The fourth game in a four game series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates was halted for thirteen minutes in Great American ballpark when two Reds outfielders collided while going after a ball, knocking one of the players unconscious. Center fielder Ryan Freel and right fielder Norris Hopper collided while going after a ball hit by Pirates catcher Humberto Cota in the third inning. Both men were running full speed when Freel supposedly caught the ball on the warning track and was hit on the left side by Hopper. Freel spun left and fell next to the wall. Freel had just signed a contract extension six weeks before and joked that he could now be more aggressive on the ball field. If Freel wasn’t superstitious before, he may be now.

After the collision, Hopper got up unhurt, but Freel lay motionless on the ground for 13 minutes before being taken out of the park on an ambulance. One Pirates radio announcer mentioned that you could hear a pin drop in the somber stadium, rare for the laid back, family friendly atmosphere of a typical baseball game. In the fourth inning, Reds announcers mentioned that Freel had lost feeling in his extremities. He has since regained feeling, and while CT scans on his head and neck show that no major damage was done, Freel has a contusion to the head and neck.

After the scare, the Reds went on to beat the Pirates 4-0, robbing the Pirates of a sweep. Their winning pitcher, Kyle Lohse broke not only the team’s six-game losing streak but also a personal six-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Pirates’ pitching star Ian Snell fell to a 4-4 record, noticing that after Freel’s collision, the Reds defense took off. What’s most disturbing about this story is that upon review of the play from multiple angles, it has been shown that Freel did not catch Cota’s fly ball. Instead, the tape shows that while leaning over Freel’s motionless body, Hopper picked up the baseball from the ground and placed it into his glove, right before the umpire ran up to them to determine whether or not a catch was made. Had this been noticed, Cota would have had an inside the park homerun, and the game may have turned out very differently for the Pirates. There is no word yet on what will be done upon this discovery. Even Pirates players such as first basemen Adam LaRoche does not consider what Hopper did cheating, though in my opinion, taking a homerun away from a player is wrong, whether it was cheating or not.

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