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20 years ago today: The California Angels bus crash

May 21, 2012, 1:30 PM EDT

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Youngins won’t remember this, but on this day in 1992 the California Angels’ team bus was involved in a nasty crash. They were on their way to the airport on their offday following a series against the Yankees in New York when it overturned on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Chris Jaffe has a column up about it today over at The Hardball Times. No one died, but …

But one man unquestionably had it the worst of all, manager Buck Rodgers. He damaged a knee and rib cage, and most of all had a badly broken elbow, which was broken in multiple places. The doctor who examined Rodgers said he looked like a post-fall Humpty Dumpty.

Rodgers would have to miss much of the season. He was confined to a wheelchair for a time due to his knee, and between that and his elbow, he didn’t return for over three months.

I know it is either taboo to mention it because it’s so awful or cliche to mention it since George talked about it on “Seinfeld” once, but major league baseball teams do an awful lot of travelling. We’re fortunate there hasn’t been more incidents such as these, or worse.

The Angels, who had lost three straight just before the accident, took a while to recover. They lost 15 of their first 18 after the accident, and they never really bounced back. Rodgers did return to the dugout on Aug. 28, but the season was a lost cause by then.

  1. mybrunoblog - May 21, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    I remember the bus accident well. In the days following I remember all the talk about how the Angels are a “cursed franchise”. The team had suffered a number of accidents, tragedies and bad luck since their 1962 inception and this was like an icing on the cake.
    Of course there are no such things as curses. The Angels turned things around 10 years ago, won a world championship and became a model on the field product.

    Well, that Pujols thing hasn’t worked out so well……

    • kpow55 - May 21, 2012 at 2:55 PM

      I wondered how long it would take someone to work Pujols into a story about a bush crash 20 YEARs ago….. first comment out of the gate… shocker

  2. deathmonkey41 - May 21, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    I vaguely remember it- and I would have been living in Jersey at the time- not far from the airport.

  3. someguyinva - May 21, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    They weren’t on their way to the airport. Their next series was in Baltimore, and they were using buses to get from New York to Baltimore.

  4. natstowngreg - May 21, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    I read years ago that MLB had a contingency plan for a draft to restock a team if more than a certain number of players (don’t recall the number) died in an accident. Thought of that when almost the entire Russian hockey team Lokomotiv Yarolsavl died in a plane crash last September. Just though about it again. Fortunately, MLB has never had to deal with such a situation.

    • dennisinsf - May 21, 2012 at 4:32 PM

      Here’s a summary of MLB’s disaster plan: http://mlb.sbnation.com/2011/9/8/2412695/hockey-team-plane-crash-mlb-disaster-plan

      • natstowngreg - May 22, 2012 at 8:07 AM

        Thanks.

  5. jimbo1949 - May 21, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    Buck Rogers should have stuck to his rocket ship.

  6. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 21, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    We’re fortunate there hasn’t been more incidents such as these, or worse.

    Baseball may not have, but plenty of other sports have. The 1949 Torino A.C football team lost 18 players and 13 other club officials, journalists, etc. In 1970, almost the entire Marshall football team was killed in a plane crash. The KHL team that was mentioned above and a few other rugby/football teams have lost players via plane crash.

  7. hushbrother - May 21, 2012 at 8:50 PM

    Rodgers was a heck of a manager. In 1987 he took an Expos team that was universally picked to finish last and won 91 games.

  8. foreverchipper10 - May 22, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    So I guess at 28 I am considered a youngin. Cool. Though this story is horrible and I truly knew nothing about it until now.

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