How A Grisly Injury From A Rogue Pitch Cost A Houston Astros Player His All-Star Career

The Houston Astros earned their way to the 2022 World Series with a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series (ALCS), based on ESPN reporting. It was the fourth Fall Classic appearance from the Astros in six years. Baseball games are full of small moments that make lasting memories, and the Astros entering the 2022 World Series undefeated in the playoffs is surely one that Houston fans will never forget.

A less successful year for the Astros, though, came in 1984, when the team finished 80-82-0, for second place in the National League, per Baseball Reference. (Houston played in the NL up until 2013, according to Britannica.) Hitting well for the Astros early in that 1984 season was shortstop Dickie Thon (pictured), batting .375 in the first four games that year, according to the Society American Baseball Research (SABR). In the fifth game in the Astros '84 campaign, against the Mets, though, an accident happened — a rogue pitch — that not only changed Houston's fortunes that season, but that also affected the remainder of Thon's career.

It was Thon's second at-bat of the game

As Vice explains, veteran Mets pitcher Jim Torrez was on the mound against the Atros in the fifth game of the 1984 season. Torrez had already struck Thon out in his first at-bat, and with Thon back up to at the plate, Torrez decided to pitch him inside. As Torrez later recalled, Thon had a tendency to crowd the plate and by pitching him inside, Torrez hoped to jam him up, according to 1984 reporting by The New York Times. As soon as the ball left Torrez' hands, he knew something was wrong, though.

According to SABR's report on the incident, Torrez' inside fastball was "sailing," and though he tried to call out and warn Thon to duck, Thon didn't hear him. The ball glanced off Thon's ear flap and then hit him above his left eye; he ducked, but he ducked into the pitch, Torrez later commented. A 1984 report for The Sporting News (via SABR) quotes Thon: "When I saw where the ball was, it was too late to get out of the way."

Thon's orbital bone was fractured

As Vice goes on to note in their 2015 report on the accident, the baseball fractured Thon's orbital bone, around his left eye, but it also hit the eye itself. With that injury, scar tissue around Thon's retina rendered him nearly blind in that eye, and as such, his play was affected. That said, Thon returned in the 1985 season but lived with headaches, blurred vision, and nausea, according to Astros Daily. He retired in 1994 with a minor-league contract in Oakland after a 15-year career in the Majors.

In his last major league season, he hit .269 with the Brewers, but overall, he never lived up to the expectations he carried with him at the fateful 1984 at-bat against the Mets. On what might have been, Thon said (via Vice), "Sometimes I say, 'What if I didn't have that accident?' ... But I try not to dwell on it. It's part of the game. It happens to pitchers, with their arms. That's why the game is hard." Also of note: Thon's younger brother, Frankie, experienced a similar injury resulting in blurry vision in 1978, playing American Legion Baseball in Puerto Rico (via SABR).