10 Most Devastating Sports Injuries in Dallas History

Putting a list together of Dallas most psychically painful sports injuries was no easy task. For injuries to matter to fans — let's stipulate that every injury matters to the player to whom it happens, especially in the NFL, where contracts aren't guaranteed — the team being affected needs to be good. No matter who went down for the 1972 Rangers, 1989 Cowboys or 1992-1993 Mavs, it didn't matter. Those teams were going to suck no matter what. Given the extended periods of pitiful results each of our local professional sports franchises have suffered through, Dallas' has actually endured relatively few hope-killing major injuries, largely because there was so often little hope to begin with. Tony Romo, and our hearts, got broken along with his collarbone in Philadelphia on Sunday, so let's look at Dallas sports' worst injury setbacks. 

10. Jamal Mashburn: 1995-1996 Mavericks
Small forward Jamal Mashburn was one-third of the triumvirate of mid-'90s Mavs first-round draft picks that came to be known as the Three Js. Along with Jason Kidd and Jimmy Jackson, Mashburn gave Dallas fans the briefest flash of hope when he led the team to a league-best 23-win improvement in 1994-1995. The Mavs still didn't make the playoffs at 36-46, but the team was actually fun to watch and no longer a laughingstock. The fun ended on December 9, 1995. Mashburn played his 18th game of the season that day, before opting for knee surgery that would lead to his missing the rest of the campaign. Mashburn was traded to the Miami Heat during the next season. He went on to have a solid, productive career, but was never quite as explosive as he was before the surgery. Eventually, Jackson and Kidd would also be traded. The trio never did anything of substance, much less make the playoffs together, but Kidd redeemed his Dallas legacy when he help the Mavs win the 2011 NBA title during his second go with the team.
9. Ed Correa: 1987 Texas Rangers
The 1980s Rangers hovered between awful and mediocre. The closest they ever finished to first place was five games out in 1986, when the Rangers came in second to the then-California Angels in the American League West. The team's good finish came thanks to a group of young players who seemed poised to play together for a long time: 22-year-old Pete Incaviglia hit 30 home runs; Ruben Sierra, just 20, hit 16 in only 103 games. The team's best young pitcher was Ed Correa. Correa, like Sierra, was just 20 years old. In 1986, he led American League rookies with 189 strikeouts despite having to adhere to a nonstandard schedule. Correa was a practicing Seventh Day Adventist and wouldn't pitch between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday, something the Rangers were happy to accommodate. On July 10, 1987, with the Rangers only 1.5 games out of first place, Correa was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his shoulder. He'd been pitching with shoulder pain for two months, but Tom Grieve, the Rangers' general manager, and Bobby Valentine, the Rangers' manager, initially blamed the discomfort on a change in his pitching mechanics. According to a New York Times report about the injury, Correa was only expected to miss 6-8 weeks. He never pitched in the big leagues again.
8. Michael Irvin: 1999 Dallas Cowboys
On the morning of October 10, 1999, the Cowboys were 3-0. They were getting ready to play the Eagles in Philadelphia, trying to consolidate a hot early start into the last run at a championship for the triplets-era team that'd already won three Super Bowls. During the game, which the Cowboys would lose 13-10, star receiver Michael Irvin went down with a cervical spinal cord injury. While he was motionless on the ground, he was booed by the Eagles notoriously hostile fans. After the injury, Irvin was diagnosed with a narrowed spinal column, which meant that he faced a higher chance of additional injury to his spine if he ever played again. He didn't, the 1999 Cowboys went on to finish 8-8 and Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith never won another playoff game.
7. Dean Palmer: 1995 Texas Rangers
For his career, former Rangers third baseman Dean Palmer was good but almost never great. He often hit for power, but he always struck out too much to be viewed as anything more than a complementary player. For six weeks in 1995 though, he was, unquestionably, a superstar. As of June 3 that year, Palmer was hitting .336 and had an on-base plus slugging percentage of over 1.000. He was playing like a guy who could win the MVP and lead the Rangers to the franchise's first playoff appearance. Those dreams were shattered on June 3 when Palmer tore his bicep swinging at a pitch from the Minnesota Twins' Kevin Tapani. Palmer would come back for a cameo in September, but the Rangers, missing his big bat in the middle of the lineup, would finish 4.5 games out in the American League West.
6. Neftali Feliz: 2012 Texas Rangers
Coming off consecutive World Series losses, the Texas Rangers gambled with they moved their all-star closer Neftali Feliz from the bullpen to the starting rotation before the start of the 2012 season. For seven starts, everything went according to plan for Feliz and Jon Daniels, the Rangers' general manager. The ex-closer was 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA before he felt an ominous tightening in his elbow. He wouldn't pitch again in 2012, and the Rangers would find out just before the trade deadline that he needed surgery to fix his elbow ligaments. The team traded for the Chicago Cubs' Ryan Dempster at the deadline, and it was Dempster who took the ball for the final game of the 2012 regular season. That game, a 12-5 loss to the A's, completed a historic collapse that saw the Rangers flit away what had been a 13-game lead over the A's on June 30.
5. Tony Romo: 2013 Dallas Cowboys
After 14 games in 2013, the Cowboys were 7-7. To make the playoffs, and avoiding having a losing record or going 8-8 for the third year in a row, they needed to beat the Redskins and the Eagles in their final two games. With a touchdown pass in the final minute of the game, Romo got the team past the Redskins, but the win came at a huge cost. Romo completed that final pass with a herniated disc he'd suffered earlier in the game. He was forced to turn over the reins of the Cowboys' offense to Kyle Orton, who was never going to beat an Eagles team that was playing for its own playoff life. The Cowboys lost and went 8-8 again.

