Dickie Thon described it this way: “It was like a boom … a dead sound. Like a thud.”
Today, the boxscore reads HBP (hit by pitch) but, for Thon, it was more than that. The Astros All-Star shortstop had been hit by a pitch major league pitches four times prior to April 8, 1984. No. 5 — a fastball by New York Mets pitcher Mike Torrez — fractured Thon’s orbital bone around his left eye, changing his life and career.
A fuzzy 30 year old video shows Thon frozen at the plate as the baseball exploded off his left ear flap and grazing his temple before striking his eye. Harvey said Torrez’ fastball started out waist high, then suddenly took a sharp right. Thon crumbled. The Dome went quiet as Thon slowly rocked back-and-forth, his right arm covering his face. Home plate umpire Doug Harvey leaned over and saw that Thon was still conscious. Jose Cruz, who was in the Astros’ on-deck circle, Torrez and Astros manager, Bob Lillis circled around him.
”The first thing I thought of is that I want to make it, I want to live and see my family again,” said Thon.
Nothing was the same after that moment.
Thon spent the next week in the hospital and underwent surgery to have a small piece of bone realigned.
Torrez called Thon the next day to apologize.
“I don’t blame Mike Torrez,” he told the New York Times. “I blame myself. I think, ‘Why did I let this happen?’ I just stood there.”