Seems that somehow, some way, whenever sports are being played, injuries always seem to be occurring.
I haven’t been able to participate in any sporting activities whatsoever for a number of years now. Seems that I’ve mastered a truly extraordinary version of Humpty Dumpty, so much so, that I can’t even participate in the traditional “old man sports”…golf, bowling, billiards!
When we were just kids, the entire neighborhood crew 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!” was all he said.
Then, while kneeling on one knee, he held his arm across his leg.
And then we saw it for ourselves.
All of a sudden, he had another joint in his arm, halfway between his wrist & elbow. His arm bent 90° in a way it shouldn’t 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” (teenagers) against the “men”…and probably all the men were musclebound &/or “connected” as in “affiliated” with the Mothers And Fathers Italian Association…
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 complete 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 afterwards & actually, for most of the day. I even went out to Laurie’s home in Staten Island for Thanksgiving Day dinner, feeling only minor discomfort.
But after driving back 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 picket fence sitting atop the 4-foot wall surrounding our home & drag myself along the sidewalk, then 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 in 2016, but am permanently unable to do so due to a severe blood disorder.
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.
Our CF 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 completely 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 him off guard.
He slid in behind me as I was fielding the throw so I simply swiped my glove behind me, attempting to make a “blind sweep tag”.
Oh, 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 right behind 2nd base as a “5th infielder”.
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.
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.
(Pls note: I would give my left one to be this old guy’s age today.
And my right one, too, as I’m no longer using them!)
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 seasons) when I was pressed into emergency duty.
What?!? All 3 of our catchers were already pulled from the game!!!
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???
Holy shit, Batman!
Anyway, they get a base hit to leftfield & the runner is headed home.
Our LF Pargie Visciano makes a perfect throw home on the fly & we have the runner out by at least 30 feet!
But he suddenly stops & reverses field, heading back to 3rd base!
I rocket a throw back to Kevin Sullivan, our shortstop who’s covering 3rd.
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, pegs yet another perfect throw to me at home! Another unbelievably-clutch play by Pargie!
(Note: Two years prior, 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 slides headfirst around me, reaching back to touch the place.
No way, José!
I pounce on him. Literally.
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 catch his face) as I simultaneously pushed his body away from the plate.
And don’t ask me how, but I managed to spike him as well (totally unintentionally).
I swear! 🤚🏼
The dog ate my homework.
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 NYC championship.
As a kid (I may have been around 9 or 10), I hit a wicked two-bouncer to the second baseman as our Little League champion Apaches took on the enemy 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 IQ 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 this piece with the time when I was playing 3rd base (softball), 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 first hesitated…then flung a backhanded throw home.
Our catcher, Sal Spinale, who was standing right on home plate, got caught off-guard when I didn’t throw it right away.
The backhanded fling caught him right in the nose! A little blood, but no broken schnozole, thank goodness!
OK, one more incident…
When I was 18, my Regina team was the NY state representative for the Senior Division (17-18) Eastern Regionals in the National Babe Ruth World Series in Waltham, MA (right outside Boston). If we survived the double-elimination tournament, it was onto the Finals, I believe, in Nashville.
What really sucked, though, is that I had hurt my right (pitching) elbow a few weeks earlier & couldn’t even toss a ball underhanded, much less get on the mound or play CF.
And it even prevented me from swinging a bat so watching from the bench…for well over a month, no less…was the most frustrating situation of my life!
I even took the step to go see a chiropractor (who happened to be the brother-in-law of my coach, Jerry Dente) to see if he could do anything.
Lemme tell you, I was s pretty weird experience!
I screamed in pain when he went anywhere near my elbow. And now for the weird stuff.
He took my hand & began pressing his fingers VERY HARD & VERY DEEP…
*cue the sexy music*
…into the fleshy part between my thumb & index finger – – until he found the nerve there!
Then he’d squeeze even harder!!!
The pain he caused was absolutely unbearable! Yeah I held myself back from crying, but I just couldn’t take it any more.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DOCTOR?!?”
“Michael (I hate being called “Michael” by a guy…makes me feel like I’m being reprimanded…girls? OK), I’m pressing on that nerve so it’ll ‘move the pain’ from your elbow down to your hand!”
