it’s going to rain was an old wives tale, but sure enough, my ankle definitely lets me know when bad weather’s coming.

      Does that count as a bright side?

      • Gloria says:

        My comment wasn’t supposed to have a question mark after the word can, but that’s okay. You get the gist.

        Suurrree! That counts as a bright side. We’re like birds and and horses and other pets – we can tell you when there’s going to be a natural disaster – or a snowstorm – how is that side not bright?

        • Joe Daly says:

          We’re like X-Men, but without the cool lycra and rock hard abs. Hmmm… maybe I’ll start wearing lycra around.

        • Gloria says:

          We’re less like X-Men and more like Mystery Men. But at least that means that I get to be Janeane Garofalo. But don’t tell Simon. I’m taking on a vow of celibacy after all. I don’t think he could handle it. Would that make you William H. Macy or Hank Azaria?

  22. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Took me a while to recover my wind from laughing at the boston EMTs. Though I do think they could have been decent enough to offer you Jameson’s rather than morphine.

    My only dislocation experience was my big toe. In a soccer game. Some guy caught my foot wrong on a slide tackle, and there was my big toe pointing towards the sky. I drove to urgent care, where the doctor asked me whether I wanted anaesthetic or painkillers. I stubbornly said “no” and the doctor proceeded to try wrestling my big toe into place. Yeah, that sucked. After a while, he stopped to chat and ponder his options, while his nurse, a quiet Asian-American lady, gently massaged the toe. All of a sudden “click” it popped almost painlessly back into place. The doctor and I looked at the nurse in dumb admiration. It’s never given me trouble since then.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Uche, you’re one of those “No Doctor, I Won’t Be Needing Your Delightful Painkillers” types, eh? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it now- you are a curious and dashing fellow.

      That toe injury sounds brutal. I’m amazed it’s been trouble free since then. That’s just some good DNA at work there!

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        Hmm. Well, to be fair, it was just a toe, compared to an ankle, which would have ben a much different story. The main reason doc didn’t press hard for me to take painkillers was because he thought it would be a cinch to pop it back in. When he gave up, he muttered that “I didn’t expect the toe to be as stout as a tree trunk.” Believe me, if he did decide to try another pass, I would have given up, cried for mummy, and a shot. Luckily the nurse saved me.

        Anyway, the doctor said “yeah, it will hurt like hell, but just for a moment, and I should have it popped back in.” And I *hate* meds. Always have. So that’s all it was, not silly machismo. I was not really prepared for the doctor to wrestle in vain with my stricken toe for three minutes.

        It’s probably vasectomy time later this year, and believe me, my non-macho ass is trembling at the thought. Fuckin’ Anon didn’t help me any, either. Sheesh!

        And yeah, I do consider myself lucky the toe hasn’t popped back out. As much as I still play soccer, I thought it would dog me for life. Touch wood it keeps behaving.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Uche, feel free to withhold any and all details of your vasectomy from me. Especially if you get all sassy and pass up the meds again!

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          I’ll try hard, although precedent is as powerful on TNB as it is in the SCOTUS (and no that is not a scrotum joke, people) so I might be served a brief to compel a statement subsequent to event. How are your lawyer chops since you ditched the profession? Think you can work out a gag order in my favor?

        • Joe Daly says:

          I will summon all the force and fury of the Seventh Circle of Hell to put together a potent gag order that can protect you from having to discuss your vasectomy, and likely bring you vast amounts of fame and wealth.

          My price is fair, too- you’ll just have to wear a West Ham FC game jersey on every Sunday for the upcoming season. 🙂

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          JAY-SUS! You had me till that last sentence. What are ye mental? I will admit that I can sing a hearty “Bubbles in the Air.” Back in 2005 (I think it was), when Tottenham were poised to take Arsenal’s Champion’s League spot on the last day of the season, WHU beat Tottenham, avoiding that unspeakable catastrophe. I looked up the lyrics to “Bubbles” and sang it till I was hoarse 😀 I also had a good chuckle the next day when Spurs players were on the news blaming food poisoning for their flame-out.

          Anyway, if I ever get cornered by the Green Street Elite, I should be able to bluff my way to safety.

  23. Don Mitchell says:

    Joe, Best Injury Story Ever. Perfect. Oh wait, is that the unconditional love-for-a-posting we’re not supposed to give? But seriously, it is (Becky’s is maybe best-disgusting-injury-story ever).

