Come October, players play through pain
St. Louis Cardinals' Carlos Beltran hits an RBI single in front of Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia during the seventh inning in Game 2 of baseball's World Series Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
St. Louis Cardinals' Carlos Beltran hits an RBI single during the seventh inning of Game 2 of baseball's World Series against the Boston Red Sox Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, in Boston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
ST. LOUIS – Carlos Beltran was determined to stay in the lineup, bruised ribs or not.
The St. Louis Cardinals right fielder was hurt in his World Series debut when he banged against the right-field wall while robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam. But Beltran received an injection of the painkiller Toradol and then got a big RBI single as the Cardinals won, 4-2, Thursday to tie the Series at one game apiece.
“Somebody would have to kill me in order for me to get out of the lineup,” said Beltran, undeterred by the injury that landed him in the hospital a night earlier.
Players who would sit out during the regular season with similar injuries will go to great lengths to remain on the field in October.
“At the end of the day I believe that being in the regular season, that the manager is going to be more cautious and probably give me the day,” Beltran said.
A look at some other players who played through pain in the World Series:
∎ Curt Schilling – After tearing a tendon sheath in right ankle in the 2004 AL Division Series against the Angels, Schilling was injected with a painkiller and allowed six runs in the AL Championship Series opener against the Yankees. After the Red Sox pushed his next start back by a game, doctors put in three sutures to hold down the tendon temporarily, Schilling received an injection of painkiller and won Game 6 as blood seeped through his bloody sock. Speaking about the morning of Game 2 of the World Series against St. Louis, Schilling said: “I wasn’t going to pitch. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t move.” Doctors put in sutures again, and he gave up four hits and an unearned run over six innings in another victory, and the Red Sox went on to sweep the Series for their first title since 1918. “I just wish everybody on this planet could experience the day that I just experienced,” Schilling said.
∎ Paul O’Neill – Playing through the 1996 postseason with a torn right hamstring that caused a noticeable limp, New York Yankees outfielder Paul O’Neill made a game-ending catch on the run with his glove fully extended on Luis Polonia’s drive to right-center with two on, giving the Yankees a 1-0 win and a 3-2 Series lead against Atlanta. “I thought he had a bad leg,” Polonia said. “I thought I had a hit.”
∎ Kirk Gibson – The Los Angeles Dodgers slugger sprained his right knee while sliding into second base in Game 7 of the 1988 NL Championship Series against the New York Mets. Three days later, following an injection of cortisone and painkiller, he hobbled around the bases after his two-run, ninth-inning homer off Dennis Eckersley lifted the Dodgers to a 5-4 win over the Athletics in the World Series opener. Los Angeles went on to win in five games – its last Series title. “I tried swinging in my living room and I could hardly swing,” Gibson said.
∎ Graig Nettles – The Yankees third baseman broke a bone in his left thumb in Game 2 of the 1981 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers when he fell on his glove hand during a diving attempt to snare Bill Russell’s drive, which went into left for a single. After a one-week layoff, Nettles returned for Game 6 and went 2-for-3 with a double as the Dodgers took the title.
∎ Vernon Law – The ace of the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates with a 20-9 record and a league-leading 18 complete games, Law injured his right ankle that Sept. 25 in the clubhouse at Milwaukee as the team celebrated its pennant-clincher. He gave up eight runs in his regular-season finale, and then beat the Yankees in Games 1 and 4 of the Series. He started Game 7, allowing three runs in five innings, and Pittsburgh went on to win, 10-9, on Bill Mazeroski’s ninth-inning homer. While Law won the Cy Young Award that winter, he was never the same pitcher, and he said the ankle injury caused him to change his mechanics. “That winter a tendon kept popping out in cold weather,” he was quoted as saying by The New York Times in 1962. “I couldn’t put any weight on the ankle. I couldn’t in the World Series, either.”