Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Outdoor sporting events must deal with outdoor phenomena such as the weather and in the summer, “The Bugs”. Heather alerted me to a recent game-altering encounter with a moth in a baseball game between the Cardinals and the Dodgers in Saint Louis. Saint Louis outfielder, Matt Holliday had to leave the game in the eighth inning when a moth flew deep into his ear. It was definitely a freak sports injury.

Holliday’s first reaction was to try to shake the moth loose. However, the moth was still buzzing in his head several pitches later. So Holliday left the game. Two trainers and the team physician went to work immediately. Their first attempt was to turn off all the lights. Maybe the moth was disoriented by lights and would leave on its own? No such luck.

So the physician inserted a hefty pair of forceps into the ear and forcefully removed the moth. The moth, now dead, was placed in a moth body bag (actually an ordinary plastic bag) to show off to the reporters after the game.

Holliday was concerned when the moth was inside his head. “That was my concern, that it would eat through my brain,” Holliday said. “Dr. Paletta told me that’s not possible, and if it happens again I won’t panic.” Fortunately, moths have sucking mothparts that are not capable of piercing the eardrum. After the moth was removed, Holliday joked that the moth must have died “overflowed of wisdom being inside my head.” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was less charitable. “It didn’t go through?”, he snarked.

Perhaps the most memorable “Insects at the Ballgame” came in the 2007 ALCS game in Cleveland. A huge and distracting swarm of midges from Lake Erie descended on the Cleveland Stadium (The Mistake on the Lake). The Yankees pitcher was so rattled by the midges that he walked in the winning run.

My own personal encounter with insects at a ballpark came at Fenway Park in Boston in 1982. At the time, I was working with gypsy moth pheromone and there were outbreak populations of gypsy moths. Gypsy moth pheromone is highly attractive in tiny amounts. That summer, I attracted gypsy moths wherever I went. Fenway Park was no exception. A cloud of male gypsy moths was soon attracted to my general area. The unfortunate fan in front of me kept trying to swat them away saying, “I don’t understand. They all seem to be attracted to me.” I sat in silence and chuckled to myself. She probably would not have believed me if I had told her about the pheromone.

Trainer Looks For Moth In Outfielder's Ear
Jeff Roberson / AP Photo

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Environment, Health, News, Pest Management, Sports. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Take Me Out to the Ballgame

  1. Pingback: Take Me Out To The Ballgame II | Living With Insects Blog

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