Groundhog Day: Reliving broken-leg win not painful for Hirsh

Former Rockies pitcher went six innings against Brewers with injury

Groundhog Day: Reliving broken-leg win not painful for Hirsh

DENVER -- The Rockies have many improbable and golden memories from the 2007 run to the team's only World Series appearance. But in some ways, the most impressive feat may be forgotten to many -- but not to former Rockies pitcher Jason Hirsh.

For him, his performance on Aug. 7, 2007, is a day he'd be happy to experience again and again despite the fact the it involved an injury. Hirsh suffered a fracture to his lower right leg when the second batter of that night's game, the Brewers' J.J. Hardy, lashed a line drive off Hirsh's lower right leg. But Hirsh stayed in the game, held the Brewers to two earned runs on three hits and emerged with the decision in the Rockies' 11-4 victory.

The Groundhog Day sense Hirsh has now is the same as it was then -- more pride and bemusement than pain.

"I ended up pitching six innings on it, not knowing that it was broken until the next day," recalled Hirsh, who last pitched in the Majors in 2008 and now serves as an television analyst for Rockies games on Root Sports Rocky Mountain. "I came out in the seventh inning. The doctors came over, took a look at it, didn't think that it was broken. We sent for precautionary X-rays. The precautionary X-rays revealed the break."

But when he relives the incident, he delights in the happy ending.

"I got the win that night," he said.

And he doesn't wish he hadn't been pitching on a broken leg.

"I'll tell you why I don't regret it," Hirsh said. "A month earlier, July 2, we were playing against the Mets and I was at third base. [Catcher] Paul Lo Duca back-picked me, and I rolled my ankle and ended up missing almost a month.

"That game [against the Brewers] was my second game back, and my ankle was heavily taped. They said later that's what held the thing together. So after I was hit, it felt tight. But after missing that time, there was no way in hell I was coming out of that game."

It wasn't the last time Hirsh would refuse to leave a game after suffering a major injury.

In a 2010 game while trying to work his way back to the Majors with the Yankees, Hirsh felt a pop in his right shoulder while making a throw to first base.

"It hurt to get my arm into throwing position but it didn't hurt to throw, so I stayed in for another 100 pitches," Hirsh said.

It turned out to be a rotator cuff injury that would lead to the end of his career. After discovering a passion for helping other pitchers while trying to make his own comeback in independent ball in 2013, Hirsh retired and opened the Jason Hirsh Pitching Academy to teach fundamentals, arm care and mental skills to young pitchers.

When he thinks of nights such as the one at Coors Field when he broke his leg but got the "W," he relives them with pride.

"It's the stubbornness of being a pitcher," he said. "You're not going to let a little bump knock you out of a game. You're a competitor."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.