The 9 Body Parts I Would Donate To Our Befallen Athletes

stuart holden injured

When it was announced this week that United States and Bolton Wanderers midfielder Stuart Holden had torn his ACL in the Gold Cup Final last Sunday, my heart dropped. Holden has spent the better part of two years recovering from knee injuries sustained both on the pitch and in rehab. He deserves a bit of good fortune after so much turmoil.

As I let the news sink in a little more, I thought “I would gladly donate my knees to Stuart Holden,” which in turn led me to the inevitable question: “What other athletes current and in the past would I donate body parts to to prolong their careers?”

After all, I am a retired athlete myself who endured his fair share of bumps and bruises but for the most part emerged from his career, which is a strong word here, injury free. Since I no longer believe in running or exercise in general, my appendages (save for one) are quite expendable.

This of course assumes that once the recipients are affixed with my donations they will return to their pre-injury form. I know that such an outcome is unlikely but for the sake of the post let's ignore the reality. Some of these men have been dead for years, so you might as well question my necromancy skills while you're at it.

I'll hand out elbows, knees, hips, and feet in a sort of remix to The Wiggles' greatest hit. Read on to find out who gets what, or at least to indulge in body part news that doesn't involve Anthony Weiner.

Hip: Bo Jackson

 There's something about Bo's brief stay in the limelight that adds to his mystique. He shot through the sports world like a comet and left behind stories of greatness that read like myth. At the time of his horrific hip injury, Jackson was the best running back in football and an All-Star outfielder for the Kansas City Royals. Some have speculated that his career trajectory would have sent him to both Cooperstown and Canton. I don't know about that, but I sure as hell would have liked to watch him try.

Bo Jackson gets my hip so long as Nike runs a “Bo knows Dill” campaign in the coming weeks.


Knee: Bobby Orr

By the end of his Hall of Fame career, Robert Gordon Orr was playing on two bad knees. Actually, for most of his career he was playing on two bad knees, which is amazing considering he managed to produce 915 points in 657 games. Orr changed the game of hockey with his offensive wizardry from the blue line. Some consider him not only the greatest defenseman of all time, but also the greatest player period. Any improvement in his health might justify that claim.

I can't give Bobby both of my knees because there are other athletes in kneed, but he does receive one.


Knee: Gale Sayers

I thought about Mickey Mantle here, because anecdotal evidence suggests that when the Mick debuted in 1951 he was the fastest player in all of baseball. When he famously tore his knee during that year's World Series, getting called off a fly ball by Joe DiMaggio himself, he relinquished most of that speed. Still, the Mick produced 536 career home runs, won a triple crown, and was a member of ten World Series winning teams with the Yankees.

Gale Sayers on the other hand was effectively finished as a running back at the age of 26. A series of debilitating knee injuries and botched surgeries robbed him of his prime. People to this day talk about the grace with which Sayers ran the football both from scrimmage and in the return game. He entered the Hall of Fame having played in only 68 career games, the equivalent of four and a quarter seasons today. That's a transcendent athlete who leaves us wondering just how great he could have been.


Left Elbow: Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax debuted as a 19 year old left hander for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955. It wasn't until his seventh season in 1961, however, that he found stardom. Once he got there, he never looked back. Koufax pitched with the ability of a Greek god and the recklessness of a little leaguer. The approach produced two World Series titles, three Cy Young awards, four no-hitters (including a perfect game), thirty-five shutouts, and one hundred-thirty wins in a six year span. It also caused him to retire to avoid losing the use of his left arm after a 27-9 season in 1966.

Like Sayers and Orr, Koufax entered the Hall of Fame at an age when he should have been putting the finishing touches on his career. I'm giving him my elbow with the full understanding that he would likely throw it out too. But I would've loved to see what Koufax could contribute to the “Year of the Pitcher” in 1968. With him on the mound, they might've just called it “Hitters' Hell.”

Right Arm: Smoky Joe Wood

Admittedly I'm reaching way back for this one, but I assure you Smoky Joe Wood deserves my right arm. First of all his nickname is “Smoky Joe.” Second, Walter Johnson, the Big Train himself, once asserted that “No man alive can throw any harder than Smoky Joe Wood.” In 1912 Wood produced one of the greatest pitching seasons of all-time. At the ripe age of 22, Smoky Joe went 34-5 with a 1.91 ERA. He struck out 258 batters, threw 10 shutouts, and pitched the Red Sox to a World Series win.

But in enduring such a grueling season at such a young age, Wood irrevocably damaged his throwing arm. He never again approached those 1912 numbers and finished his career as an outfielder to ease the pain on his ailing appendage.

In another world with my arm in stow, Smoky Joe Wood would've teamed with one George Herman Ruth to form the most formidable right-left top of the rotation in baseball history.


Ankles: Steph Curry

Steph Curry is one of two current players on this list. Modern medical procedures, and to some extent performance enhancing drugs, have assured athletes that virtually no injury is career ending. Having said that, ankles are different story. Curry is one of the more exciting players in basketball and yet we as viewers wince every time he so much as takes a wrong step on the court. He has a jump shot as smooth as glass but ankles made of it.

The NBA needs ten more years of Steph Curry. My ankles can fulfill that promise.

Feet: Peter Forsberg

In the early 2000's, the Colorado Avalanche's Peter Forsberg was the best hockey player in the world bar none. The problem was he could never stay healthy. In what was essentially an eleven year career, Forsberg played a combined 11 games in 2007-08 and 2010-11, the Swedish superstar appeared in at least 80 games only once. He accomplished the feat in 1995-96, his second year in the league when he finished with 116 points. A series of bizarre injuries robbed Forsberg of much of his prime, but ultimately it was his foot problems that prematurely ended his career. By the end, he was trying out a new pair of skates nearly every week in an endless search for pain free hockey. The search proved fruitless, and he retired instead.

Watch the compilation above and tell me you wouldn't want to watch more of that. On a more selfish note, it's easy to fathom that Forsberg, had he been healthy, would have been in Philly long enough to aid the Flyers on their Cup run in 2010.


Brain: Sidney Crosby

I'm putting my disdain for the Penguins aside for this one. Sidney Crosby's health is just too important for the league at large. I mean yeah I could've donated my brain to Eric Lindros instead, but that's a little like donating my liver to Mickey Mantle or George Best. Lindros would've just abused the privilege by continuing to play with his head down. Crosby on the other hand has sustained concussions as the result of bad luck. His “inadvertent” collision with the Capitals David Steckel during the 2011 Winter Classic knocked him out for nearly a season and a half. When Crosby's heatlhy, he's unquestionably the best player in the NHL. But like Curry, a single shot to his head is cause for concern.

I can't promise my brain will come with too many cells in tact, or with equal hockey acumen as Crosby, but I did graduate college which is more than he can say.


Soul: Kenesaw Mountain Landis

I'm cheating on this one. The soul is not a tangible body part, and Kenesaw Mountain Landis is not an athlete of any kind. As the Commissioner of baseball he upheld the so called “gentlemen's agreement” that prevented African Americans from playing in the Major Leagues. So instead of walking into uncomfortable territory where I decide to donate my skin to either Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Buck O'Neil, or Rube Foster, I'll attempt to give some humanity to the man who robbed so many black stars of big league careers.

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