    I mean, really. You also nailed Cambridge summers in buildings with iffy mechanicals.

    I laid down a serious shriek when I got into the shower after a 40 mph downhill slide on a rural road, as in bike crash road rash. “Road rash” my ass. It was more like a flaying, but not bad enough for the ER. I knew I had to get into the shower and wanted a record. It’s on a VHS tape somewhere and it’s not a happy sound.

    For other sports-related pain, Joe (and other guy runners where it gets cold) what about the dreaded frozen-dick syndrome? Anybody?

    Anyway, great piece. I’m hobbling around with overuse pain that won’t go away and this made me feel better. As in putting-in-perspective better.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Don, I can’t imagine what bike crash road rash is like. Inevitably, playing softball/baseball, I’d get rashes on my legs where I’d slide, and even those tiny little areas would smart like hell in the shower. Not to mention that sickening sensation of your clothes sticking to the rash during the day. I’m guessing your road rash patch was quite a bit bigger than the kind you get sliding into a base.

      FDS is brutal. When I lived in Chicago, training for my spring marathon meant running along the bitingly freezing shores of Lake Michigan for upwards of 20 miles, and by the time I’d get back to the gym, FDS would be in full force. Ugh.

      We don’t get that in California. 🙂

      Thanks for the comments, Don! And the reminder of just how good warm weather runners have it.

  24. Dana says:

    “For other sports-related pain, Joe (and other guy runners where it gets cold) what about the dreaded frozen-dick syndrome? Anybody?” HA!

    Okay Don, you’ve opened up a can of worms (so to speak) with this one. I’ve never heard of this particular affliction* – do tell!

    *affdiction?

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Let’s say that it’s cold and windy – I mean serious cold and wind, where you’re running in a windchill in the teens or single digits.

      Head, hands, feet, ears, all OK. Maybe your nose isn’t quite OK, but you’ve pulled up that balaclava, so there’s almost no exposed flesh.

      But below the waist between you and that cold and wind there’s only a couple of layers of fabric — your tights (or equiv) and some underpants (or equiv). Most cold-weather runners don’t pack the layers on their legs, which usually take care of themselves.

      What’s going to happen is that your dick is hammered by the cold, especially the wind. And it freezes. I’m not kidding — frostbite is possible. At best it’s only painful. At worst, there can be actual damage.

      It can get bad when you’re running out-and-back, and on the out portion the wind’s at your back, and you don’t stop to think what’s going to happen when you turn. You’re as far away from home as you can be, the wicked wind’s cutting through your tights . . . .

      Lots of guy have special underpants with windshielding. Others stuff a sock or even toilet paper (shade of, was it Mick Jaggar for a different reason?) into their pants.

      In my experience, a guy typically gets his dick frozen exactly once. I don’t know anybody who’s made the insufficient protection error twice. One-trial learning! Believe me, it’s very painful.

  25. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    I cringed reading this. Ow. OW!!!!!! You gave those EMTs something to talk for YEARS, I bet.

    I played baseball when I was a kid (on an all boys’ team–there were none for girls, not even softball) and the worst thing that ever happened to me was a fly ball hitting me square in the nose. Damn sunlight.

    • Joe Daly says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if those EMTs still make fun of me. Fair play to them though- you’ve got to love a couple guys who are so comfortable with themselves that they can poke fun at a guy in extreme physical agony.

      You took a ball to the nose? See, that sounds worse to me than the ankle. I just cringed. And then shivered. If you’re ever looking for a column idea on here, I would love to hear that story. Well, I mean, to the extent that the quivering and cringing wouldn’t get to me…

    • dwoz says:

      Sadly, I don’t think Joe’s predicament rises to the level of remembrance for the EMT guys. They deal with lots of very crazy stuff.

      The topic came up once, with my cousin who is an EMT. He didn’t want to elaborate, but he said that the hard ones he remembers are the ones that had absolutely no business whatsoever not being dead at the scene, who survived long enough to be transported. The human body can be very stubbornly persistent in continuing to scrabble together indrawn breaths, long after they’ve become utterly moot.

