Could a shattered bat impale an infielder?

Batter gets an inside fastball and breaks his bat - the pointy shard flies in a line towards a player.

My question is, could be the bat be pointy enough and travel with enough velocity to actually stab into an infielder? Maybe the pitcher isn’t looking, next thing he knows he’s got a Louisville Slugger sticking out of his chest?

Related question - how badly has a fan / unmpire / coach / player gotten hurt by a broken bat shard?

I seriously doubt this could happen. If it did happen it would almost have to be on purpose (i.e. the batter, after breaking the bat, throws the bat as hard as he can at anopther player). Even then I doubt it could do much damage unless it hit in the face. Infielders aren’t all that close to the batter and of course the bat-shard would have to pierce the clothing and then skin (I know you can break skin without puncturing clothing but I think the gist of what I’m saying is here).

Frankly, the ball is FAR more dangerous than the bat in baseball.

If it ever happens, I think the pitcher is the one that has to be most aware. In last nights game, it looked like the bat splintered into three pieces, the largest shard spun past the pitcher and into the left field area. Funny how pitchers don’t look too suave when they are dodging a ball or a bat.

The shard is usually spinning, which means the lateral motion will keep it from actually impaling anyone and that the piece would travel relatively slowly… You might get a cut from it, and it could hit you pretty hard, but it’s unlikely that someone on the field would be so unalert that he wouldn’t be able to dodge.

In 1976 Steve Yeager, catcher for the Dodgers, was hit with the shards of a broken bat while he was standing in the on-deck circle. He had nine splinters removed from his neck. He subsequently invented the neck guard - that thing you sometimes see dangling from the bottom of the catcher’s mask.

Steve Yeager is the nephew of famous test pilot Chuck Yeager.

Actually, one could get pretty hurt by getting hit with a broken bat. I remember a Cubs game where Ryne Sandberg broke his bat and the rest of it ended up in the stands. An old woman was hit, a bloody mess. They had to take her out on a stretcher. Impaling though? I’m not too sure about that. It would have to be really sharp.

How about the batter? He could shatter a sharp piece off and into his own unprotected leg rather easily I would imagine, and he cretainly wouldn’t have time to get out of the way. The speed of the shrapnel would still be pretty fast at that point too.

I remember watching one of those Fox "You Gotta See This!’ (aside: is it me or should this title have “Hee-yuk!” attached to the end of it?) episodes where a pitcher just missed being impaled in the temple by a shatted bat. He was injured but not seriously. So yes, it could certainly happen.

How does that prove he could’ve actually been impaled though?

Do you seriously wonder if it is impossible for a splintered bat spinning through the air at 30+ mph could not impale soft flesh???

You can get a splinter from a toothpick if you’re unlucky. Why would you doubt this cannot happen from a baseball bat?

C’mon, this is the Straight Dope. Let’s put some muscle into this analysis, shall we? The following is not a proof, but is data that happens to be borne out by my own experience with knives, spears, arrows, etc.

Hand thrown wooden spears impacting at 30 or less mph can easily pierce flesh with lethal results. Atlatl thrown darts (which are shorter, lighter, more flexible wood pieces, unlike spears) can impale game at 30-40m (100-130 ft) with an initial velocity of up to 100 mph (160kph) The pitcher’s mound, first base and third base are all within atlatl dart range of home plate. Second base is a bit too far for a standard atlatl throw, but within the range of the longest recorded throws (and we have very few, unselected atlatl throwers these days - much less selected and less thoroughly trained than than Major League power hitters)

If everything is just right a bat could act as a crude two handed atlatl, wielded by a highly selected, highly trained swing maximizer.

A ball struck by a baseball bat can acquire considerably more velocity than a pitcher’s 100mph pitch (A batter can hit a ball up into the far centerfield stands. A pitcher at home plate can’t come close to throwing a ball into the stands - outfielders can manage about half the full field length in a low arc, and practive throwing a ball infield towards a runner coming home.)

It is not unthinkable that a small fragment of a bat could approach the velocity of a well-hit ball, and certainly the much lower velocity of an atlatl-thrown dart, even after some energy was absorbed in breaking the bat (which would usually absorb a large amount of the energy, some of which might be returned by the complex kinematics of the flexion and elasticity of the shattered bat). It is somewhat more likely that a fragment or large splinter might achieve the lower still impact velocity of a wooden spear or a (fairly light and flimsy) wooden blowgun dart.

The fragment would, however, be very unlikely to have a straight flight with no tumble. In addition to its energy and momentum, it would likely have a considerable angular momentum (tumble) about the centrum where it broke from he bat. Aerodynamics and the equipartion of forces and momenum between several fragments, along with the phase of the moon and an ancient gypsy curse might, however line up he forces just right. Also, thrown knives, which are admittedly harder, denser and sharper than wood fragments (but are also thrown at much lower velocity) routinely impale themselves in hard wooden targets after a tumbling flight at fairly low impact velocities

I would conclude that it would not be absolutely impossible, but it would be an extremely freakish occurence.

Some links on atlatls and atlatl darts:
American Journal of Physics
(abstract only for the public; full text available to subscribers)
From New Scientist 15 May 1999 pp40-43

As I said, this is not a proof by any stretch, but it would seem that the impact would contain more than enough energy to launch a sharp splinter of a bat, weighing less than the few ounces of an atlatl-thrown dart, into an extremely unlucky player. People have impaled themselves on not very sharp branches at very low velocities (i.e. tripping and falling into freshly trimmed bushes); the impact profile is admittedly very different, but it does serve to illustrate that the sharpness (or hardness) or a spear or arrow head is not absolutely necessary ot penetrate skin. Once the skin is penetrated, the internal organs can be pushed aside easily (as some of us know personally from performing abdominal surgeries)

I wouldn’t expect to see it happen in my lifetime, but I would not be utterly stunned if it did, either. Certainly, it would not be difficult to (as our mothers might have said) “put an eye out’ and the bone behind the eye is paper thin and remarkably easy to shatter - medical students do it by accident all the time in the lab. The temporal bone (the ‘nearly impaled temple’ one poster alluded to) is also very thin, and has been shattered by some rather surprisingly small impacts. I trust the potential lethality of a 3” splinter in the brain (and more importantly in the delicate vascular structures (blood vessels) in the cranium) are self-evident, even if it’s exceedingly unlikely to happen

Child impaled

Nomura stabbed

Wow KP - that’s the sort of thing I was looking for.

And thanks don’t ask for the links. I found this particularly interesting:

Ouch. But this is the interesting part:

:eek: Now THAT is one tough SOB. And it was a minor league simulated game!

Thanks everyone else for your replies.

A few years ago catcher Kelly Stinnett of the Diamondbacks broke a bat at a home game. A former co-worker was sitting in our corporate box seats near the home side on deck circle. He got hit in the face with the heavy end of the bat resulting in severe fractures to his nose and cheek. It took several surgies to correct and he may have breathing problems the rest of his life. He didn’t go to work for the next couple of weeks.

In seventh grade (1982) at St.Mary’s grade school we were playing baseball at recess. We played with a tennis ball and had this great bat that we called “the stick” because it was only two feet long and didn’t have the knob on the end of the handle. I was on third base. Batter swings and makes contact and I watch the ball sail towards the outfield.
At the same moment it feels like a hornet stings me below the lower lip. I go down in pain and wonder why all my friends are rushing toward me and why I have blood on my hand.
Turns out the batter lost hold of the bat and it flew and nailed me.
It put a hole through to the inside of my mouth. A few stitches took care of me but the guys were still sore at me cause Sister Ann made us get rid of “the stick”.