On March 22, 1966, while playing right field for the California Angels in a spring training game, Jackie Warner raced back to the fence and reached over it to snare a fly ball, denying Leon Wagner of a home run. Unfortunately, it was a wire fence and his left hand and wrist were mangled. The injury was pretty gruesome, The Sporting News reported that Warner almost “lost his left hand.” Nine stitches patched him back together, and three weeks later the 22-year old made his major league debut, banging out two singles in six trips to the plate in a 14-inning loss to the White Sox on Opening Day in the Windy City. Warner collected two hits in each of his first three games in the big leagues, two of them home runs.
In his first 15 career games, Warner hit five homers and had 13 RBIs, his OPS was over 1.000. He was a heralded prospect who had clubbed 75 homers in his first three minor league seasons. The Angels tabbed him as their right fielder of the future.
“I have a feeling about this club that I’ve never had about any other Angel team,” manager Billy Rigney said. “And it centers around this boy. He finishes hitting and I can’t wait until the next time he comes up.”
But Warner couldn’t stay away from outfield walls, and on May 11 in a game against the Yankees at the Big A in Anaheim, he collided with the right field barrier and left the game. He was briefly unconscious. It’s likely that he had suffered from a serious concussion. Warner tried to come back but he wasn’t right and he played sporadically that month and in June. He didn’t get another hit until June 26th, but he left that game not feeling well. He was never the same player, and at the end of July he was sent down to the minor leagues with seven homers and 16 RBIs on his record. He played only a month in the PCL before shutting it down for the year. He tried to make it back to the big leagues for five more years but he was not the same hitter. He never played another game in the major leagues.
It’s possible that Warner could have set a MLB record for strikeouts had he played an entire season. He accumulated 31 strikeouts in his first 19 games for the Angels in 1966.