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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Lee Langley suffered devastating on-field eye injury, then returned for one more season

Late in Lee Langley's career, he suffered a devastating injury on the mound in independent ball. A comebacker caught him right above his right eye. The result: legal blindness in that eye, The Marin Independent Journal wrote.

But that was late in his career, not the end of it. Langley battled his way back and took the mound again the next season, in 1997, with the help of a hockey helmet. He explained to The Independent Journal why.

"This is my heart's desire," Langley told The Independent Journal. "I can't let that four-ounce ball decide my future."

Langley had played a decade in the pros by that point, including seven spent in affiliated ball where he'd topped out at high-A. He returned to independent ball, where he suffered his eye injury. Post-eye injury, he took the mound for part of one more season, at independent Moose Jaw.

Langley's career began in 1986, taken by the Dodgers in the third round of the January draft out of Linn-Benton Community College in Oregon.

Langley started with the Dodgers between the rookie Gulf Coast League and rookie Great Falls. He  went 1-1 over 15 outings, eight starts, with a 3.60 ERA.

He saw both levels again in 1987, with a brief, five-game look at single-A Vero Beach. That August, with Great Falls, Langley threw a complete game two-hitter for the win. He cited pitching coach Jim Brewer for his success there, according to The Great Falls Tribune.

"He has helped me so much," Langley told The Tribune. "With mechanics, motion, everything."

Langley played 1988 at single-A Bakersfield, then moved to the Phillies system and single-A Clearwater in 1989. He returned to Clearwater at high-A to start 1990, then moved to high-A Reno.

He played 1991 between Clearwater and high-A Miami, then 1992 again at Clearwater. He went 7-4, with a 2.70 ERA during that 1992 season.

Langley isn't credited as playing again until 1995, at independent Sonoma County. He went 5-3 there , with a 2.65 ERA. He also earned the nickname "The Rooster" for his unusual delivery where he almost bobbed his head at the end, his hometown Salem Statesman Journal wrote after his injury in July 1996.

The bob contributed to him losing sight of the batted ball, The Statesman Journal wrote. He tried to raise his glove up, but it hit and shattered his cheekbone.

"The hospital said they got 400 calls that first day," Langley relayed to The Statesman Journal. "That was so unbelievable. The fans really like me here."

The injury ended Langley's 1996 season with 13 relief appearances and a 1.38 ERA. He attempted his return with Sonoma County, but instead caught on with Moose Jaw. He saw 11 relief appearances, but ended with a 11.57 ERA and announced his retirement.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,757
Made the Majors:1,271-33.8%
Never Made Majors:2,486-66.2%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:524
10+ Seasons in the Minors:312-X

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