Bugs badgering ballplayers just part of the game

The moth that forced Matt Holliday from the outfield is done

causing mischief. What remained of the offending bug was tucked

inside a sandwich bag, perfect for TV cameras and for the St. Louis

Cardinals’ star to show it off around the clubhouse.

”He died overflowed of wisdom being inside my head,” Holliday

joked Tuesday, a day after the insect flew deep inside his right

ear during in the eighth inning of a game against the Los Angeles

Dodgers.

Midges, mosquitoes and grasshoppers have pestered players in the

past. But this latest call of the wild was something even manager

Tony La Russa couldn’t remember seeing before.

”That’s a weird one,” La Russa said. ”And it was in there

deep, too.”

Holliday stayed in the game for a few more pitches hoping to

shake the moth loose. It was in there about 10 minutes, the buzz

more annoying than the pain, before a team of three – two trainers

and the team physician – participated in the extraction.

First, they tried turning off all the lights, hoping the moth

would fly out on its own. Then, out came the tweezers for a sizable

bug.

”It didn’t go through?” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly

joked.

In the end, it was just a minor annoyance. Holliday was back in

the lineup Tuesday night, and without wearing mosquito netting

around his hat in left field.

”I’ll probably wear some kind of ear muff, I guess,” he said.

”If that’s available in Cardinal red. Get the bird on the bat put

on there.”

Incidents with larger animals on the field are more common. La

Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation began with a stray cat at a

stadium.

A bug so powerful it disrupts the game is another story.

”Never seen anybody come off the field with a moth in his

ear,” Cardinals backup catcher Gerald Laird said. ”Definitely a

first.”

A playoff game in 2007 in Cleveland will be forever remembered

not for heroics on the field but for an attack of midges, close

cousins of mosquitoes who don’t bite but can create quite a

nuisance. Making their way from Lake Erie, they made life miserable

for Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain.

The rookie reliever was sprayed with insect repellant before

taking the mound in the eighth inning, and yet was covered with

bugs on his neck and back while squandering a 1-0 lead. Infielders

waved their arms and caps to buy a little space, and shortstop

Derek Jeter said it was as if the bugs had been released.

”It was tougher on Joba than anybody,” catcher Jorge Posada

said. ”After the fact, we heard that OFF made it worse.”

In June 2000, Giants outfielder Barry Bonds lost a fly ball at

the warning track because of a swarm of locusts and bumped it over

the wall to give Shawon Dunston a three-run homer.

Reporters approached the often temperamental Bonds warily,

worrying he would have no comment – or worse. Instead, he had a

good laugh at his own expense.

”You know, my dad told me if you play long enough in your

career, something’s going to happen,” Bonds said. ”I used to

watch this on TV. Well, now I get to be on the bloopers reel.”

Hall of Fame reliever Hoyt Wilhelm once grabbed a can of bug

spray at old Comiskey Park to fight off mosquitoes between pitches.

Minor league games have been postponed on account of

grasshoppers.

Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay recalled getting a fly stuck in

his eye for several innings when he was a prospect playing at

Nashville. No big thing compared to what happened to Holliday.

Not to say there was much sympathy.

Holliday’s plight brought back the time Randy Johnson killed a

bird throwing a ball at spring training. Giants infielder Mark

DeRosa recalled an unnamed player getting locked into a tanning bed

so long he had to be scratched from the lineup because of

sunburn.

San Francisco reliever Jeremy Affeldt made a hygiene joke,

pointing out that moths are attracted to ear wax and ”maybe he

should have cleaned them.”

The Cardinals’ medical team would be glad to learn their initial

approach was on the money. Ed Spevak, curator for invertebrates for

the St. Louis Zoo, said moths are attracted to all lights and in

particular to the huge standards that illuminate Busch Stadium.

Holliday’s white jersey didn’t help matters, either.

”It actually works as an additional reflector to attract

insects,” Spevak said.

Spevak said he’s seen incidents of flies and beetles ending up

in people’s ears, noting that beetles might attempt to chew further

in and damage ear drums. He didn’t think Holliday would have any

long-term problems, and Holliday’s lighthearted approach on Tuesday

backed that up.

”That was my concern, that it would eat through my brain,”

Holliday said. ”Dr. Paletta told me that’s not possible, and if it

happens again I won’t panic.”

Examining the contents of the bag, Holliday wasn’t sure if he’d

be able to show the moth to his kids who were in bed before he got

home Monday night and at school before dad woke up.

”I don’t think it’ll hold together much longer,” Holliday

said. ”It’s turning to dust before my eyes.”

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley, AP Sports Writers Tom Withers

and Howie Rumberg, and Associated Press Writer Jim Salter

contributed to this report.