Sports Injuries

Seems that somehow, some way, when sports are being played, injuries always seem to be happening.

I haven’t been able to participate in any sporting activities whatsoever for a number of years now as I seem to be doing an extraordinary imitation of Humpty Dumpty. And that even includes those sports that normally don’t have age restrictions…golf, bowling, billiards!

When we were just kids, the entire neighborhood (71 Street, betw 11 & 12 Aves in Brooklyn) went over to Dyker Park to play tackle football.

All was going well until Richie Santamassino seemingly got hurt. But he wasn’t crying or screaming out in pain in any way.

“I think I hurt my arm!”

Then, while kneeling on one knee, he held his arm across his leg.

And then we saw it. All of a sudden, he had another joint in his arm, halfway between his wrist & elbow. His arm bent 90° in a way it should have…it was like having 2 elbows, bending in opposite directions!

Thank God it didn’t break through the skin!

Playing 2-hand touch football (with blocking) on the concrete surface at the P.S. 176 schoolyard on Thanksgiving Day morning…the infamous annual “Turkey Bowl” game…I hurt my knee pretty badly one year.

It was the “youngsters” against the “men”…and probably all the men were musclebound &/or “connected”.

Connected as in “affiliated” with the Mothers And Fathers Italian Association (La Cosa Nostra)…

I was playing on the 3-man offensive line across from this monster (Nicky Beans???) in his late 20s.

Yet, I was able to shut him out all day by keeping him away from our quarterback & running back.

He must’ve been pretty frustrated when on a play toward the very end of the game, that occurred on the opposite side of the field, no less, he decided to dive at my knees…from behind!

He wound up tearing my left knee pretty badly (cartilage & ligament damage), although it quickly went numb for most of the day. I even went out to Laurie’s house in Staten Island for Thanksgiving Day dinner, feeling only minor discomfort.

But after driving back home to Brooklyn and getting out of my car, everything went downhill…immediately!

I could put no pressure whatsoever on the leg. None. Even hopping on my good leg was incredible painful.

I literally had to grab onto the small fence sitting atop the 4-foot wall surrounding our home & drag myself along the sidewalk & up the steps to the door.

It was late at night, well before the age of cell phones, so I couldn’t/wouldn’t call out for help.

I never underwent surgery (tried some useless therapy involving strengthening exercises) & the knee has bothered me ever since.

The following spring, I tore up my other knee…hopping over a foul ball dribbler down the third baseline playing baseball!

I have -0- cartilage left in either knee, 2 torn ACLs & a torn Meniscus in my right knee (when I stood up from my couch), making it incredibly painful to walk at all, even with a cane. I was scheduled to have them replaced on 2026, but am permanently unable to do so due to a severe blood disorder. (My MRSA makes it impossible for my body to tolerate any artificial materials. Should I ever get an infection anywhere in my body, even a little pus from a hangnail, my white blood cells would immediately attack the artificial part instead, erroneously believing that it “the invader”. I would probably lose my leg, if not, my life.)

And I’ve already told my story about crashing the cart, and myself, while on the Cedar Creek golf course in San Antonio.

One year, while playing fast-pitch softball on asphalt, I was in the middle of several injuries…but none of them to me!

I was playing 3rd base once when a runner on first tried getting to 3rd on a base hit to centerfield.

Bobby Blandino made a perfect throw to me as I waited to apply the tag.

Before I was even able to tag the runner, he screamed out in excruciating pain!

Apparently, he tore the Achilles tendon in his heel!

In another game, a runner on 2nd ran past 3rd on a base hit to the left fielder.

As he attempted to get back, our outfielder made a smart throw to me (playing 3rd base) “behind the runner” in an attempt to catch the runner trying to return to 3rd base.

He slid in behind me as I was fielding the throw so I simply swiped my glove behind me, attempting to make a “blind tag”.

And tag him I did…right in the face as he dove headfirst.

He was out on a very close call!

Oh, yeah, I broke his nose when the softball nestled in my glove smacked across his face.

At another softball game, I was playing “short centerfield”, the 10th defensive player situated behind 2nd base, between the shortstop & second baseman.

On a force play at 2nd, I covered the base as the runner on first (an older guy in his 40s playing with us 20-something year olds) slid into second.