“But, Doc, I now have tremendous pain in both my elbow AND my hand!!!”
He actually continued this “procedure” for what seemed like freakin’ forever! The clock on the world was spinning ‘ round like a big ol’ sweepstakes wheel!
Totally & utterly useless.
Oh, he did recommend that I use this super-hot ointment on my elbow, the kind that “…Sandy Koufax used on his injured arm…”.
“Be careful NOT to rub it as it will actually burn your skin & then you’ll be in real trouble!”
The way I was feeling, I’d rather shove my arm in molten lava than undergo any second of this voodoo treatment.
Oh, and then he ruined my life.
*horror film music plays*
He starts to give me an “adjustment” by cracking just about every single part of my body…neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, knees, feet.
It felt eerily comfortable. I quickly became hooked on cracking my own neck & back for the rest of my life.
But I’d do it violently! I’d grab myself in a headlock & tug…HARD…until I could play Beethoven’s 5th. Over time, I started having severe neck issues & was actually diagnosed with severe DDD/Degenerative Disk Disease.
I have absolutely -0- cartilage in my neck…none.
I remembering asking the neurosurgeon if there wasn’t some type of artificial substance he could inject in me to take its place.
He just shook his head.
Funny thing (as in ironic, not Ha! Ha!), but I had some magical gel injected in both my knees back in 2016 as an insurance-mandated procedure prior to getting my knees replaced. (I have no cartilage in my knees, either.)
They’d rather you try this treatment that could last 18-24 months (for a few $1000) and if it works, you could have a very expensive & lengthy knee replacement surgery.
Well, the magic gel didn’t works after 5 weeks’ worth of injections…they hurt even more afterwards. And then my blood disorder (MRSA, a medically-resistant staph infection) has permanently prevented me from getting my knees (and my right hip) replaced.
As explained to me y my orthopedic surgeon, if, after getting any artificial part in my body, I were to have an infection (a hang nail with a little pus, a deep cut, etc.), my body would send out its white blood cells to “attack the intruder”!
Great, right? That’s the way all people’s bodies work.
But with MRSA, there’s a very good chance that the white blood calls would instead look upon my artificial knee as “the intruder”, the “foreign body” & immediately pounce it.
When Dr. Christopher Phelps (a renowned surgeon at San Antonio’s Methodist Stone Oak Hospital, where he performs at least 10 knee replacements EVERY week) says, “I just hadda chop off this guy’s leg yesterday! You’d have a good chance at losing your life as well. I cannot & will not operate on you! And if you find a doctor who will, I want his name!”
Yes, I got a 2nd opinion.
Yes, I still have my crappy knees & bad right hip.
But at least the 2 torn ACL/Anterior Cruciate Ligaments in my knees keep things even more interesting!
Back to my life-ruining neck (which I’m convinced was caused by my cracking it FORCEFULLY), does anyone remember their parents saying, “Stop cracking your knuckles! You’re gonna develop arthritis later in life!”???
While it’s supposedly an old wives’ tale, grabbing your own head & tugging/twisting it ’til it plays music is an entirely different matter!
Combine that with a pair of torn rotator cuffs in my shoulders & getting to sleep…except when I’m on the couch & don’t wanna go to sleep!…has become, literally, a nightmare.
There is not a position on Earth that is even semi-comfortable. The My Pillow dude offers little comfort. And I hate having to take painkillers just to be human.
Oh, and in the words of Dr. Cybil Morgan, our doctor after we moved to San Antonio in ’93 & a physician for well over 30 years…
“Mr. LoRusso, I’ve been practicing medicine for quite a while now & in all my years, I’ve never, ever seen anyone with a worse case of arthritis than yours!
“You have it in every single joint of your body…and bad! I’m afraid you’re going to suffer terribly as you get older!”
“Oh, thank you very much, Dr. Morgan! That certainly brightens my day!”
She just finished examining a full body set of my X-rays. I was afraid of developing blood clots after I had been thrown from a runaway golf cart (bouncing on the concrete path, then rolling down a small ravine into some rocks…right onto my back!) and was black & blue (and orange & purple & red & yellow & a few other shades) from the back of my head down to my heels!
Enough with the gore…
They shoot horses, don’t they???
Thank you so very much for listening!