Sometime between taking a 102-mph comebacker to his right ankle and striking Jose Altuve out with a curveball 16 pitches later, Charlie Morton broke his leg. When Morton left the first game of the World Series Tuesday night with an injury the team later announced was a season-ending fibula fracture, the viewer was left mentally replaying a fairly astonishing series of events: It seemed Morton had sustained the fracture making the first out of the second inning, struck out the next batter, gotten the batter after that to line out, walked off the field at the end of the inning, walked back on the mound to start the next inning, struck out Altuve, walked off the field again with a trainer when the pain began to flare up—this was reported on the broadcast as rather benign-sounding swelling—and done that all with a broken leg.
The exact moment of injury remains tricky to pinpoint, though. Such is the nature of a fracture, and such is the nature of the freakish adrenaline levels that keep athletes from noticing for some time that they have perhaps broken a bone. “I’m not a doctor, or all that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said, sagely, after the game, to preface an answer about the outs Morton made after Yuli Gurriel smoked the ball into Morton to lead off the second. (It trickled over to first base for a groundout.) “But I don’t know that it was broken when he did that. I mean, it was stressed. But he felt OK. And I think a lot of athletes have done that.” Snitker suggested this sort of sequence was not uncommon in baseball; he’d once seen a player foul a ball off his foot, hit a home run in his next at-bat and then fracture the foot when he rounded the bases.
So the viewer, actually, was no more surprised by Morton’s suddenly bleak prognosis than anyone on the field. The team took X-rays of Morton’s ankle between the second and third inning, and they’d turned up negative. “When the inning was over, we meet and talk about what’s going on,” Atlanta catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “He said, ‘Oh, that one got me good.’ He was kind of walking a little funny. I didn’t think it was broken.” It was a second set of X-rays, taken after Morton stumbled on the last pitch to Altuve in the third inning, that bore the bad news. The Braves said Morton “will miss the remainder of the World Series and is expected to be ready for Spring Training 2022.”
If sussing out the actual injury took some time, it took about half as much time for Morton to be hailed for his heroics and toughness. Of course, the fundamental mystery of the situation—when and how exactly did it happen?—only heightens the legend. Would you expect anything less from the excitable doofuses who cover professional sports? For what it’s worth, I think there is some difference between gleefully smashing like and subscribe on MLB’s YouTube highlight video titled “Braves’ Charlie Morton gets 3 outs ON A BROKEN LEG in World Series Game 1!!” and just kind of marveling at the human body and all its mysteries and treacherous absurdities, which are never so apparent as in situations like last night’s. “He struck out a guy on a broken leg,” said reliever AJ Minter, maybe Atlanta’s true hero, who pitched a fantastic two and two-thirds innings after Morton exited the game. “It’s pretty remarkable.” It is remarkable. And while the injury deals a real blow to the team’s pitching staff, may render their 1-0 series lead over the Astros somewhat bittersweet, and offers a number of other things to remark on, I am still stuck here thinking, Charlie Morton, what the hell!!!