I always use every possible advantage I can when playing ball.

Always.

As such, I had my foot planted sidewise across the front of the painted base (this was on asphalt) as the old guy slid in.

His foot hit my foot…and his foot lost. The force shattered his ankle.

In the CYO NYC Championship baseball game (17-18 year olds), we were playing a team from Queens at the Brooklyn Parade Grounds.

Scored tied at 2, top of the last inning with 2 outs & they had their fastest runner on 2nd base.

I was catching (which I had only done once or twice before in the previous couple of years) when I was pressed into emergency duty.

Our manager, Ronnie Bianco, replaced out starting catcher, Frank Farruggio, after one at-bat. He also took out his replacement, Kenny Fitzgibbons & put in Frank Castaluccio.

Then, he pinch-hit for Frank in the 4th inning.

What?!? Who the hell is going to catch now? And we have John Seneca, my Xaverian HS teammate & one of the top amateur pitchers in NY, on the mound…and this kid throws HARD!!!

Who’s gonna catch???

Me! Holy shit, Popeye!

Anyway, they get a base hit to leftfield & the runner is headed home.

Pargie Visciano makes a perfect throw home on the fly & we have the runner out by at least 30 feet!

But he suddenly stops & reverse field, heading back to 3rd base!

I rocket a throw back to Kevin Sullivan, our shortstop who’s covering 3rd base.

The ball zips right by the runner’s head…then right by Kevin’s glove into leftfield! Oh, no, now the runner’s gonna score!

But Pargie Visciano was backing up the play, picks up the missed throw & for a second time in less than 30 seconds, makes yet another perfect throw to me at home! Another unbelievably-clutch play by Pargie!

(Note: The prior year, Pargie WAS the best pitcher in NY! He not only lead our Regina team to the NY State championship in the senior division, but he pitched Fort Hamilton HS to the NYC Public School championship as well!!! And he hurled complete game victories in both contests!

Unfortunately, his coach @ Fort Hamilton blew out his arm by overusing Pargie. So sad. He had the best curveball I’ve ever seen, ranking right up there with Hall of Famer Burt Blyleven & the Cardinals Adam Wainwright!)

I have the runner dead to rights now, blocking the plate & refusing to allow any human being, animal or armored vehicle to reach home plate safely.

He tries to slide wide of me & reach back with his arm to touch the place.

No way, José!

I pounce on him. Holding the ball in my right hand, then sticking it in the catcher’s mitt for added protection, I hurl myself at him, tagging him in the stomach (which, somehow, happened to also catch his face) as I simultaneously push his body away from the plate.

Somehow, I managed to spike him as well (totally unintentionally).

The ump signals, and screams, “Ouuuuuut!!!” as the runner’s sprawled out in the dirt in front of the plate, bleeding from the face with his uniform pants cut from my spikes.

He was a bloody mess…but he was out!

In the bottom of one of the extra innings, I hit a long home run to left to win the game & the championship.

As a kid (I may have been around 9 or 10), I hit a wicked two-bouncer to the second baseman as the champion Apaches took on the Mohawks.

It so happened that Raymond Ebarb, my classmate at Regina Pacis and, later, Xaverian HS, was the Mohawks’ second baseman. He’s now Dr. Ebarb out on Long Island! (He also had a 135 OQ in elementary school, but don’t ask how I know that!)

He got down in a perfect stance, feet spread apart, hands open, bent low to field this hot grounder.

But the fields at Bay 8th where we played were not always in the greatest of shape so the ball’s second hop was a bad one, right in front of Raymond.

It shot up & hit Raymond smack in the mouth as he was unable to put a glove on it.

There was a lot of blood.

And we’ll close the piece with the time when I was playing 3rd base, with a runner on 3rd, when the batter hit a chopper in front of the plate.

I rushed in, fielded it but my momentum was carrying me away from home plate.

Instead of trying to stop, pivot & throw home to get the runner (which would have been too late), I flung it with backhanded throw home.

Our catcher, Sal Spinale, was standing right on home…with his mask off.

The backhanded throw caught him right in the nose! A little blood, but no broken schnozole, thank goodness!

Enough with the gore…

Thank you for listening!

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