The New York Times’ Dave Anderson considers the inevitability of someone being maimed or worse by a foul ball hit into the stands of an major league game. While all tickets feature a 145 word waiver of liability, Anderson reports “the commissioner™s office has no central file on injured fans”. Clearly, MLB Advanced Media isn’t earning enough money for baseball to keep such records.
As line-drive foul balls keep whistling into those unprotected seats, baseball people hold their breath and hold on to this statistic: There has been only one death as a result of a batted ball in major league history. In 1970, a 14-year-old boy died after being hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Dodgers outfielder Manny Mota in Los Angeles.
But according to the coming book œDeath at the Ballpark, co-written by Robert M. Gorman, a librarian at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and David Weeks, more than 75 deaths have been caused by foul balls from the major leagues to the sandlots. So the danger exists, and with box seats in the new stadiums closer to the field, the danger increases.
Japan has the solution. When the Red Sox opened the season there, maybe you noticed that protective screens rose along the front-row boxes all the way to the outfield walls.
When Commissioner Bud Selig was asked, in a telephone interview from his Milwaukee office, if similar protective screens had ever been discussed by major league owners, he said the sentiment over the years was that the fans™ view of the game would be obstructed. Yet nobody seems to object to the view from behind the screen and netting behind home plate. Many fans prefer to sit there. Families of players and team personnel are usually placed there.
In a sampling of about a dozen fans in the unprotected areas and under the screen behind home plate at Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium last week, the breakdown was about half for the status quo and half for more screening or netting.
œI got hit by a baseball right in the head in ™03, but I still think it would take away from the game to have the screens up, said Paul Bastkowski of Salem, N.Y., sitting behind first base at Yankee Stadium with his 9-year-old daughter. œYou™ve got to be alert, and you have to understand the risk.