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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: MAY 21, 1992

An Angel May Have Been Looking Out for Them

May 21, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At 1:50 a.m., seven years ago today, two charter buses carrying the Angels from New York to Baltimore were headed southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike, not far from Philadelphia.

The first bus sideswiped a freeway guardrail, which gave way.

The bus tumbled onto its side and slid 300 feet down an embankment, stopping on its side in a thicket.

Most seriously hurt of the nine injured passengers was Angel Manager Buck Rodgers, who had a shattered right elbow and broken left knee.

Rodgers had to be flown in a medical charter from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, where he was prepped for surgery later that week. John Wathan was appointed interim manager.

When the horror of the incident had faded a bit, the Angels turned to humor to lighten the emotional load. In Baltimore later that day, radio announcer Al Conin, with a black eye, told reporters about his early morning visit to a hospital:

"A nurse saw red all over my shirt and said, 'Oh, my God--take off your shirt.'

"I had to explain to her it wasn't blood, it was pizza sauce. We were eating chicken and pizza on the bus and I was knocked right into my pizza."

Wathan, who had been two rows behind Rodgers in the bus, was approached by a Baltimore reporter that evening who said, "Nice to see you."

Replied Wathan, "That's the nicest thing you could possibly say to me."

Also on this date: In 1996, Dodger outfielder Brett Butler underwent three hours of what doctors called successful surgery for lymph node cancer on his neck and throat. . . . In 1991, Darryl Strawberry hit two tape-measure home runs in the Astrodome to lift the Dodgers to a 7-3 victory over Houston. . . . In 1960, Boston University sophomore John Thomas lifted the world high jump record to 7-1 3/4. . . . In 1994, Wayne Lukas' Tabasco Cat won the Preakness. Five months earlier, Lukas' son Jeff had suffered serious head injuries when run over by the horse. . . . In 1990, Nolan Ryan's streak of 125 consecutive starts ended when, at 43, he was put on the disabled list because of a sore back. . . . In 1964, Sandy Koufax struck out 11 and led the Dodgers to their eighth win in a row over the New York Mets, 6-1. . . . In 1960, a steamed Dodger owner Walter O'Malley called the hike in his Coliseum rent from $310,000 to $800,000 "outrageous."

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