Doug Griffin (Trading Card DB)

April 30, 1974: Fenway falls silent again after Doug Griffin is beaned by Nolan Ryan

This article was written by Andrew Harner

Doug Griffin (Trading Card DB)For the third time in seven years, the gut-wrenching thud of a baseball hitting a skull reverberated from the batter’s box at Fenway Park, silencing 7,395 fans and leaving Boston Red Sox and California Angels players in a state of shock.

As Boston second baseman Doug Griffin squared to bunt in the first inning on April 30, 1974, Nolan Ryan’s 0-and-1 fastball struck him above the left ear, knocking Griffin into an unconscious heap near home plate. As teammates Danny Cater, Bernie Carbo, and John Kennedy carried Griffin from the field on a stretcher, it evoked two other scary beanings at Fenway Park: California pitcher Jack Hamilton hitting Boston’s Tony Conigliaro in August 1967 and José Santiago of the Red Sox hitting Angel Paul Schaal in June 1968.1

“I intended to throw a fastball on [that] pitch,” a visibly upset Ryan said after the game, a 16-6 win for the Angels. “And when I saw him open up and face me, sure to try and bunt, I tried to bring the ball inside and high, hoping he would pop it up. But it hit him, and I thought he was going to get it flush in the face when I saw it headed for him.”

“I certainly didn’t mean anything,” Ryan added. “When you want to hit someone, you aim at his ribs or legs, but not his head. You really don’t want to hurt anyone.”2

Griffin regained consciousness in the clubhouse before he was taken to Hahnemann Hospital. There, doctors diagnosed him with a severe concussion and an injury to the petrous bone.3 A neurosurgeon admitted the 26-year-old to the intensive care unit as a precaution.4

“All he wanted was a cigarette,” said Boston team physician Thomas Tierney, “which, of course, he couldn’t have in intensive care.”5

Ryan, a 27-year-old flamethrower, seemed a little rattled after the beaning, the majors’ second serious on-field injury in as many days. Taking the mound with a 1-0 lead on Bob Oliver’s first-inning sacrifice fly, Ryan allowed a leadoff single to Rick Miller before hitting Griffin.

After striking out Cecil Cooper, Ryan’s sweeping curveball hit Carl Yastrzemski on the foot; then he surrendered a two-run single to Dwight Evans.

But while Ryan remained erratic through drizzling rain – he walked seven and scattered six hits in a complete-game effort – his 15 strikeouts combined with California’s strongest offensive outburst of the season for his third win of the season. As 1974 continued, Ryan added three 19-strikeout games and punched out 15 batters in two others on his way to becoming the first pitcher to record more than 300 strikeouts in three straight seasons.6

The game marked the fifth time California had scored at least 10 runs in one of Ryan’s starts since he joined the team in 1972.7 The Angels had a season-high 18 hits, including a franchise-record-tying five from Denny Doyle,8 who came into the game hitting a paltry .171.9 Rookie Dave Chalk also impressed, hitting an RBI double in the fourth and his first career home run in the eighth. Before arriving in Boston the day before, Chalk had no extra-base hits so far in the season, but the soon-to-be All-Star shortstop walked away from California’s three-game sweep with a double, two triples, and the home run.

The Angels steadily battered Boston starter Reggie Cleveland, who came into the game with a 1.96 ERA in his past three starts but, as noted by the Boston Globe, did not have his usual velocity.10 Mickey Rivers’ RBI triple and Doyle’s run-scoring single put California back on top in the second inning, and the Angels never looked back.

Cleveland surrendered a career-worst nine runs (eight earned) over 3⅓ innings, and by the top of the fourth California led 11-2. The Angels tacked on five more runs over the final three frames, while Dick McAuliffe and Cooper homered for Boston with two outs in the eighth and ninth respectively.