4. Yu Darvish: 2015 Texas Rangers
The Rangers, somehow, are still squarely in position to make the 2015 American League playoffs. If they get there, they'll be one huge piece short, unfortunately, as the team's best pitcher won't throw a pitch this season. Yu Darvish, the masterful righty the Rangers spent more than $100 million to pry away from Japan's Nippon Ham Fighters, felt, yup, elbow stiffness during spring training and had to get surgery. The Rangers' starting rotation is still its strength — Cole Hamels and Derek Holland are pretty good in their own rights — but it might be the best in baseball with a healthy Darvish. That 2015 didn't become a lost season without Darvish is a huge credit to the effort Rangers manager Jeff Banister has gotten from his team this season.
3. Tony Romo: 2015 Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys beat the Eagles in Philadelphia to go to 2-0 on the season Sunday afternoon, but there was no joy in Dallas. Romo, the team's most indispensable player, broke his collarbone in the third quarter. According to reports Monday, he doesn't need surgery, but he's going to miss about eight weeks. It's not the end of the world, thanks to a week five bye, if Romo is back in two months, he'll miss only seven games. The Cowboys division is atrocious and the 'Boys have already beaten two of its teams. The New Orleans Saints, who host the Cowboys in two weeks, announced Monday that quarterback Drew Brees is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. The Cowboys can hang in there until Dez Bryant, who broke a bone in his foot, and Romo get back, but it is going to be a exceedingly tough task for the team to fulfill its preseason Super Bowl aspirations. 

2. Josh Hamilton: 2011 Texas Rangers
The tragedy, the one that ends with Nelson Cruz not catching that fly ball off the bat of the St. Louis Cardinals David Freese, might never have happened if not for Josh Hamilton's strained left groin. Hamilton played with the injury throughout the 2011 playoffs and was never more than a shell of his healthy self. His only home run of the playoffs came after Cruz's non-catch in Game 6 of the World Series, but that just set up another unhappy ending, Freese's 11th inning, game-winning home run.
1. Joe Nieuwendyk: 1997-1998 Dallas Stars
Stars center Joe Nieuwendyk's injury during the first game of the 1998 playoffs has the most direct cause-and-effect relationship of any of these injuries. Acquired from the Calgary Flames in December 1995 for future star Jarome Iginla, Nieuwendyk provided essential cover for Stars No.1 center Mike Modano as anchor of the team's second line. When the San Jose Sharks' Bryan Marchment rode him into the boards and tore Nieuwendyk's ACL, the Stars immediately lacked the depth to compete with the Detroit Red Wings, to whom they would eventually lose in the Western Conference finals. Next season, blessed with a healthy, playoff-MVP winning Nieuwendyk, the Stars won their first Stanley Cup.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young