Vince Coleman and the Carnivorous Tarp

Steam rollers, laundry presses, and paper machines… each of these boast a large roller capable of pressing a man as flat as a pancake. Most of them are found in factories, surrounded by warning labels and safety precautions. But, as Vince Coleman once discovered, there is another apparatus which can do nearly as much damage.

And it’s at the ballpark, not in an industrial plant.

It all happened on a rainy October night in 1985. The St. Louis Cardinals had used their speed and base-stealing abilities to race into the playoffs. Now, against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the Championship Series, the Redbirds were set to host. The weather, as mentioned, was not quite ideal. The tarp was on the field, with pools of water scattered across its surface.

Enter Coleman, the lightning-quick outfielder who had already stolen 111 bases for Whitey Herzog and crew. Not wanting to alter his pre-game routine, the young speedster decided to stretch out on the tarp. All went well until someone decided to retract the tarp. The electronic retraction mechanism was keyed, and the gigantic cylinders rolled toward their quarry.

Coleman, for his part, was oblivious to the impending danger. He continued his stretching, until he felt a sharp pain in his leg. Turning, he watching in horror as the electronic rollers swallowed his knee and proceeded up his leg. Before the grounds crew could cut power to the beast and pull him free, the wounded Cardinal suffered a bone chip in his knee, along with severe bruising. Just like that, his season was over.

It was too bad for the Cardinals. While they would go on to capture the NL pennant against the Dodgers, they lost the World Series to another Missouri team, the Kansas City Royals.