Poor Clarence Blethen.
Baseball history is full of bizarre injuries. Kazuhiro Sasaki somehow broke two ribs “carrying a heavy suitcase up the stairs.” Trevor Bauer was once injured cleaning a drone. Clint Barmes had his collarbone broken by a deer (to make this even sillier, the deer was dead). On the field, we have testicle shots galore, ACL tears incurred while celebrating walk-off grand slams, cheating pitchers accidentally stabbing themselves in the face, and honestly I could just list things like this forever.
But I shall not, because …
THE WEIRDEST BASEBALL INJURY OF ALL TIME IS A PITCHER BITING HIMSELF IN THE ASS.
This sounds (and is) anatomically impossible without a much worse, and totally unfunny injury happen simultaneously. But nevertheless, it appears to have happened, and it happened to a man named Clarence ‘Climax’ Blethen.
Blethen was a major leaguer, although not much of one. He made five appearances for the Boston Red Sox in 1923, and then a couple more for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1929. The rest of his career was spent in the minor leagues. Unsurprisingly, he was not a very good pitcher. But in the minors, he was serviceable, and he stuck around for a very long time indeed.
By 1933, Blethen was playing for the Knoxville Smokies. He was 40 years old, and a long-term* chewing tobacco habit had knocked out his teeth, leaving him using false, removable molars. He took these off on the rare instances when he was forced to run the bases, but, alas, on at least one occa(s)sion, he stuck his chompers in his back pocket.
*And notorious — the Greenville News at one point referred to a home run given up as “a dagger to [Blethen’s] tobacco-stained throat.”
This is where they were during the 4th inning on July 6th. I think you all can see where this is going: Blethen bunted, and the play was close enough that he was forced into evasive action at first base. He was safe, but his nether regions were … somewhat less safe.
Somehow the slide had first twisted his false teeth in his pocket and then clamped them down, taking a bite out of a ‘tender part’ of the elder statesman’s anatomy. According to the Knoxville Journal, Blethen spent much of the rest of the game making expressions of ‘great pain’ and ‘rubbing certain portions of his body that this column chooses not to mention.’
His attempted-cum-actual sacrifice was not in vain, by the way: the Smokies won the game 7-3. A loss in a game in which Blethen had given so much would just have been adding insult to injury.
If this story seems implausible to you, it did to the Journal as well, which is why they took pains to assert that the tale they were relaying was true. Any doubters could, they suggest, visit Mr. Blethen, who would only be too glad to offer skeptics proof of the incident.
Many, many years later, Blethen’s baseballing career was ended for good when he hurt his arm trying to show some little leaguers how to throw a slider. He was 72.