The Night Dickie Thon Went Down

April 8, 1984: Dickie Thon collapses at home plate in the Astrodome  after getting ht in the head with a pitch by Mets hurler Mike Torrez.

April 8, 1984: Dickie Thon collapses at home plate in the Astrodome after getting ht in the head in the 3rd inning with a pitch by Mets hurler Mike Torrez.

It was Sunday night, April 8, 1984. My wife and I had gone to the Astrodome to watch our Houston Astros take on the New York Mets.  The club had gotten off to a 1-3 start going into that game, but we had Joe Niekro starting for us that night and the season was still young and hopeful. Unfortunately, before this evening was done, our Astros hopes for the season would be dimmed from any real chance at finally winning it all – and the talented future of shortstop Dickie Thon would be ruined forever. Sadly, the beaning by Mets pitcher Mike Torrez created serious permanent damage to Dickie Thon’s sight in his  left eye.  The eyesight loss and psychological trauma would work together to keep him from being the hitter he once had been on his way to reaching even greater possible levels of accomplishment.

None of us who were present at the game that night, and our seats were in the purple loge level, but way down the right field line, will ever forget the sickening loud thud sound we heard when the ball struck Dickie Thon’s head. As his body limply collapsed at home plate, I’ve always imagined that everyone else’s first apprehensions probably were akin to ours. We feared that he was dead. Thank God he wasn’t, but here’s how the AP people covered the tragedy:

Wish again that I had the Post and Chronicle coverages, but I don’t have those accesses in my News Archives digital files.

____________________

THON AFRAID OF NOT BEING ABLE TO PLAY AGAIN AFTER BEING HIT BY PITCH TO HEAD

HOUSTON (AP) – Houston Astro shortstop Dickie Thon says he saw an entire spring training of work – and possibly his career – flash before him when he was struck in the head by a pitch from New York Mets pitcher Mike Torrez.

“I was afraid I wouldn’t play again,” Thon told Dale Robertson of the Houston Post. “That’s all I could think about. I thought I was hurt bad.”

Thon was scheduled to undergo minor surgery today to “facilitate his recovery.”

Doctors earlier had said surgery would not be necessary after tests showed Thon suffered a broken bone above his left eye in Sunday’s game against the Mets.

“I hope the good Lord will help me recover quickly,” Thon (said) to the Post Tuesday. “It’s tough to work hard in spring training to get ready, then have something like this happen. But I’ll be back.”

Thon said he recalled that prior to the pitch, “I wanted him to pitch me inside, but not that inside. The ball sailed in on me. When I saw I was going to be hit, it was too late to get out of the way.”

Torrez telephoned the Astros shortstop Tuesday, Thon said.

“He told me he was real sorry,” Thon said. “Ii believe him. It’s one of those things. It’s part of the game.”

The Astros placed their 1983 All-Star infielder on the 15-day disabled list on Monday, but team physician Dr. Bill Bryan said Thon could be sidelined for three weeks.

Dickie Thon: In the days following his bean ball injury of April 8, 1984

Dickie Thon: In the days following his bean ball injury of April 8, 1984

Tests conducted by Dr. Richard Harper on Monday revealed no brain damage from the blow to Thon’s head, but Bryan said he was concerned about decreased vision in Thon’s left eye resulting from tissue swelling in back of the eye.

Craig Reynolds replaced Thon in the starting lineup for a two-game road trip to Philadelphia.

~ Associated Press, Big Spring (TX) Herald, Wednesday, April 11, 1984, Page 10

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Link to the Baseball Almanac Box Score of Dickie Thon’s Career Changing Game of April 8, 1984:

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/box-scores/boxscore.php?boxid=198404080HOU

 

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2 Responses to “The Night Dickie Thon Went Down”

  1. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Old friend and college fraternity brother Bruce Biundo wrote the following e-mail message in reaction to this column:

    “A memory from 1983. I was in sw Houston pharmacy, and rising star Dickie Thon came in to pick up a prescription. I still remember what a robust, energetic, nice-looking presence he had, prior to his injury.”

    It’s just another reminder, Bruce, one that only gets stronger over time. – Never take anything for granted.

  2. Cliff Blau Says:

    I read a real good article on Thon recently:
    https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/lost-greatness-scar-tissue-and-survival-the-life-of-baseballs-brief-superstar-dickie-thon

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