ST. LOUIS (AP) - Becoming a World Series star was far from the troubled mind of David Ross last summer.
He had just gotten a tiebreaking, seventh-inning double in Monday night’s 3-1 win over St. Louis, giving Boston a 3-2 World Series lead, and the journeyman catcher thought back to May 11.
A dreary Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park had begun with a 51-minute rain delay, and Toronto’s Adam Lind hit a tiebreaking home run leading off the ninth inning in what would be a 3-2 Red Sox loss. Three pitches later, Colby Rasmus fouled a 93 mph fastball off the upper part of the catcher’s mark, near Ross‘ forehead.
Ross put a hand on his chest, took 30 seconds to compose himself and crouched down for another delivery. Nine pitches later, Emilio Bonifacio deflected a 94 mph heater smack at Ross‘ skull, so hard that the mask jarred back. Ross put his right hand on his head and about a minute later was ready for another delivery.
Turns out they were more than just another pair of foul tips.
Ross went on the 7-day concussion disabled list and didn’t return until May 25. He fell into a 3-for-22 slide put kept on playing.
On June 14 at Baltimore, Manny Machado fouled Ryan Dempster’s fourth pitch of the night, an 87 mph fastball, off the mask again. Ross grimaced, grabbed the front of his headgear, walked out to the mound and got back behind the plate. He finished out the 2-0 defeat. Four days later, he was back on the DL.
“I got home and my wife said, `You’re not right,’” he recalled. “And they did some tests and kind of concluded I wasn’t right. Then I tried to come back fast, not giving enough credit to really what a concussion is. As athletes we feel like we can get through anything, and I couldn’t. I stunk for a good two weeks, three weeks, and my wife finally was like, `If you don’t tell the doctors, I’m going to.’”
The Red Sox sent him to Pittsburgh to be examined on June 20 by Dr. Mickey Collins, a concussion specialist. Ross didn’t play for Boston again until Aug. 20.
“We try to do mind over matter sometimes, and the hardest part when you’re going through something like that is just you don’t have a cast on or you didn’t have surgery,” Ross said. “I looked fine, but I wasn’t right. It’s hard to look your teammates in the eye when you’re going through something like that and see if you’re bowing out or not, with the questions that they have. Because I used to do the same thing. `Concussion, just push through it. You’re not tough enough’ or something like that.”
But now he knew.
“Headaches and dizziness and all the symptoms, couldn’t ride in a car, couldn’t be in crowded places,” he said, “but did all the exercises Mickey put me through and slowly came back. And thank goodness my hitting has come around, because I stunk there for a while.”
The very definition of a bench player _ he’s never gotten more than 311 at-bats in a year _ Ross hit .270 over the final 5 1/2 weeks of the regular season.
“There’s a reason why I hit in the 8 hole and the 9 hole in the American League,” he said. “I’m not very good at hitting.”
He was 1 for 9 in the World Series before his fifth-inning single. And then Ross pulled a 79 mph hanging curveball from Adam Wainwright down the left-field line that landed just a few inches fair, allowing Xander Bogaerts to score from second. If the ball hadn’t bounced into the stands, Stephen Drew would have scored from first. He came around on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single as Ross was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Shane Robinson