The line drive, traveling more than 100 mph, hit Florie's eye and caught a piece of his nose. Bones in his orbital socket were shattered. Florie lost consciousness only as he was falling. He came to when his head hit the ground. The ball caromed to third baseman Lou Merloni, who threw to first to get Thompson for the third out.
Time seemed to freeze. The sound of the impact ("It sounded like someone stepping on glass," Thompson said) could be heard up in the press box. The picture—Florie dropping to the ground as if hit by a hammer—was as graphic as any baseball picture could be. The possibilities were devastating to contemplate.
Florie wasn't sure what had happened. He felt pain in his right cheek. Could a baseball knock out an eye? He wondered. His nose felt stuffed up, so he blew out. The release of pressure sent blood streaming everywhere.
"Is my eye still there?" he asked Red Sox trainer Jim Rowe, one of the first people to reach the mound. Rowe did not answer. He could not answer. There was so much swelling he couldn't see Florie's eye.
Thompson rushed to the mound to apologize. It is axiomatic in baseball that you never apologize for anything, that everybody knows the perils, that apologies are not necessary. The axiom did not apply here. Garciaparra rushed to the mound. Catcher Jason Varitek. Home plate umpire Tim Welke. Boston manager Jimy Williams. Coaches Jim Rice and Joe Kerrigan.
Florie, in the middle of all this, rolled onto his back, hands covering his face, blood on his arms and his shirt. He still wondered about his eye. The inner voices of his profession told him to get off the ground, to be a man, to be a ballplayer. The outer voices, the people around him, told him to lie still. He eventually sat up. His plan was to walk off the field, but he could not. His legs felt useless. He sat and looked and wondered until a golf cart arrived and he was placed on it.
He heard applause as he was driven off the field and to an ambulance under the stands, but it was strange applause, hesitant and respectful. He could feel everyone's fear. It increased his own fear. "I know it's bad," he said to himself. "But can it be this bad?"
Robert, who had headed for the clubhouse while his son was on the ground, was given directions to the ambulance by a Red Sox employee. Brannon had moved down from the family section as soon as Bryce entered the game, finding a seat in the first row near the dugout. He now wished he hadn't done that. Morris stood with his wife and watched the cart leave the field. A TV was nearby, and they watched the replay. Morris thought he saw an encouraging sign. "When Bryce sat up, there was a look on his face, a look of frustration," Morris says. "It was the same look he has when we play golf and he hits a bad shot, like, What happened here? It made me feel better."
Robert jumped into the front seat of the ambulance as his son was placed aboard. When he had first reached his son, Robert almost couldn't look at him, the swelling and the pain nearly too much to bear. He did like Bryce's attitude, though. "This wouldn't have happened if you'd taught me how to throw harder, like Pedro Martinez," Bryce said.
"Maybe so," the father replied. "But I did teach you how to duck."