Chris Sale has a chance to make his mark on baseball history when he starts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. But on Saturday, the Red Sox ace officially joined the Weird Injury Hall of Fame when he said the stomach illness that sent him to the hospital earlier in the week and forced him to miss his start in Game 5 of the ALCS was caused by irritation from a belly button ring.
“Constantly taking it in and out caused irritation. Doctors and nurses at [Massachusetts General Hospital] were awesome. Things happen. You handle them. And keep moving forward,” Sale said according to the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodanto.
“Things happen,” is a very casual way to describe what would surely have counted as the most distinctive injury of this postseason, especially when considering how strange things do sometimes happen to pitchers this time of year. In October 2016, Indians starter Trevor Bauer was scratched from starting Game 2 of the ALCS because he cut himself while fixing a drone.
But unfortunately, it seems that Sale’s bellybutton story is too good (and weird) to be true. Per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Sale told teammates before meeting with the media Saturday that he wanted to see if he could fool them into buying the explanation. Nightengale reported that one Red Sox player, who asked to remain anonymous so as to not ruin the prank, gave up the game, which almost worked.
If the story had, in fact, been true, Sale would have joined Bauer and several others in the pantheon of weird ailments suffered by baseball players. For example, former Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya, who missed games in the 2006 ALCS after injuring himself playing Guitar Hero, and former Padres pitcher (and not Nationals outfielder) Adam Eaton, who once missed a start after stabbing himself in the stomach while trying to open a DVD.
Before it was made known that Sale was spinning a yarn, there were a fair amount of priceless reactions to his story.
According to the Boston Herald, most reporters present for the explanation, as well as a Red Sox spokesman, assumed that Sale was indeed joking. That brought about immediate debate online regarding whether that was the case.
With Sale unable to go in that Game 5, David Price started the game instead and spun the best game of his postseason career in helping Boston get the win and advance. The Red Sox will meet either the Dodgers or Brewers in the Fall Classic.