The untimely death of Kansas City pitcher Yordano Ventura is yet another reminder that even in baseball, nobody knows what tomorrow will bring.
Baseball history is filled with trauma, including disease, injuries and fatalities that curtailed careers without warning.
Ventura, not quite 26, lost his life in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic last
weekend, ironically on the same day that former big-league third baseman Andy Marte was killed in a separate incident in the same country.
Dominican authorities are desperately hoping to curb their automobile death rate, the second highest in the world. They blame alcohol and what they say is blatant disregard for traffic laws.
Texting while driving could be a factor too, especially among younger drivers.
An investigation of Ventura’s death is underway.
In the meantime, the Royals are struggling to survive the loss of a stud righthander who posted double-digit wins in each of his three full seasons with the team.
“It’s a reminder that nobody is guaranteed tomorrow,” said Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore.
Ballplayers, like the rest of us, should live for today. Things can change in a heartbeat.
Just last September, the Miami Marlins lost ace starter Jose Fernandez when his boat struck a rock jetty in an ill-advised midnight cruise.
Roberto Clemente, the most prominent Latino player and the first to reach the Hall of Fame, lost his life while ferrying relief supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua on New Year’s Eve 1972.
Seven years later, novice pilot Thurman Munson, catcher and captain of the New York Yankees, was killed when he crashed while practicing landings on an airfield in his native Ohio. That accident, like the Fernandez mishap, occurred during the season.
The career of star catcher Roy Campanella, a three-time MVP, came to a screeching halt
after the 1957 season when his car skidded on an ice-slicked highway. He never made it from Brooklyn to Los Angeles when the Dodgers transferred.
Detroit pitcher Art Houtteman was struck by a truck while driving his car during spring training in Florida. He recovered and resumed his career – only to lose his child and see his wife injured in a second car crash.
Tuberculosis stole a season from Braves stars Red Schoendienst and Rico Carty nine years apart but at least they were able to return. Lou Gehrig, whose then-record playing streak was stopped by “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” wasn’t so fortunate (despite calling himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth”). He died at age 41.
Years earlier, meningitis claimed star Cleveland pitcher Addie Joss. He was felled by the killer disease just as he was about to start the 1911 opener. A week later, he was dead at 31.
Brain tumors claimed Gary Carter, Johnny Oates, and Josh Gibson, among others, while aneurysms stopped John Olerud and David Cone, though both returned after long absences.
Pitcher Dave Dravecky lost an arm to cancer surgery, Lyman Bostock lost his life to a bullet meant for someone else, and Kirby Puckett had to quit the same early with vision problems.
Some players survived severe handicaps. Jim Abbott had one hand, Pete Gray had one arm, and Dummy Hoy was a deaf mute. Red Ruffing was missing a toe (tough when he toed the rubber) and Monty Stratton managed in the minors on one leg, the result of a wartime injury.
Perhaps the most ironic injury was incurred by Mike Coolbaugh after he retired. A former big-league third baseman, he was killed by a line drive while coach first base for the Tulsa Drillers, a Double-A team, when he was hit in the head in the ninth inning on July 23, 2007. He was 35.