Baller also came back from it, ready to pitch for spring 1988. But he wasn't the same.
"You don't just go into a coma for three days and run a 107-degree temperature and die twice to where they have to jump-start you twice to get you back, and not make adjustments," Baller admitted to The Tribune. "You have to. Things were too severe. If you don't make adjustments in your life, you're crazy."
To that point, Baller was already a veteran of four major league seasons. While he never returned to the heights of that part of his career, he did make adjustments and return to the majors with 11 more outings over two more seasons.
Baller's career began in 1979, taken by the Phillies in the fourth round, out of Canby High School in Oregon.
He started at rookie-league Helena, moving to single-A Spartanburg for 1980. Baller made AA Reading in 1982. He also debuted that September in Philadelphia.
Baller got into four games for the Phillies that September, starting one and reliving in three. He gave up three earned runs in seven innings of work.
Baller, though, didn't return to the majors until 1985. He also didn't return to Philadelphia for a decade. He was traded from the Phillies for 1983 to the Indians in the five-for-one deal that sent Von Hayes the other way.
Baller spent 1983 and 1983 between AA and AAA with the Indians. For 1985, he was traded to the Cubs in a two-player deal. It was with the Cubs that Baller returned to the majors. He returned in August, getting into 20 games on the year.
In September 1985, Baller went 3.1 innings against the Cardinals in relief, without giving up a run. It was a new role for the usual starter, but it was a role Baller would become a regular at.
"I feel comfortable in that role as a reliever," Baller told The Tribune afterward. "Whatever way they want to use me is fine with me."
Baller returned to the Cubs for 36 outings in 1986, all in relief. In 1987, it was 23 relief outings.
Then came Baller's mysterious illness. While out shopping for Christmas, Baller collapsed. The cause was eventually just termed "toxic poisoning."
Baller, though, recovered. He also came back with a strong spring with the Cubs. But he was soon cut, sent to the minors. Baller worried to The Tribune that his off-season illness resulted in him not getting the proper chance to make the team.
Baller was also soon released. He signed with the Mariners, playing the season at AAA Calgery. He played the next with the Expos at AAA Indianapolis. For 1990, he signed with the Royals.
With the Royals, Baller returned to the majors. He got into three games, 2.1 innings. He gave up four earned runs.
He then got back two years later, for eight final outings with the Phillies. He gave up 10 earned runs in 11 innings of work.
Baller played 1993 in Mexico, then 1994 in Japan, with the Orix Blue Wave. He's last recorded as pitching in 1995, back in Mexico.
- Chicago Tribune, Sept. 10, 1985: Baller Bails Out The Cubs
- Philadelphia Inquirer, wire services, Dec. 5, 1987: Cubs' Baller In Critical Condition
- Chicago Tribune, Feb. 24, 1988: Cubs' Baller Is Just Glad To Be Here
- Chicago Tribune, March 21, 1988: Baller Upset By Cub Cut After Good Spring Mark
1990 CMC Tally
Cards Featured: 714/880 - 81.1%
Players/Coaches Featured: 725
Made the Majors: 486 - 67%-X
Never Made the Majors:239-33%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 214-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors: 144