April 8, 1984: Dickie Thon Hit in Face by Pitch

April 8, 1984: Dickie Thon lays down and knocked out from a Mike Torrez fast ball that hits him square in the face and changes the course of his baseball future.

April 8, 1984: Dickie Thon is knocked down by a Mike Torrez fast ball that hits him square in the face and changes the course of his baseball future.

It was a pitch that turned the tables on his predicted Hall of Fame future. It was a pitch that cost him his vision in one eye. It was a pitch that resounded like an exploding thud of a rock hurled against a barn door. It was a pitch that could have killed him as surely as the submarine shot from pitcher Carl Mays once killed Ray Chapman in 1920. It was a fastball from Mike Torrez of the Mets that nailed a frozen Dickie Thon of the Astros in the face at the Astrodome in a night game on April 8, 1984.

It was the most shocking and sickening moment that some of us will ever likely have again at any ballpark, anywhere. Unfortunately, the sight and sound of that brief moment of terror plays easily on a repeatable basis in the YouTube sector of my brain anytime I see or hear anything that reminds me of Dickie Thon. He was one of my favorite Astros and, even as I write this declaration, please put me in the column of others who also feel that he would have had a good chance of his play taking him all the way to the Hall of Fame, had he not experienced the pain and damage from that one pitch on April 8, 1984.

Dickie Thon looked dead as he lay on the ground after the pitch. I can’t recall how much time then passed before we got the word that he had survived, for the moment, but no one took anything for granted. And some of us remembered that Ray Chapman had even survived for hours before the swelling in his brain caused new trauma, unstoppable bleeding, and death. Our hope was that advances in the handling of head trauma would be enough to handle Thon more effectively than medicine was able to handle Chapman in 1920.

A Mike Torrez fastball broke the orbital bone around his left eye and ended Thon’s 1984 season only five games beyond Opening Day. He came back in 1985, but continued to have vision and depth-perception issues. Even changed and reduced in ability, he played for ten more seasons with the Astros, Padres, Phillies, Rangers and Brewers. He was never the same candidate for greatness that he had been prior to April 8, 1984.

Life, unfortunately, is often a matter of nanoseconds and percentage inches that make the difference between agony and ecstasy – and the ones that break bad are too hard to heal and too slow to forget.

Here’s the box score from the game that changed everything for Dickie Thon:

Baseball Almanac Box ScoresNew York Mets 3, Houston Astros 1
Game played on Sunday, April 8, 1984 at Astrodome
New York Mets ab   r   h rbi
Backman 2b 3 1 1 0
Oquendo ss 3 0 0 0
Hernandez 1b 3 0 0 0
Foster lf 4 0 1 2
Strawberry rf 4 1 3 0
Wilson cf 4 0 2 0
Brooks 3b 4 0 1 1
Ortiz c 2 0 0 0
  Staub ph 1 0 0 0
  Hodges c 1 0 0 0
Torrez p 2 0 0 0
  Leary p 1 1 1 0
  Sisk p 1 0 1 0
Totals 33 3 10 3
Houston Astros ab   r   h rbi
Doran 2b 5 0 0 0
Puhl rf 4 0 2 0
Thon ss 1 0 0 0
  Reynolds pr,ss 2 1 0 0
Cruz lf 4 0 1 0
Mumphrey cf 4 0 1 1
Knight 1b 4 0 1 0
Garner 3b 3 0 2 0
Ashby c 4 0 0 0
Niekro p 2 0 0 0
  Scott ph 1 0 1 0
  Ruhle p 0 0 0 0
  Smith p 0 0 0 0
  Spilman ph 1 0 0 0
Totals 35 1 8 1
New York 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 3 10 1
Houston 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 8 0
  New York Mets IP H R ER BB SO
Torrez 5.2 5 0 0 2 3
  Leary  W (1-0) 1.1 1 0 0 0 2
  Sisk  SV (2) 2.0 2 1 0 0 1
Totals
9.0
8
1
0
2
6
  Houston Astros IP H R ER BB SO
Niekro  L (0-2) 7.0 7 1 1 1 3
  Ruhle 0.1 2 2 2 2 0
  Smith 1.2 1 0 0 0 3
Totals
9.0
10
3
3
3
6

E–Backman (1).  DP–Houston 2.  PB–Ashby 2 (2).  2B–New York Strawberry (1,off Niekro), Houston Knight (2,off Torrez).  SH–Oquendo (1,off Ruhle).  IBB–Hernandez (1,by Ruhle).  HBP–Thon (1,by Torrez).  CS–Strawberry (1,2nd base by Niekro/Ashby); Puhl (1,2nd base by Torrez/Ortiz).  SB–Puhl (1,2nd base off Torrez/Ortiz).  HBP–Torrez (1,Thon).  IBB–Ruhle (1,Hernandez).  T–2:37.  A–10,625.

Game played on Sunday, April 8, 1984 at Astrodome
Baseball Almanac Box Score | Printer Friendly Box Scores

Tags:

One Response to “April 8, 1984: Dickie Thon Hit in Face by Pitch”

  1. Darrell Pittman Says:

    Stephen O’Brien (@SPOBTX5) on Twitter pointed out that the three Astros pitchers that night (Joe Niekro, Vern Ruhle, and Steve Smith) have all passed away:

    @AstrosDaily Sidenote: All 3 Astro pitchers that night have passed away. Also Dwight Gooden made his MLB debut for Mets the night before.— Stephen O'Brien (@SPOBTX5) January 23, 2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 64 other followers

%d bloggers like this: