In the second game of the 1973 World Series between the Oakland A's and New York Mets, Mike Andrews, the A's second baseman, committed two 12th-inning errors, giving the Mets three unearned runs and a 10-7 victory.
"I had a sore arm earlier in the year, but that was all cleared up some time ago, so I have no excuse," Andrews told reporters after the game. "My arm feels fine now."
But Oakland owner Charles O. Finley ordered Andrews to have a physical examination, despite the player's assertions.
Dr. Hearry Walker, the team's orthopedist, said in a statement released by Finley that Andrews would be disabled for the rest of the season because of a "bicep groove tencosynovities in the right shoulder." Andrews consigned the statment.
Finley then put Andrews on the disabled list, hoping to replace him for the rest of the Series. The rest of the A's considered Finley's action tantamount to firing Andrews. After much discord, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered Andrews reinstated, saying Andrews' condition could not change in one game.
Two weeks later, the A's released Andrews. The California Board of Medical Examiners reviewed Walker's role in the incident, finding no fault. Walker refused to discuss the matter.
The Andrews affair illustrates the often-delicate relationships among team doctors and players, owners, coaches and managers.
Each may have a different opinion. The handling of such instances may vary widely among teams, physicians and players at the professional and amateur levels.
"Five years ago, the team physician was someone who, was advising the coach. Generally speaking, now, the team physician has the last word on whether the player would go in," said Gary Jenks, executive director of the American College of Sports Medicine.
"At the smaller colleges and high schools, you still have some stereotyped coaches . . . urging the player to get in there and play (injured)," he continued. "But even the less intelligent coach today cannot risk his reputation Parents and athletes are more concerned now."
Also colleges and high schools are having diffilculty obtaining insurance coverage for some sports, such as football and trampoline.
The National Federation of State High School Associations has found that, nationally, about 95 per cent of all state high school activities and sports associations now have liability coverage problems.
It's at the professional sports level that the medical community finds itself dealing more with ethical questions - encompassing both medical and legal dilemmas.
"At the pro level, the individual player probably has more say-so than he did at the college or high school level. He may opt to play," said Dr. James Garrick, medical advisor of the joint safety committee of the National Football League and the NFL Players Association.
"I think we've all been in a position where the players chooses not to tell (the physician about an injury," Garrick said.
With the average professional sports career spanning four years, the pressure to play is intense.
The tension this can place on players was described by Washington Redskin defensive tackle Diron Talbert in an interview with Gordon Forbes of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"Ron McDole - they've been shooting at him at halftime for a hamstring. He didn't snap it, but just pulled it. He'll play.
"My hip pointer? Oh, hell, it's nothing that could keep me out of the ball game, I'll guarantee you that. If there's any question about it . . . hell, there's no question in my mind. That needle don't scare me. [WORD ILLEGIBLE] hip pointer is one of the things in football you can play with and it wouldn't hurt our body. It's something you can't harm if they shoot you with Xylocaine, put a pad on it and let you go.It'll be O.K. the first part of the game. But they'll have to shoot it at halftime again. That stuff wears off, you know . . .
Xylocaine and Novocaine . . . it's all legal. Now, none of that illegal, you know. I don't think the Redskins would do anything illegal. They won't shoot you up if they think it's going to hurt you.
"If our guys have something like a little hip pointer or a broken rib, they can play.I've seen 'em' shoot some players right through the tape at halftime. We've got characte. Our guys want to play. They want to be on the field, not on the bench."
Conversely, there may be occasions when the player would rather not be on the field, but the coach thinks otherwise.
"In sports, there is always a crisis that occurs every minute. We hear. 'Losing is death,' and all that. Well death is death and losing is not death," said Dr. Robert Nirschl, an Arlington orthopedic surgeon who heads the Virginia Medical Society's sports medicine committee.
Given the zealousness of players and position . . . which doesn't have anything to do with the realities of medical judgement." Nirschl continued, using a hypothetical but often realistic example of a coach-player conflict.
"For a physician to be effective in those cases, he has to be totally his own man. I think it's a mistake for professional teams to hire physicians on a continuing basis," added Nirschl, who has been a team physician for two high school football teams. He has also treated many professional athleters.
Some concern exists in the medical community about what has come to be known derisively as the "jock doc," a physician whose allegiance may lie more with management that foots the bill, who gets a kick out of being on the bench.
The medical profession tries to monitor this but the normal diversity of opinions among physicians inhibits second-guessing.
There are also physicians whose practice multiplies because of publicity from their associations with teams and athletes. A good number of their patients come to them with sports-related injuries.
The publicity surrounding sports events put an extra strain on patient-doctor confidentiality. If a star player, for example, is carried off the field, fans watching on television across the country want to know what happened.
Their interest, however, is not always related to the health of the athlete. And so the NFL has set up a pregame injury reporting system to give the public an idea of the injury's seriousness.
Although players' conditions are listed in general terms (probable, questionable, doubtful, out), some teams often release more detailed information than others.
While teams are required to release certain medical information, sometimes the reliability is in question. The injury report is a convenient tool for psychological warfare.
Before the Redskins-Dallas Cowboys game Nov. 27, Dallas listed 17 players as "probable."
"It's the longest (list) of any club in the league every week," said Redskin coach George Allen. "It seems like if you (a Dallas player) have a toothache, you're on there."