  26. The Boston EMT dialogue had me almost spitting out my cod burrito in laughter. Glad they were able to fix your foot that waved like a flag in the breeze. Nothing like a sports tale as a good story. I’m with you on the photograph. Years ago I took a charge in the waning seconds of a tied basketball game and lay on the floor blacked out for a solid five minutes. I took a knee to my chin and was literally laying in a pool of blood. (I had no idea that much blood could be in one’s head until I saw the game film) I came back to start OT, wrapped like a mummy from my neck up, unable to move my head to either side. (We won in double OT) After the game, I went to the Emergency Room at a hospital in Newport News. When they got me back to the room to shave then stitch my face, there was blood all over the hospital sheets. Not my blood. My Coach was like, “Our school’s liable for this. Can you please get some clean sheets?” The blood was in the vicinity of a body orifice and not the face mind you. While I was laying on my back, my coach snapped a photo. It’s framed in my bedroom. One of my proudest moments on the hardwood — the day I took a charge to send the game into OT that we ended up winning. Great tale Joe.

    P.S. Many of my old friends who were high-school baseball players all play competitive softball nowadays. They get pretty intense about the games. I understand where you’re coming from.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Man, that sounds horrifying. So you went back in the game, all tapped up and mummified? Did you score any points?

      The sheet part is fairly unnerving…

      I know you’ve left/are leaving Facebook, so what do we need to do to see a copy of that pic?

      • Yes, and when I say I looked like a mummy, I looked like a mummy. Only scored two points in the OT but snagged a few boards. My face was so bandaged up, I couldn’t turn my head to either side so I wasn’t exactly an offensive threat for the rest of the night. I like to think, however, my passion was a motivation for our team to churn out the W.

        Blood spot on sheets – I looked at my Coach and was like, “Coach, this is like a blood spot from an orifice. Like a vagina or anus.” It was perfectly in the middle of the bed. There’s only one section of the body that could have come from. And yes, it was unnerving. If you’re ever in Virginia, don’t go to Newport News hospital. The hallway leading to my room was a path of dried blood. It looked like someone had stuck a pig and dragged it by its hindlegs down the hallway.

        Facebook – Actually, I’ve decided to keep it. Unfortunately, when I was in my “I’m killing Facebook” phase, I deleted all of my photo albums and notes that had been up since 2004. That photo was in one of the albums but now I’ll have to scrounge it up when I visit my parents’ home. I don’t have a copy on my laptop but on my old computer. I’m sort of a little pissed I deleted all of my albums actually. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

  27. Slade Ham says:

    This piece hurt, mainly because I’m typing with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Well, I’m using my fingers so not with, but… you know what I mean.

    I tore my ACL when I was eighteen. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done. I won’t go into the specifics of how it happened (I don’t know the statute of limitations on insurance fraud, hahaha. Jk. Kinda.) When I landed though, and it popped, I could see the lower half of my leg sitting cocked off to the side, the knee joint obviously destroyed. Reflexively, I popped it back into place, and then I went into shock. There is nothing good about these kinds of injuries.

    I’m constantly reminded of it too, especially on long flights.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I tore mine when I was 19.

      Under circumstances that I would not admit to my insurance company, either.

      My BF at the time touched my shoulder, like, “Oh my God, are you okay?” and I screamed liked he was stabbing me.

      That’s how painful it was. Scared the hell out of the poor guy.

      • Joe Daly says:

        I learned all about the ACL last year, when my golden retriever tore her left ACL in January, and her right ACL in May. It was a long, expensive year for both of us. She ended up having to sell some of her Qualcomm to pay for the second operation.

    • Joe Daly says:

      >>(I don’t know the statute of limitations on insurance fraud, hahaha. Jk. Kinda.)<<

      As an unlicensed attorney who hasn’t practiced in 14 years, who was only licensed in the State of Illinois, and who spent more time reading magazines in his office than lawyering, I strongly advise you to maintain this position.

      I suspected that my ankle injury might evoke a few good sports injury stories, but I was sure you’d have one, And of course, you didn’t disappoint. Love the Mel Gibson touch of popping it back in. In about ten more years, I’m going to look forward to hearing the full story.

    • Hey Slade, did it roll up like a fruit roll-up or a frog’s tongue?

      • Slade Ham says:

        Nope. It’s just a partial rupture. You can feel a very big dent in it above the heel though… It’s siiiick.

        • Joe Daly says:

          If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a dent in the human body is worth a masterfully entertaining story. Looking forward to the statute of limitations expiring!

        • Slade Ham says:

          It was 15 years ago. I’m probably safe, not that it was that big of a deal. Perhaps just a slight alteration of HOW a particular injury happened at work.

