In the moments following a game-winning homer, a player has basepath and one plate.
It makes for nice symmetry, though that basepath and plate also have 20 teammates waiting to swallow the newly minted hero with violent backslaps and head pounds.
Considering those long odds, it's kind of unbelievable to think that Kendry Morales(notes) became just the first baseball player in recent memory to be seriously injured while arriving at a crowded home plate after a walkoff home run. The injury to the Angels first baseman — sustained after Morales hit a game-winning grand slam against the Mariners on Saturday — is being reported as a broken left leg that could keep him out of the lineup for 10-12 weeks.
• Ohio State's Ted Ginn took the opening kickoff of the 2007 BCS National Championship game 93 yards for a touchdown and then hurt his left foot when teammate Roy Hall tackled him during the ensuing celebration. Ginn never returned to the game and the Buckeyes were routed by Florida.
• One name: Gus Frerotte.
• After hitting a game-winning shot in a regular-season game, Kevin Johnson had his shoulder dislocated by a bearhug from Charles Barkley in 1993.
• Two months after breaking his left arm while throwing a pitch, Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky broke the arm again while celebrating the clinching of the 1989 NL pennant.
• Last, but not least, then-Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica tore his ACL after jumping up and down after making a field goal in a December 2001 game. The successful try put Arizona up by a whopping score of 3-0 ... in the first half.
All of those celebration situations listed above are fairly common — save for maybe the last one — and we still see them observed in much the same fashion.
But mobbing a player after a walkoff homer in baseball happens even more frequently and can be so jarring that players have to shed their helmets before entering the merry fray.
And now that we've seen the Angels lose a guy with 11 homers and 39 RBI for a great length of time, is it possible that we'll see a major shift in the way baseball players party at the plate?
Angels manager Mike Scioscia thinks we will:
"It'll change the way we celebrate. It sure was exciting, but you always wonder if it's an accident waiting to happen."
To be fair, the overwhelming majority of homeplate hoedowns are held without incident and the only damage sustained is maybe a few bruises on the back.
But Morales' incident shows us how easily things can go wrong. It's hard to pinpoint an exact reason for the awkward landing, but it would appear the timing of his path back down to the ground was interrupted when someone in the crowd grabbed his shoulder and stopped his momentum. There's too much unpredictability in these scrums, so why continue the risky behavior with such valuable assets?
OK, so I'm not exactly sure what would replace the relatively new tradition of the exuberant team mugging — interpretive dance? choreographed somersaults? ring around the rosy? — but there has to be a better and safer way.
Whatever they decide, it'll be interesting to see what the rest of the league's teams say about their future celebration plans. In the wake of one team losing one of their biggest stars, there's a lot of risk-reward evaluation to be done.