Indians pitcher Kyle Denney needed more than a thick skin to survive the rookie hazing ritual that awaited him after a 5-2 win over the Royals on Sept. 29. Denney was forced by the team's veterans to don a USC cheerleader's outfit (blonde wig, skirt and white knee-high boots) on Cleveland's trip from Kansas City to Minneapolis. As the team bus turned onto I-435 en route to the airport, players heard a loud bang. Denney figured someone had set off a firecracker as a prank--until he felt a stinging sensation in his right calf. "I put a hand down to my boot, and there was a hole in it," said the 27-year-old righthander. "I put my finger in the hole, and there was blood."
That bang had been the sound of a bullet tearing through the bus's metal exterior. (As of Monday, Kansas City police had no suspects in the case; they believed the Indians' bus had been a random target.) Trainers Lonnie Soloff and Rick Jameyson squeezed the bullet, which was lodged about a half inch beneath Denney's skin, out of his leg right there on the bus; when it was clear his injuries weren't serious, the Indians continued on to the airport, where an ambulance was waiting to take Denney to a hospital. (Team veterans graciously allowed him to change into his street clothes before he got to the hospital.) "If the trainers thought Kyle was more seriously injured, we may have had to do something else," manager Eric Wedge said, "but I didn't think it was a good idea to stop if the guy was still shooting at us."
Jameyson said Denney's cheerleader boot--pitcher C.C. Sabathia chose the outfit because Denney's alma mater, second-ranked Oklahoma, is chasing USC in the college football polls--slowed the bullet's progress and saved the rookie from a deeper wound. "I'm sure glad the boots were on," said Denney, who rejoined his teammates last Thursday. He can consider his major league initiation complete."I know the guy can pitch in the big leagues because he got shot and was about as calm as can be," said outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who was sitting across the aisle from Denney and was grazed by metal debris. "He acted like he'd been shot 100 times before."