Don’t Try This At Home


Ty Cobb goes “spike’s up” into home. Navin Field, Detroit (1912 or 1913). Public Domain image.

Don’t try this at home.

Because it is stupid. (“It” being Ty Cobb’s collision. My pun, on the other hand, is brilliant.)

As a baseball-writing massage therapist with nearly 10,000 massage sessions under my belt, I’m often asked for my thoughts about home plate collisions.

Actually, no one’s asked.

But, I’m going to tell you anyway.

Because I’ve been thinking a lot about home plate ever since my last post.

And, because one doofus said on his webpage (which has approximately a zillion more readers than I ever will) that banning home plate collisions is further proof of the “wussification of America.”

And, all I could think was, “Good god, how many times has Glenn Beck’s head collided with the sidewalk? Because he sure sounds like he’s brain-clunked pavement a few too many times.”

Glenn Beck doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

But, I do.

I know collisions. I see colliders every day. Colliders are my massage (and Yoga) bread and butter.

I have clients who have collided with other people, with airbags, with telephone poles, with staircases, with the ground (woody, gravelly, asphalty, rocky, and cementy.) I see clients who have broken things, strained things, torn things, ruptured things, and gotten their bells rung.

I sometimes see them a day after they have collided and often for years afterward.

I see equestrian clients who are tossed off of their horses so often that you would think their bottoms are loaded with crazy Wonderland-like springs that catapult them randomly through the air and into rocks and bramble. Over and over.

I have clients who live with chronic pain and permanent injuries and brain impairment because they collided into something – or someone – else.

I know colliders.

So, I am delighted that Major League Baseball is taking the necessary steps to ban home plate collisions – where a base runner coming home seeks to dislodge the ball from a catcher’s mitt by violently colliding with him. That’s how the Giants’ Buster Posey broke his leg in 2011. And, that’s how many professional ballplayers sustain debilitating concussions throughout the season.

Home plate collisions are needlessly dangerous, unnecessary, and just plain stupid.

Former Catcher and now St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny retired in 2007 following a series of concussions caused by home plate collisions. He lost 18 months of his memory as a result. If I haven’t convinced you, listen to him, click here.


Baseball’s owners and the players’ union are still working out the details and wording, but the belief is that new rules could be in place by the start of this season or 2015 at the latest.

ESPN’s Buster Olney (who has so many “insider” sources, he probably knows someone who has spilled all your secrets), was told that the new rules would include:

• Catchers cannot block home plate.

• Runners will not be allowed to target the catchers.

• Umpires will determine whether or not the plate was blocked or the runner targeted the catcher and this will be a reviewable call, and

• Players who violate these rules will be subject to disciplinary action.

This won’t eliminate all collisions. But, it will eliminate some extremely violent home-plate encounters.

In its very earliest long-time-ago incarnations, baseball required a runner to be struck by the ball in order to be out. Yes, just like dodgeball you would throw the baseball at the runner – as hard as you could and sometimes right at his head. If you severely maimed him in the process, well, hey, it was the 18th century, he probably wasn’t going to make it to 40 anyway.

But, that was stupid. And, baseball improved its rules.

The rules already protect fielders from collisions by base runners who seek to break up double plays through collision or “spikes up.” (Interference is called on the base runner and he is out.)

A sprained ankle might slow you down for a week or so. A concussion is much sneakier and can cause permanent brain damage that you won’t notice until one day you’re standing in a grocery store and you wonder, “Why am I here?” (And, not in an existential way, either.)

Watch the PBS Frontline documentary League of Denial that shows, in grim detail, the heartbreaking damage that concussions have done to professional athletes. Watch it here.

league of denial

Glenn Beck, apparently, thinks that baseball rules are unnecessary (in the same way that he believes that government is unnecessary, until the potholes on his street need fixing).

Life has risks. Games have risks. Jobs have risks.

I know that.

But, that doesn’t mean that an employer doesn’t have the responsibility to try to eliminate risks whenever possible.

A bakery gives its baker an oven mitt so he doesn’t melt the skin off his hands when he pulls the bread out of a hot oven.

A warehouse puts brakes on its forklift so a driver doesn’t run over his colleague who is stacking boxes.

Baseball stops home plate collisions.

Good heavens, why are we even debating this?

I’m guessing Ty Cobb, like Glenn Beck, would say that minimizing injuries is a wussy thing to do. (Although, honestly, I don’t think Cobb would use the word “wussy.”)

But, tough. And, stop whining.

Those nasty spike’s up, knock-em-down, slasharoos that Ty Cobb made famous are stupid. (Say, Ty, maybe if you picked up the pace a bit coming in from third you could have beaten the throw to the plate. Now THAT’s exciting baseball!)

Just 25 days until pitchers and catchers report.

By: Frettie, used with permission via Creative Commons 3.0

By: Frettie, used with permission via Creative Commons 3.0