Upton survives harrowing wreck, tosses no-hitter

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 5, 2002

[07/04]02]Carl Upton had a weekend he won’t soon forget.

The junior-college bound Warren Central graduate stared death in the face, then threw a no-hitter all in the span of an amazing 18 hours.

Upton’s Jackson 96ers, a select summer league team, were scheduled to play in Tupelo on Saturday morning. Upton said his coach told him to meet the rest of the team in West Point and they would caravan the rest of the way.

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There was only one problem: no team to meet there.

“I waited for like an hour and a half and they never showed,” Upton said.

“So I went to Tupelo to meet my teammates at the hotel.”

Alone, Upton drove the 40 or so miles north into Tupelo in a Chevy Blazer, but when he tried to make a left-hand turn, the calm drive turned into a nightmare.

As he turned, a truck he believed was speeding, came up quickly on the left side, striking the back left bumper.

The impact sent the Blazer into a spin toward the median. It then started tumbling four times and landed on crushed tires in the left lane of the southbound side of the highway.

“I just grabbed the steering wheel and prayed to God,” said Upton, who was thrown around the driver’s seat as shards of glass from the exploded windshield cut into his arms and legs. “I had my eyes closed and said, please let me live.'”

Opening his eyes after the truck came to a stop, Upton saw another big truck traveling south headed straight for his passenger door.

“I put it in reverse and slammed on the gas,” Upton said, tears almost flowing while recalling the crash.

Upton, out of the way of oncoming traffic, tried to open the door, but the impact crushed it in. He elbowed the driver’s window until the glass shattered, cutting his upper arm and bruising his right shoulder.

He then managed to climb through the window looking for the driver of the truck that hit his now smoking Blazer and waited for the police.

Upton, who was born deaf, tried to call his parents at a youth game in Madison, but he can’t use a regular telephone.

His arm and chest were covered in bruises from where the seat belt grabbed him and his head throbbed from being hit several times against the collapsing roof. But he could walk and said he felt all right.

The wrecker driver, who told Upton he had an angel wrapped around him, drove him and the truck to the motel. He did not want to go to the hospital.

“After I saw the car, I thought he would be dead,” said former WC teammate and 96er Joey Lieberman, who first saw the truck after returning from dinner with Brian Pettway. “It was unbelievable.”

What happened the next morning is what’s unbelievable.

Upton was scheduled to be the starting pitcher in the first game of the tournament against the Byhalia Cubs. He slept about three hours most of the time spent crying with his mother, who drove immediately from Madison to Tupelo.

When he woke the next morning, Derek Topik, coach of the 96ers, handed him the baseball and said he could only pitch if he wasn’t in pain.

Five innings later, he walked off the field with a no-hitter and his team’s 17-0 win.

“My left side hurt a lot, but my throwing arm didn’t hurt that bad,” said the Faulkner State Community College signee. “I tried to put it out of my mind, but it was very hard to do.

“I just went out and tried to do my best.”

Upton is planning on leaving today for a tournament in Birmingham. The remains of his truck are still in Tupelo and he is driving another Blazer now, but he thinks of the wreck every time he gets behind the wheel.

“When I had my wreck, it was bad,” Lieberman said. “But this was horrible.

“Carl’s one of the luckiest people around.”