LOS ANGELES (AP) -Steve Yeager has learned the hard way about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's just grateful to have survived.
``I'm like a cat. I might have used a few lives up, but I'm here,'' the former World Series co-MVP said four weeks after a bizarre car wreck. ``I guess God said it wasn't my time and the devil didn't want me.''
Yeager, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1972-85, underwent surgery for a punctured esophagus nearly 31 years ago after the barrel end of a broken bat struck him as he stood in the on-deck circle.
``They knew I was OK the next morning when I asked for bacon and eggs for breakfast instead of a liquid breakfast,'' the 58-year-old former catcher recalled with a chuckle.
Yeager said he spent about 10 days on the sidelines before returning to action.
Now a coach for the Single-A Inland Empire 66ers of the California League, Yeager was on a freeway headed home following a night game May 4 when another vehicle hit the center divider, went airborne and came down on top of his car.
``Bam. That's it. It happened so fast,'' Yeager said. ``I saw the car coming, tried to swerve to my right. It was too late. I swerved enough so it didn't land directly on top of me, just partially on top on the driver's side.
``It sent me spinning - I ended up on the side of the road.''
Yeager said when his car finally came to rest, he saw blood - lots of blood - coming from his left arm. And he felt the kind of pain that can't be measured.
``How do you describe pain? I started moving my fingers to make sure everything was still attached, and figured, `We'll go from there,''' he said. ``My arm's still attached and nothing serious happened to me. I'm just lucky it wasn't worse than it was.''
It was bad enough. Yeager said he needed between 250 and 300 stitches including six or seven in his left ear. He said it took a plastic surgeon about 2 1/2 hours to sew him up.
``I could have been killed in both situations,'' he said. ``I'm still here, I'm still kicking. I'm still doing what I love to do. I love being around the kids. Hopefully I can help them fulfill their dream just like mine was.''
Yeager returned to 66ers last Monday night, but in a limited capacity. Manager Dave Collins called the accident a huge jolt to the team, saying Yeager was probably missed as much for who he is as he was for what he contributed as the team's coach and hitting instructor.
``He's the life of the party, very outgoing, he's got a great ability to keep the mood very positive,'' Collins said. ``He loves to joke around with the kids, help the kids enjoy what they're doing. He was able to throw some batting practice, but he can't hit fungos for a while. He's still banged up.
``He's the same old Boomer, you could put him on Jay Leno, he's a riot. He's like a big kid himself. It's great that the kids have that back.''
Yeager looks forward to being able to do more.
``That time will come,'' he said. ``We all mend, we all heal, and we go on. We don't sit around and mope. The hardest thing for me was to be on the disabled list for three weeks. I'm not the type of guy who likes to sit around and do nothing.
``I have a responsibility to the players, to the (Dodgers) organization. My job is to get them to the big leagues.''
He said he's going to have an MRI on his left shoulder, and will begin rehab work soon.
Yeager said he didn't drive for about 10 days after the accident. When he did, he was overly cautious.
``I had several sets of eyeballs - two in the front, two in the back, two on each side, a revolving head going around,'' he said.
Yeager was known for his defense as a catcher with the Dodgers. He played on four NL pennant winners and the 1981 World Series championship team, sharing the MVP award with teammates Pedro Guerrero and Ron Cey.
That was a long time ago. Yeager is clearly focused on the present.
``The players keep me young, they keep me going,'' he said. ``I've got my own kids who keep me young, too.
Yeager has three sons. The younger two, aged 11 and 14, accompany him to many of the 66ers' games.
``They shag and they get along with the players,'' he said. ``They have a good time. Part of baseball is being able to go to work with dad. The ballpark is a fun place to be.
``It's good to be me.''
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