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Top 10 devastating injuries in Chicago sports history

Top 10 devastating injuries in Chicago sports history

Eloy Jimenez's injury changes the course of the White Sox season, just as these 10 infamous injuries did to Chicago sports history

David Brown

The ruptured pectoral muscle sustained by White Sox slugger Eloy Jimenez will keep him out at least five months, which definitely casts a bummer on the start of MLB season in Chicago.

So while we're all feeling maudlin, let's look at 10 other times a devastating injury has visited one of our beloved (or even just be-liked) Chicago sports athletes. If you have thoughts to add in the comments, if it will make you feel better (or even if it won't) please do.

1. Derrick Rose tears ACL in Bulls playoff game — April 28, 2012

In a lockout-shortened NBA season, the Bulls earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with Rose leading the way. They also were leading the 76ers by double figures late in Game 1 of the first round when Rose came down awkwardly on his knee and tore his ACL. Long story short: Rose, a Chicago native, a recent top overall draft pick and the league's MVP the season before, has never been the same. Neither has Bulls history.

2. Bears running back Gale Sayers injures his knee for the first time — November 10, 1968

Sayers was a preternatural force when he burst on the scene as a rookie in 1965, and was having his best season ever in 1968 when he tore knee ligaments in Week 9 against the 49ers at Wrigley Field.

Knee surgery in those days wasn't it is now, or even what it would become in a few years during Sayers' time. Still, he managed to lead the league in rushing in '69, only to have more knee injuries in 1970 and '71, and was limited to four games total in his final two seasons.

3. Michael Jordan breaks bone in his foot — October 29, 1985

Nobody in the history of Chicago sports was more responsible for optimism than Jordan as a rookie during the 1984-85 NBA season. You had to live through it to realize it, but it almost seemed like Jordan's appearance on the scene ensured that multiple scoring titles, dunk contest victories and NBA championships were just a matter of time. So when Jordan went down during a late-night West Coast game at Golden State, a huge psychic shockwave blasted through Chicago sports fandom. It made you want to just get in your DeLorean and time travel back to 1955, or some point, to prevent Jordan from going down. Thankfully, it wasn't a knee injury — that was a saving grace. Also thankfully, the '85 Bears were doing their thing, so people could be distracted enough to endure a huge bummer for a few months until Jordan's return.

4. Jim McMahon's shoulder — November 23, 1986

That was the day Charles Martin body slammed McMahon to the Soldier Field artificial turf and knocked him out for the season. (We just wrote about referee Jerry Markbreit's recollection.) McMahon had experienced shoulder issues before Martin's hit, and he would have effective games in future seasons, but the dirty play had an undeniable impact on McMahon's overall performance going forward. The Bears were notably left short at quarterback in consecutive playoff losses to Washington in 1986 (Doug Flutie, no pun intended) and '87 (a diminished McMahon).

5. Kerry Wood needs Tommy John surgery — March 17, 1999

Wood struck out 20 batters in a game as a rookie in 1998, and had five well-above average seasons in the majors. But he always allowed too many walks, and delivered pitches unconventionally in a manner that made him vulnerable to injuries. In spring training during what was to be his second season, medical staff determined that Wood needed Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. He returned to dominance from 2001-2004, but other injuries ate away at his effectiveness and playing time.

6. Mark Prior collides with Marcus Giles, sustains the first of three big injuries — July 11, 2003

Prior and Wood forever go together. One of the top young pitchers in the majors in the early 2000s, Prior sustained three significant injuries, starting in 2003, all of which could have changed the arc of his career.

In '03, Prior was running the bases when infielder Marcus Giles of the Braves crossed his path and upended him, with Prior landing hard on the infield dirt. Prior missed about three weeks and while he pitched well upon returning, Prior still wonders if the impact did longterm damage or was a ticking time bomb of sorts.

In 2004, he missed the first two months of the season because of an Achilles' tendon injury. In '05, Brad Hawpe hit a line drive that broke Prior's elbow.

7. Frank Thomas fractures foot again — July 29, 2005

Thomas broke his foot in 2004 and effects of the injury lingered into the next season, even as the Sox pushed without him to first place in the AL Central and a World Series title. Come late July, doctors discovered another fracture and sacked Thomas for the rest of '05. The Sox didn't cruise to the postseason, exactly (a team slump in late August and early September really had fans worried), but Thomas wasn't the same Big Cog he once was in the offense. What the foot injury did do was push Thomas off the roster for good; the Sox let him go as a free agent in 2006 and brought in Jim Thome. It worked out for all sides in the short term but, ideally, someone like Frank Thomas hits No. 500 on the South Side of Chicago and stays with the Sox forever.

8. Carlos Quentin breaks own wrist in frustration — September 1, 2008

The White Sox made the playoffs 2008, but they had much less of a chance to beat the Rays in the first round because slugger Carlos Quentin wasn't there. Why wasn't he there? Because with a month left in the regular season, in a moment of frustration over hitting a foul ball against Cliff Lee, Quentin had broken his own right wrist by whacking it with the bat he held in his left hand. His own wrist! Over a foul ball. What a dope. Quentin was having his best personal season, of course, leading the league in home runs with 36, and already had driven in 100 runs in 130 games. The Sox, who needed that 163rd game to make the playoffs (fun, but probably unnecessary with Quentin healthy), ended up losing to the Rays in four games. Quentin was never quite the same after the bout of self-inflicted pain.

9. Kyle Schwarber tears up knee months before World Series heroics —April 7, 2016

Everybody remembers how Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs ended 2016 (winning the World Series), but do you remember the second game of the regular season, when Schwarber tangled with Dexter Fowler in the outfield and tore up his left knee in the process? (Of course you remember! That's why you're a Midway Minute subscriber!) Surely though, when Schwarber went down, it seemed like entire season was in doubt.

But how about the Schwarber case for giving Sox fans some optimism about Eloy Jiménez? After missing every game in between, Schwarber in the Series batted .412/.500./471, contributing a double, two runs scored, three walks and (somehow) a stolen base.

10. Ronnie Fields breaks neck in car wreck — February 26, 1996

Fields and high-school teammate Kevin Garnett won the Chicago Public League title with Farragut in 1995, and Garnett soon would be taken fifth overall in the NBA Draft. A year later, Fields was having another great individual season (he was the biggest Chicago prep star in at least 20 years), and had accepted an offer to play in college at DePaul.

But while driving a rental car in rural DuPage County just before the IHSA playoffs started, Fields swerved to avoid hitting an object in the road and slammed twice into a guard rail. Surgery would fuse three cervical vertebrae and forever change his trajectory as a basketball player.

10(a). Jay Williams breaks his body in motorcycle crash — June 19, 2003

The Bulls made Jay Williams from Duke the second overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft and he had a solid first season. Not long after his rookie season ended, in June 2003, Williams made several bad decisions leading to a motorcycle accident that injured him severely enough to end his career.

The truth was, he was lucky to survive, although it took Williams a while to realize it as he sunk into self-medicating, depression and despair. Thankfully, Williams found a way through and remade himself into a respected basketball commentator and TV personality, a career that continues to this day.

The Bulls also were lucky, in a sense, because the accident happened before the 2003 NBA Draft, and they used a pick to select Kirk Hinrich.

(H/T to reader Midway Minute reader George Pontikis.)

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