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Clark, moving at full speed, hit Scioscia on the face and head with his forearms. Scioscia was knocked unconscious. But he held on to the ball. He was removed from the field on a stretcher and taken to a hospital for overnight observation. "Leave the game?" he says. "I left the world for three minutes."
Scioscia's father, Fred, a retired beer salesman, was at that game. Fred says, "I knew he was O.K. when we were at the hospital and he started ordering food from the restaurant we were supposed to go to." Scioscia pinch-hit the next night.
One month after the Clark collision, Expo pitcher Joe Hesketh tried to run through Scioscia rather than slide around him. "I went to turn and make the tag," Scioscia says, "and he got caught on my shin." Hesketh suffered a broken leg.
"I know myself I don't ever go out and try to hurt anyone," Scioscia says. "I get more lumps and bruises on those plays than runners do."
But he was hurt by Hesketh's injury. "I called Joe the next day to tell him I was sorry it happened," Scioscia says. "I still feel badly because the fact is the guy broke his leg. He's been through arm surgery and was having a good year."
Scioscia's empathy is genuine. He knows the difficulty of coming back from a tough arm injury. In a game against the Padres in 1983, Scioscia sprang from behind the plate and threw out speedster Alan Wiggins at second. Scioscia's shoulder was aflame before the ball even reached the bag. For two months the injury was diagnosed as a torn muscle, and several times Scioscia almost came off the disabled list. Finally an arthrogram pinpointed the real culprit. Scioscia had a small tear in his rotator cuff.
"Torn rotator cuff" is the death rattle of modern baseball. Because Scioscia's rotator cuff was ulcerated only on the bottom layer, rather than all the way through. Dr. Frank Jobe decided not to operate. Scioscia continued a rehabilitation program but stopped throwing. According to his wife, Anne, he despaired once, just before spring training. "It came down to 'Am I going to be all right, or is this going to be it?' " she says.
Scioscia's comeback was remarkable. In 1984 he threw out 39% of the runners attempting to steal against him. He hit .273 and led the Dodgers with a .367 on-base average. He also hit a team-high .328 with runners in scoring position.
Scioscia was born to hit a baseball, according to his father. "He was so big, my god!" says Fred of Mike, who was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1958, a butter-ball at 10 pounds, 12 ounces. "At the time I said, 'Here's my $100,000 bonus baby.' " But dad's initial optimism was severely tested. Recalling his then right-handed hitting son, Fred says, "I said to my wife, 'Flossie, this boy swings like a girl.' "
Then one day at a family picnic, the ever-hungry Mike had a sandwich occupying his right hand, so he picked up a bat with his left and started lashing out at the ball. "Now I swing lefthanded, and people still think I swing like a girl," Scioscia jokes.