The two cracks seemed to echo through a silent Three Rivers Stadium Saturday.
First there was the crack of Jeff King's bat and then, almost instantaneously, another crack as the ball struck Chicago Cubs pitcher Mitch Williams in the head.Williams, a flamboyant left-hander known as "Wild Thing" for his inconsistency with his pitches, has a bizarre pitching motion. He delivers the ball with a herky-jerky motion. Then, as he follows through, he falls violently toward third base, so off balance that he is unable to field anything . . . especially a baseball headed directly at his head.
"I saw it coming," he said later, having been told that his injury was nothing so severe that a double dose of Advil couldn't cure it. "Ducked right into it."
He went down in a heap, clutching at his left ear, where the ball struck. For one heart-stopping moment no one knew if he would ever be able to get up.
"All I knew was it hurt," he said.
There was a ringing, too, and Williams knew he was too far from the dugout for it to be the phone.
"I was sick. My stomach went upside down," said Cubs manager Don Zimmer.
That's not surprising. Zimmer has a metal plate in his skull, the result of being hit in the head with a pitch as a player.
By the time Zimmer got there Mitchell's head had stopped ringing and he was trying to stagger to his feet, blood dripping from a cut beside his ear, where the ball had hit.
"I get there and the guy wants to pitch," said Zimmer.
"Right then you're not caring about the game, only about the person," said shortstop Shawon Dunston.
Williams walked off the field under his own power. Later he was able to joke about it, calling the line drive an "ugly finder."
"Probably the best spot it could've hit me. Anywhere else and I might've gotten hurt."
Williams said he saw no reason why he shouldn't be able to pitch Sunday.