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March 13, 2012

Wezen-Ball

One Scary Collision

by Larry Granillo

In the fielding chapter of Baseball for Dummies, Joe Morgan relates this story while warning readers of the importance of calling for the ball on a pop fly:

"Whenever you see infielders or outfielders collide on a pop fly, you know that someone wasn't paying attention. I always told our outfielders to yell so I could get out of the way if they were going to catch a pop-up. If you both yell for the catch, you won't hear each other. When I was with the Astros, our left fielder, Jesus Alou, and our shortstop, Hector Torres, were both yelling as they went after a pop fly. They collided and Hector nearly choked to death on his tongue. Make sure that you have your signals straight before each game so you can avoid that kind of catastrophe."

As you might guess, this story kind of jumped out at me. A player almost choked to death on his own tongue after a collision in the field?! That couldn't be true - could it?

It didn't take long to find details on the story. The collision occurred on June 10, 1969:

The Houston teammates collided chasing a fly off the bat of Pirates outfielder Al Oliver into shallow left field at the Astrodome.

Alou started in slowly and Torres hurried back. While the ball dropped just behind and to the side of them, their heads banged and they sprawled helplessly on the Astroturf.

The ball went for a three-run homer and gave the Pirates a temporary 4-0 lead.

[Pittsburgh trainer Tony] Bartirome reached Alou first. Noticing that Alou had swallowed his tongue, Bartirome pulled it out, inserted a rubber hose and inflated the hose.

This reopened Alou's throat and restored a normal air flow into the lungs.

"He looked like he was dead," Houston infielder Denis Menke said of Alou. "It was the hardest collision I've ever seen."

Umpire Al Barlick, one of the first on the confused scene, said "Alou's eyes were turning blue. Those trainers did a great job of taking care of him."

Morgan got the name of the injured player switched, but the rest of his story is right. According to the game report, both Torres and Alou were carried off the field on stretchers. Alou suffered a "severe concussion".

Also on the field was Matty Alou, Jesus' brother and the Pirates centerfielder. Matty played the rest of the game for Pittsburgh before he was able to get to the hospital to check on his brother. Neither Torres nor Jesus Alou played in another game for the next month after the collision.

I've never been one to scoff at the danger of on-field collisions in a baseball game, but the threat of choking to death on one's own tongue has never crossed my mind. That's some scary stuff.

6 comments have been left for this article.

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