It was announced today that Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale broke his wrist in a bike accident on Saturday, and will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery.
It is a weird end to Sale’s 2022 season, but it also got me thinking about how there are a number of incidents that I can recall involving MLB players and bicycles or motorcycles.
So, given I’m not in the mood to really delve into anything meaningful and Rangers related today, why not take a look back at some of the more memorable incidents involving MLB players and two wheeled vehicles?
This is the original, the O.G., the very first of the intersecting of baseball player and two wheeled vehicle in the national zeitgeist.
Bob Feller, a/k/a Rapid Robert, burst on the scene in 1936 as a 17 year old pitching for the Cleveland Indians. He wowed everyone with his amazing velocity, and in 1940, it was arranged for him to throw a pitch at the same time a motorcycle drove by, in an effort to try to determine how fast he actually threw:
Lefty Steve Trout, son of the famed hurler Dizzy Trout, was a late scratch from a scheduled start for the Chicago Cubs against the Cincinnati Reds in September, 1985 due to a biking incident of some sort. One story indicated that he fell while bicycling with his daughter an injured himself. Another suggested he fell while riding a stationary bike.
Either way, Trout ended up being replaced as the starter for the Cubs by Reggie Patterson. When Reds player-manager Pete Rose saw that Patterson was starting rather than Trout, he made a late lineup change of his own, inserting himself into the lineup, and ended up picking up a pair of hits in the game, the second of which was hit 4,191 in his career, tying him with Ty Cobb for the all time major league hits record.
When the Atlanta Braves started winning division titles in the early 1990s, Texas native Ron Gant was a key part of those teams. A fourth round pick out of Victoria High School in 1983, Gant broke in as a 22 year old for the Braves in 1987, and was a key contributor to Atlanta’s first few playoff teams of the 1990s, finishing sixth in the MVP voting in 1991 and fourth in 1993.
If you look at his B-R line for 1994, however, you will see DNP-Injured. Gant broke his leg in a dirt bike accident in the offseason, and ended up getting released by the Braves before the season started. He was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds and had a solid season for them in 1995, making the All Star team and finishing 11th in the National League MVP balloting, and played for six other teams after that as well, finishing his career in 2003 with the Oakland A’s. He was never as good after missing the 1994 season as he was with the Braves, however.
With Gant out, the Braves turned to rookie Ryan Klesko as their regular left fielder in 1994, and he ended up finishing third in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting.
In the 1998-99 offseason, Moises Alou, expected to be a key part of a Houston Astros team seen as a playoff contender, tore his ACL under what has been reported to be an accident when he fell off a treadmill, but which has also been rumored to have been suffered as a result of playing basketball.
Alou was working himself back and was close to returning to action when he fell off a bicycle while playing with his son and re-injured his knee. That sidelined him for the rest of the season and the playoffs, resulting in much criticism from Astros fans and media.
One of the most memorable moments in MLB and bike history involves Jeff Kent. On March 1, 2002, Jeff Kent, then of the San Francisco Giants, reportedly broke his wrist while washing his big ass truck. Weird, but accidents happen, right?
Soon thereafter it came out, however, that someone who looked a lot like Kent was seen that day on a motorcycle, attempting to do a wheelie, and wiping out. Kent — who, in his playing days, sported the type of copstache that would lead one to believe he would know how to handle himself on a motorcycle — had, it appeared, hurt himself while trying to do stunts on his motorcycle, and cooked up the “washing his truck” story as an excuse.
Much hilarity ensued, probably in no small part because Kent was not considered one of the more likeable individuals in the league by fans and media. Kent also didn’t miss much time and went on to put up a 933 OPS and finish sixth in the MVP voting. He left the Giants after the season to sign with the Houston Astros.
At the start of the 2010 season, Eric Byrnes was playing for the Seattle Mariners, having been picked up after being released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He got off to a poor start to the year. On April 30, against the Texas Rangers, in a 0-0 game in the bottom of the 11th inning, Byrnes was facing Frankie Francisco with the bases loaded and one out. The Mariners put on a suicide squeeze, and Ichiro Suzuki, the runner on third base, broke for home.
Byrnes, for reasons still unexplained, offered up to bunt and then pulled his bat back. Ichiro, left hung out to dry in no man’s land, was tagged out for the second out. Byrnes then struck out looking for the third out. The Rangers scored two runs in the top of the 12th and won by a score of 2-0.
After the game, Byrnes jumped on his bicycle and rode out of the clubhouse, through the tunnels under the stadium and out of the park — reportedly having to dodge M’s general manager Jack Zduriencek, who was walking through the tunnels on the way to the clubhouse.
Two days later Byrnes was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in a 3-1 loss to the Rangers, and was released after the game. He hasn’t played since.
In January, 2013, Los Angeles Dodgers utility infielder Justin Sellers was arrested. According to reports at the time, Sellers was doing wheelies on his motorcycle, and when the police came after him, he drove off, resulting in a police chase that resulted in Sellers being apprehended on his motorcycle.
In the late 2010s, Ben Zobrist, he of the eponymous “Zobrist-type” appellation for a superutility player, played for the Chicago Cubs. Zobrist, on a few occasions, would ride his bicycle to Wrigley Field on game day — in full uniform.
I guess the El was especially crowded those days?
Fernando Tatis Jr.
When the 2021-22 lockout ended, and players reported to spring training, it was learned that San Diego Padres superstar Fernando Tatis, Jr., would miss time due to a wrist injury. It had previously been reported during the winter that Tatis was involved in a minor motorcycle accident in the Dominican Republic, leading to speculation that this was the cause of the injury. When asked about his offseason motorcycle crash, Tatis responded, “Which one?”
There’s no clear nexus that has been established between a motorcycle crash and the actual wrist injury, but the assumption appears to be that Tatis hurt himself in a motorcycle accident. He’s missed all of 2022, but just recently started a rehab assignment, and will be playing against the Frisco Roughriders this week as he works his way back.
Finally, we have Chris Sale, who, it was announced today, will miss the rest of the 2022 season after a bike accident on Saturday.
Stay tuned to LSB for all your MLB and bike incident news and analysis.