One show I always like to catch on MLB Network is “Prime 9,” which is a countdown show with a subject and then nine answers, such as the nine best second basemen of all-time, the nine best teams of the 1990s, etc.
A fun one I saw recently was the Top 9 Could Have Beens, with guys like Bo Jackson, Tony Conigliaro, Herb Score and Pete Rieser, whose travails earned a modern day comparison this week from several sources.
When the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper ran face-first into the Dodger Stadium wall on Monday night, it was a scary sight that reminded people of Rieser, who was also one of the best young hitters in baseball in the 1940s, but played with a reckless style in the outfield and often ran into walls in much the same way as Harper did on Monday. Harper needed 11 stitches and felt a little woosy; Rieser’s promising career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, which began with a batting title at age 22 in 1941, never hit full stride.
These days, warning tracks are pronounced and walls are much softer than in Rieser’s day, but there’s still a lot of damage that can be done. Harper’s play on Monday night is also a reminder that Harper didn’t play a lot of outfield as a youngster — he is a converted catcher — and perhaps that is a factor.
As ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote: “Harper is a student of baseball history, admirably, and knows a lot about Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth and others, and if he’s too sore to play Tuesday, he might want to take a few moments to read about Pete Reiser.”