At about 4:20 yesterday afternoon, Patriots Pro Bowl linebacker Tedy Bruschi walked out of Massachusetts General Hospital on his own, two days after suffering a mild stroke.
Accompanied by his wife, Heidi, the 31-year-old Bruschi, dressed in a gray sweat suit, smiled at reporters and said he felt fine. He then got into a gray SUV driven by his brother, Tony, and was whisked away with a police escort.
Prior to leaving the hospital, Bruschi received more visitors yesterday, including teammate Deion Branch.
Stacey James, the Patriots' executive director of media relations, said after talking with Bruschi yesterday, "He feels great about being able to go home and spend time with his family." Bruschi has three children. James also said Bruschi was eager to acknowledge all the people who have wished him well.
Bruschi, who has played nine seasons in the NFL, all with the Patriots, isn't the first Boston athlete to suffer a stroke. On July 30, 1991, in the prime of his career, Red Sox relief pitcher Jeff Gray experienced slurred speech, blurred vision, and numbness in his pitching arm. Tests revealed Gray had suffered a stroke.
The righthander fought gallantly to return to the big leagues, making it as far as the minors, but finally announced his retirement in 1995. He became a pitching coach in the Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds organizations.
Ten years before, lefthander Tom Burgmeier, who pitched for the Sox from 1978-82, suffered a stroke in the offseason. Shortly after Gray's stroke, Burgmeier, recalling his own symptoms, said, "It happened just like that," snapping his fingers. "I was talking to my friend and all of a sudden he asked me, 'Have you been drinking?' My speech was slurred and I didn't even realize it, though I realized it afterward."
Burgmeier, who later became a pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals, also said in that interview, "When people say stroke, they automatically think you've been debilitated. I was in the hospital for about three days undergoing tests, and the next day I was out quail hunting. The only effect for me is that my wife told me I was dragging my right leg for a couple of days after it happened."
Burgmeier suffered his stroke in November 1981 and returned to the mound in February 1982. In fact, Burgmeier had one of his best seasons -- 7-0 with a 2.29 ERA in 40 appearances -- that year.
Gray's stroke was worse. To that point in the 1991 season, Gray had been the workhorse of the Red Sox bullpen, appearing in an American League-high 50 games as a setup man for Jeff Reardon. Gray had worked 61 2/3 innings and had held batters to a .181 average, recording a 2-3 record with a 2.34 ERA.
Another pro athlete who attempted a comeback from a stroke was New York Islanders forward Brian Mullen, who was stricken in 1993. He tried to return to the NHL two years later only to have a seizure, ending his comeback.
The most-celebrated case involved Houston Astros pitcher J.R. Richard, who had a stroke caused by a blockage in 1980. He attempted a comeback, but also failed.