It’s no fun losing your cookies in front of 25,054 fans at Yankee Stadium, but baseball and throwing up go together like peanuts and Cracker Jack. So hold your head up high, Dylan Bundy: You have no reason to be ashamed.
After all, it’s not like it was your manager who declared before the game, “Our season’s on the line,” as New York Yankees skipper Aaron Boone did, only to then see his team lose with another clunker of a performance.
The Los Angeles Angels beat the Yankees 5-3, but Bundy, the Angels’ starter, was long gone from the game by then, after departing in the top of the second inning while suffering from heat exhaustion on a hot night in the Bronx, where the game-time temperature was 90 degrees and the heat index even higher.
Facing DJ LeMahieu with two outs and a runner on second, Bundy looked in for the sign and then stopped off the rubber, walked behind the mound and made social media history. As a Yankees fan named Matt tweeted, “Dylan Bundy moved to vomit after watching the Yankees for just two innings. How does he think the rest of us feel?”
Sitting in the front row, NBA All-Star Kevin Durant was either amused or horrified at what he saw. It’s hard to tell.
It’s no laughing matter, of course. Heat exhaustion is a serious thing. The next two days are going to be even hotter in the Northeast, and the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals will all be at home, not to mention a slew of minor league teams across the region. Portland and Seattle set all-time record temperatures on Monday, with Portland hitting 114, although the Mariners are luckily on the road. Heck, a small town in British Columbia hit 116 degrees — edging out the hottest temperature ever recorded in Las Vegas.
(Somewhere, some old-timer is chiming in: “Ninety degrees? That’s nothing. Try pitching in a day game in St. Louis in a wool uniform when it’s 99 degrees with 93% humidity. And we didn’t pitch no five innings back then! We went the whole game!” And the old-timer might have a point. Wool uniforms were the worst.)
As for Bundy, Angels manager Joe Maddon said after the game that he was feeling better and that Bundy had reported after the first inning that he wasn’t feeling well. Bundy went back out for the second inning knowing something might happen.
Talk about sacrificing one for the team.
“Getting out there and seeing all that, that was kind of tough to watch,” Maddon said. “To be in front of everybody like that and deal with it like he did, he’s a pro.”
Bundy’s incident, unfortunately, was captured forever on camera, although let’s hope it never makes it on one of those blooper highlight reels that used to be popular between-innings fare at games. He does join a time-honored baseball tradition, however.
Perhaps the most famous throwing-up story in baseball history involves Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. It was Game 7 of the 1926 World Series between Alexander’s St. Louis Cardinals and the Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Alexander had pitched a complete game win the day before and didn’t expect to pitch in Game 7. As Paul E. Doutrich detailed at SABR.org, “‘Old Pete’ was in the twilight of his illustrious career. He was also a confirmed alcoholic and everyone assumed that he had celebrated his previous day’s big win by drinking into the early morning hours. Clearly he would not be ready to face the Yankees again.”
Some versions of the story have Alexander throwing up in the clubhouse before the game. Other versions say manager Rogers Hornsby had told Alexander to limit his celebrations and that he wasn’t even hung over, let alone getting sick. Alexander famously got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning and pitched the rest of the game to close out the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory (Ruth made the final out trying to steal second base).
Of course, there is no shortage of stories of hungover players throwing up before games — see Mickey Mantle — or puking before games due to nerves. Perhaps the most unusual puking story that doesn’t involve alcohol or stress involves Sandy Koufax. Or his sweatshirt, at least.
Koufax’s elbow was in so much pain later in his career that he would use a salve called Capsolin to dull the pain. The mixture was made from red hot chili peppers grown in China and was so lethal the Dodgers’ trainer would wear surgical gloves to apply the substance before games. Players called it the “atomic balm.” In Jane Leavy’s biography of Koufax, she writes that most pitchers would dilute the mixture with Vaseline or cold cream, but Koufax used it straight. As she details, one cold night in Pittsburgh, Dodgers outfielder Lou Johnson wore one of Koufax’s sweatshirts under his jersey to keep warm — whether he knew it was Koufax’s shirt isn’t clear. “First he began to sweat,” she writes. “Then his skin blistered. Then he threw up.”
But maybe we’ll forget Bundy’s unfortunate episode in time. Two years ago, Brewers pitcher Adrian Houser botched a ground ball for an error, strolled around the mound, squatted to his knees … and lost his lunch. He actually stayed in the game and got the win, striking out 10 batters in six innings. Get this, though: That wasn’t even the first puking episode of Houser’s career. In 2018, he was called up from the minors and entered a game in relief in the eighth inning — and threw up before his first pitch. Two batters later, he threw up again.
Just a couple weeks ago, Tigers reliever Beau Burrows made his season debut (although not his major league debut, as he made five appearances in 2020). It was, however, his first game in front of fans, and the game-time temperature was 85. He made it through his first inning, but in his second inning he struggled, his pitch count started to run up, he started to breathe a little heavy … and let’s just stop the play-by-play there. The Tigers sent Burrows down after the game.
So you have company, Mr. Bundy. Although none of them got sick in front of Kevin Durant.