In addition to Chalk and Doyle, Oliver, Rivers, Frank Robinson, and Ellie Rodríguez had multihit games for the Angels. Oliver had a team-high four RBIs, while Robinson and Rivers scored three times each as California improved to 11-11 to move into a tie for second in the AL West, 2½ games behind Texas.

Boston fell to 10-12, and with losses in seven of eight games, the Red Sox had dropped from first to last in the AL East in eight days.

The loss of Griffin – the team’s best hitter at .347 – added another name to a list of banged-up players, which prevented first-year manager Darrell Johnson from using his best lineup in any April game.11 Rico Petrocelli pulled his hamstring on Opening Day and missed half of Boston’s first 22 games. He returned as the designated hitter but struck out four times against Ryan. All-Star catcher Carlton Fisk missed the first 17 games of the season with a groin injury and was hitting only .083 after four games.12 Pitchers Rick Wise and Juan Marichal also missed time with shoulder injuries throughout the first month.13

Griffin’s beaning was the latest in a string of injuries that had beset his promising career. After winning Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year honors in 1970, Griffin earned a September call-up to the Angels. Shortly after the season, Griffin headed to Boston as part of a blockbuster trade also involving Conigliaro.14 On June 28, 1971, Griffin suffered a severe muscle spasm in his lower back while chasing a pop fly and missed 28 games. In 1972 Cleveland’s Gaylord Perry hit Griffin with a pitch on August 9, breaking his left hand and causing him to miss 19 games. The next season was no kinder, as Milwaukee’s Bill Champion struck Griffin on the same hand on May 24 and knocked him out for 48 games.

“I have to laugh when I hear people talk about baseball being a noncontact sport,” Johnson said. “Just look at all Griffin has been through, and then tell me how soft this game is. I’m not saying it’s as physically tough as hockey or football are, but let me make this suggestion. Take any one of those athletes in the other sports and put him at the plate against Nolan Ryan. Then let Ryan throw those aspirin tablets; let him bury a few of those fastballs in their ribs. Then come tell me what they think of baseball’s toughness. Believe me, that kind of pain hurts as much as anything else in sports.”15

Griffin rejoined teammates briefly on May 17 in Baltimore. He had hoped to begin working out with the team that day, but he received a negative medical report upon arriving at Memorial Stadium. After another month passed – during which Griffin painted his house from boredom16 – he flew to Anaheim to fully rejoin the Red Sox on June 15 before a series against the Angels, though the club did not activate him from the disabled list until July 1. After missing 51 games, Griffin doubled in his third at-bat.

“No one would have blamed Griffin if he had decided that enough was enough,” opined the Globe’s Bob Ryan. “A man might find better things to do than stand at the plate and risk being hit by a ball thrown at speeds upwards of 90 miles per hour. Conquering the inherent fear of the pitched ball is the toughest thing for anybody in the game, but it is doubly hard for someone who knows what it’s like to lose his hearing (he is only now getting his left ear back to par) after taking one, quite literally, in the ear.”17

On August 12 Griffin stood in against Ryan again, striking out in his first at-bat before lashing singles his next two times at the dish. They battled only once more, with Griffin going 0-for-3 on May 23, 1975. Griffin was again hit on the petrous bone by a Dick Bosman pitch on August 31, 1975, but because he wore a helmet with a flap, he escaped serious injury and returned as a pinch-hitter two days later. As the injuries added up and Griffin spent less time on the field, he lost his starting role with the Red Sox, and the team had trouble finding a trade partner that wanted him. Boston released Griffin on June 21, 1977, ending his major-league career.18

Years later, Ryan said the beaning still stuck out in his memories from Fenway, saying in 1989 that he could “remember it like it was yesterday.”19 But, for Griffin, the role Nolan Ryan played after the event mattered more.

“He’s a very thoughtful guy. He’s got a lot of class,” Griffin recalled a little over a year later. “When he hit me, he called my wife, Nancy, and said he was sorry, he hadn’t done it on purpose. He called the hospital and tried to speak with me, but they wouldn’t let him because I was in intensive care. He really showed me something. My wife appreciated what he did, and so did my family.”20



This article was fact-checked by Mike Huber and copy-edited by Len Levin.