          I have a thousand dents. A few bigger than others. All worthy of a story.

  28. Erika Rae says:

    Holy crap, Joe. I didn’t even know you *could* dislocate a foot. Fascinated.

    The thing I’m most impressed about was that you actually considered what this meant for your gf. Good man.

  29. I love how you’ve made something so disgusting completely hilarious.

    I’m sorry about your ankle/foot/leg.

    And you hit the nail on the head with the morphine.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Ah, Morphine… I was so stoked to finally get to try it. I don’t know if it really dulled any of the pain, but it sure as hell raised my spirits. I definitely ended up forming a strong bond with my Percocet prescription, though. Not of the entirely healthy variety, either…

  30. angela says:

    holy shit, dude!

    the bostonian EMT guys cracked my shit up.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Looking back, they distracted me so much from their relentless taunting, that I probably didn’t even need the morphine. Thank God they gave me some, though. 🙂

  31. Tawni says:

    Oh my GOD, dude. Great story and writing, as usual, but oh my GOD. What a nightmare. Your poor ankle.

    I enjoyed morphine during, and Percoset after my C-section. Morphine made me stop breathing in the recovery room. My bedside alarm kept going off and the nurse would run in and shake me, tell me to take deep breaths. Push the reset button on the monitor. Five minutes later: repeat.

    The description of your ambulance ride was crazy. Sounds like you could have used some bedside manner all up in there. But once the morphine kicked in, those guys were probably sooooooo much more fun than stiff medical professionals with tact would have been, yes? (:

    • Joe Daly says:

      Tawni, I can’t even begin to imagine having to deal with a C-section. Did the morphine work? Someone told me that morphine is supposed to be used before the pain starts, otherwise it’s not particularly helpful. But Percocets? Always a treat!

      • Tawni says:

        The weirdest thing about a C-section, if you are an over-thinky type like this girl, is the awareness that on the other side of that thin sheet of paper they’ve placed between you and the action, you are being cut wide open, with your abdominal muscles wrenched apart. I kept thinking about how bizarre it was, that I was lying there awake, most likely with my guts lying next to me on the table. There are many very good reasons that people aren’t usually conscious during major abdominal surgery.

        My husband sat by my head and helped me meditate so I wouldn’t go into a panic attack. He has really blue eyes, so I tried to lose myself in the soothing color blue, rather than dwell on my freaky reality. The anesthesiologist gave me the morphine once my gigantic son (9.5 pounds, 23 inches) was freed. As you know from experience, it made everything ohhhhhhhhkaaaaaayyyy.

        They sent me home with a month-long supply of Lortabs, which were fine, but not as intense. I got injected Demerol and Percoset pills in the hospital, and truly enjoyed that. (It was kind of like the hospital was a martini bar and I was having the “flight” of painkiller samples.) I finally understood my recreational drug user friends’ affinity for pills after that experience. (:

        P.S. Odd fact: this was at Cedars Sinai in L.A. and the woman who performed my C-section was Dr. Lisa Masterson from the television show The Doctors. (Pre-show, January 2006.) Isn’t that funny?

  32. Simone says:

    Joe, on more than one occasion while reading this I covered my eyes in order to shield my mind’s eye from the horrific pictures of your left foot pulling a cliff hanger move. I got shivers too!

    Loved this line: “”Pal, yah lit up like a Christmas tree. It’s werkin’.”

    Reminds me of a story my friend Joao told me. Joao was a first aider during school. During his first year he accompanied a more experienced memeber of the school’s first aid group to a rugby match. One of the players was caught in a dirty tackle and subsequently dislocated his thigh from his hip. Joao and the other first aider stabablised the player until the paramedics arrived. Paramedics assessed the situation and told the player that all they had to do was pop the hip back into place.

    The player braced himself as they grabbed his leg. As they popped the leg back into place the player screamed and passed out. It turned out that one of his balls had somehow fallen into the empty hip socket. When the leg was popped back into the socket it caused his ball to explode from the pressure!!

    *cringes and covers eyes once again*

    • Joe Daly says:

      Oh. My. God.

      I need to walk around the building a couple times just to clear my head from that one.

      Phew.

      In 6 years of playing rugby at college and club level, I never saw anything that horrifying. Thank goodness…

      Thanks for sharing, Simone! 🙂

  33. Dana says:

    SIMONE!!!! Nooooo! eww eww eww

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