Major League Baseball
Bugs badgering ballplayers just part of the game
Major League Baseball

Bugs badgering ballplayers just part of the game

Published Aug. 24, 2011 2:06 a.m. ET

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.


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