Photo credit: Doug Griffin, Trading Card Database.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted the,, and websites for pertinent material and box scores. He also used information obtained from news coverage by the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, The Sporting News, and the Lowell (Massachusetts) Sun.



1 Schaal spent nearly two weeks in the hospital in 1968 with a punctured eardrum and a fractured skull. He returned to the field in late July, but dizziness limited him to two pinch-hit opportunities before he was shut down for the rest of the season. The Kansas City Royals selected him in the 27th round of the expansion draft that October. Coincidentally, the Angels reacquired Schaal in a trade with the Royals the day before this game.

2 Clif Keane, “Griffin Spends Night in Intensive Care … Ryan Apologizes,” Boston Evening Globe, May 1, 1974: 66.

3 The petrous bone is located at the base of the skull.

4 Associated Press, “Solemn Hush Fell Over Fenway,” Holyoke (Massachusetts) Transcript-Telegram, May 1, 1974: 38.

5 “Solemn Hush Fell Over Fenway.”

6 Ryan finished 1974 with an AL-leading 367 strikeouts a year after his 383 strikeouts in 1973 set the major-league record for seasons after 1901. He also led the AL with 329 strikeouts in 1972, his first season with the Angels.

7 The Angels had twice scored 15 runs during a Ryan start.

8 Eight other Angels had previously collected five hits in a game, and Doyle became the second to do so with all singles. In 1996 Garret Anderson became the first Angels player with six hits in a game.

9 In 1975 the Red Sox acquired Doyle to take over primary second-base duties from Griffin.

10 Clif Keane, “Things Get Worse, Sox Plan Shakeup,” Boston Evening Globe, May 1, 1974: 66.

11 Johnson had previously worked for the Red Sox in coaching roles from 1968 to ’70, and he returned to the franchise as manager of the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox in 1973. After leading them to an International League championship, he was hired to fill Boston’s vacancy after the club fired Eddie Kasko following four years without a playoff appearance. The Red Sox appreciated Kasko’s contributions (a 345-295 record and four top-three finishes) and kept him within their scouting department.

12 Fisk suffered a major knee injury in a collision at home plate on June 28 and missed the remainder of the season.

13 The Red Sox purchased Marichal’s contract from the San Francisco Giants in December 1973, and he spent one season in Boston, going 5-1 with a 4.87 ERA over 11 appearances spread throughout the campaign. Boston released him after the season, and he played the last year of his Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1975.

14 On October 11 the Angels sent Griffin, Jarvis Tatum, and Ken Tatum to Boston for Conigliaro, Ray Jarvis, and Jerry Moses.

15 Joe Fitzgerald, “Inside View Could Have Rocked Boat,” Holyoke (Massachusetts) Transcript-Telegram, August 13, 1975: 27.

16 Larry Whiteside, “Time Off, Griffin Grumpy,” Boston Globe, June 22, 1974: 22.

17 Bob Ryan, “Doug Griffin: Guts at Home Plate,” Boston Globe, July 12, 1974: 23.

18 Going into 1978, no team had contacted Griffin with an offer to return to baseball. “I thought another team might take a chance on me. but I didn’t sit by the phone,” he said. “I was a risky proposition. They look at my record, the injuries, the disabled list. I don’t blame ’em for not giving me another chance.” Ray Fitzgerald, “The Uneasy Transition,” Boston Globe, February 5, 1978: 92.

19 Steve Buckley, “Ryan at Fenway,” Hartford Courant, May 5, 1989: E1.

20 Milton Richman (United Press International), “‘He’s (Nolan Ryan) Got a Lot of Class,’” Palm Springs (California) Desert Sun, June 10, 1975: B2.

Additional Stats

California Angels 16
Boston Red Sox 6

Fenway Park
Boston, MA


Box Score + PBP:

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1970s ·