Stranger than fiction: Injuries strike in odd ways

Stranger than fiction: Injuries strike in odd ways

In the cool of one late Spring Training evening, Rangers knuckleballer Charlie Hough met an old friend for dinner, greeting him with a high five. And that would have been that, except the next day it was announced that Hough had fractured the little finger on his pitching hand and wouldn't be able start on Opening Day as scheduled.

Mariano Rivera's torn ACL, suffered while shagging flies, is a reminder that baseball injuries aren't always the result of inside fastballs or running into walls or bone-crunching collisions between players.

The history of the game is full of off-field injury stories that range from the silly to the serious.

Some certainly weren't funny to the player involved at the time. But how can you not laugh when hearing about the time:

Right-hander Steve Sparks, trying to make the Brewers out of Spring Training in 1994, dislocated his shoulder trying to tear a phone book in half as a motivational technique.

Right-hander Adam Eaton missed a start for the Padres in 2001 after stabbing himself with a paring knife while trying to open a DVD.

Indians outfielder Brian Giles missed several games in 1998 because of spider bites.

Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa went on the disabled list with back spasms after a sneezing fit in the dugout.

Phillies right-hander Jeff Juden was sidelined during Spring Training when his new tattoo became infected because he went sunbathing.

Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya developed elbow problems from playing too much "Guitar Hero."

Cubs outfielder Bret Barberie missed a game after getting chili juice in his eye.

Marlins right-hander Randy Veres had to go on the disabled list with a sore hand. He hurt himself pounding on the wall of his hotel room, trying to get the people in the adjoining room to be quiet.

Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs hurt himself trying to remove his cowboy boots. When one wouldn't come off as easily as he would have liked he stood to get better leverage, lost his balance, fell into a couch and bruised his ribcage.

Reds pitcher Steve Foster injured his shoulder while knocking over milk bottles while taping a segment of "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno.

Sometimes, however, the injuries turn out to be no laughing matter.

Orioles pitcher Brad Bergesen was considered an integral part of the team going into the 2010 season, so much so that he was asked to film a promotional commercial that showed him throwing off a mound.

The trouble was it was December. Bergesen hadn't thrown off the mound for awhile and strained his shoulder. He's 10-19 since and is currently pitching at Triple-A Norfolk.

Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales was so happy after hitting a walk-off homer against the Mariners on May 29, 2010, that he jumped onto home plate. In doing so, he fractured his tibia and not only missed the remainder of the season but all of last year as well.

Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan tore the meniscus in his right knee while shoving a shaving cream pie into the face of a teammate after a win on July 25, 2010. He missed the rest of the season and eventually needed surgery.

A week after signing one of the most lucrative contracts in Braves history, outfielder Ron Gant broke his right leg in an ATV accident in 1994. He was released during Spring Training and didn't play again until 1995.

One of the most infamous odd injuries occurred before Game 4 of the 1985 National League Championship Series, when Cardinals outfielder Vince Coleman somehow managed to have the automatic tarp at Busch Stadium roll over his leg. Coleman, who would go on to be named NL Rookie of the Year, missed the Fall Classic, which St. Louis lost in seven games to Kansas City.

And then there was Mets reliever Duaner Sanchez. He was beginning to establish himself as one of baseball's best setup men -- with a 2.60 ERA in 49 games -- when, in the early morning hours of July 30, 2006, the cab in which he was riding outside Miami was struck by a drunk driver.

Sanchez suffered a separated shoulder that required season-ending surgery, and he was never the same again.

Sometimes, however, players can laugh about these injuries later. Like Hough. Not only did he fully recover, he went on to make the All-Star team for the only time in his 25-year career.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.