January 30th, 1973
Bob Henley Born
Bob Henley played just one season for the Montreal Expos. Debuting in late July, he played 40 games the rest of the season and hit .304/.377/.470, and altough an Associated Press story credits him with "good defense" Henley threw out just 33% of would be base-stealers, with a fairly average passed ball rate. Nonetheless, catchers who can post an OPS+ of 126 (for an explanation of OPS+ plus, see the third paragraph of this entry), even in limited time are worth keeping around. Henley never played again not because the Expos were too foolish to recognize his value, but instead because of injuries. Henley underwent elbow surgery after the 1998 season. Before he could come back, Henley torn his right labrum, and had to have surgery to fix that in 1999. He finally recovered sufficiently to join the Expos for spring training in 2001 but was no longer able to play catcher (presumably on account of having no arm strength) and after failing to make an impression as a first baseman, he was released. Henley went on to be the only one of the Expos minor league mangers to survive the team's move to Washington, and is now the skipper of the Single-A Potomac Cannons.
Henley's story is not particularly unique, change various details and it could probably be told about any number of ballplayers. I choose it not only because it struck me as both reflective of the wide-variety of ballplayers who had this fate befall them but also because it raises the interesting question of how many truly great players had their career ruined by these kinds of things. Its unlikely anyone could have found a way to be more valuable than Babe Ruth (who is arguably the greatest hitter ever and has 1200 innings of better-than-average pitching to boot) and I doubt that Henley could have been it, but it does make one wonder how many would-be Willie Mays or Roger Clemens suffered an injury somewhere along the way and never made it.