Posted by: Bob Gorman | February 4, 2016

Updates to Death at the Ballpark

Although the second edition of Death at the Ballpark was recently published, my research into game-related fatalities continues.  What follows are deaths that I have uncovered since the publication of the book in the fall of 2015.  Readers of this blog are encouraged to send me any additional fatalities that are not included in the book or on this list.

1870s

John O’Grady, 13, was playing street ball in Chicago, IL, on September 23, 1870, when he was struck on the abdomen by a batted ball, resulting in his death moments later.

1900s

Charles Glenn, center fielder for Cedarville College (now Cedarville University) in Ohio, collided with the shortstop as both pursued a fly ball in a game against Wilberforce University in Springfield, OH, on May 12, 1903.  Glenn sustained a fatal skull fracture while the shortstop, knocked unconscious by the blow, recovered.

Harry Edward Rickerds, 14, died moments after suffering a heart attack while running from third base to home plate during a game in Frederick, MD, on June 9, 1907.

Frank Phillips, 9, was struck on the mouth by a baseball during a game in Pittsburgh, PA, on June 22, 1908.  The blow caused a hemmorhage that physicians were unable to stop.  The youngster passed away at a Pittsburgh hospital in mid-July.

Houston Wilson, a pitcher on a town team in Sulphur, OK, was struck on the head by a batted ball during team practice on June 16, 1909 and died a few hours later.

1910s

Walter C. Holiday, acting as gatekeeper during at game in Galatia, IL, against a team from Thompsonville, IL, on September 11, 1910, was shot and killed by Joseph Wiggins while attempting to collect the 15 cent admission charge from the assailant.  Wiggins fled the scene of the crime before he could be arrested.

James Purcell, 2, was eating peanuts during a game in New York City in early May 1912 when one of the nuts entered his lungs.  He was rushed to an area hospital where physicians tried for a week to remove the pieces from his lungs.  The child passed away on May 7.

Finis Townsley was struck on the head by a pitched ball during a game in Jonah, TX, on June 13, 1912.  He continued to play, but shortly after the game became ill.  He passed away at his home the following morning.

Clarence Stearns died from a brain hemorrhage at his home in Winnebago, MN, on September 20, 1913, as a result of two beanings he received while playing ball that summer.  Stearns had played with the St. Paul Colts of the Class C Northern League earlier that season before joining a semipro team in Sheridan, WY.

1920s

Walter Hilenski, 13, died moments after he was struck over the heart by a pitched ball during an elementary school game in Salem, MA, on May 23, 1923.

1930s

Felipe Carrera, 45, umpiring a game in Victoria, TX, in mid-July 1931, was shot in the stomach by 21-year-old player Ramon De Leon over a disputed call.  Shots were also fired at De Leon’s two brothers during the resulting melee.  De Leon was arrested and charged with murder when Carrera passed away on July 17.

2015

Zacharie Schaubhut, 15, was pitching during a game in Bemidji, MN, on May 24, 2015, when he was struck by a batted ball.  The youngster was taken to a local hospital before being airlifted to a hospital in Fargo, ND.  He passed away later that same day.

Ten-year-old Lane Rodgers was one among a group of youngsters playing in a 76-team baseball tournament in Tupelo, MS, on June 13, 2015, when heavy storms struck the area.  As he and others ran for the safety of a nearby concession stand, a large limb fell and struck him on the back of his head just as he was passing under a tree.  One of the parents who was a physician administered CPR until paramedics arrived and took the child to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Kaiser Carlile, 9, bat boy for the Liberal (KS) Bee Jays, an amateur team playing in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, KS, was struck on the head by a bat swung in practice during a game on August 1, 2015.  Although the child was wearing a batting helmet, the blow resulted in his death the following day.

Sixty-year-old Gregory Murrey tumbled from the upper deck at Turner Field during the seventh inning of an Atlanta Braves game against the New York Yankees on August 29, 2015.  Murray, who fell some 40 feet into the seating area behind home plate, was administered CPR before he was rushed to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Posted by: Bob Gorman | February 4, 2016

Safety Netting Update

The Jackson County (Missouri) Legislature passed a resolution on January 19 urging the Kansas City Royals to extend safety netting to the far ends of the dugouts.  While this nine-member elected body has no administrative control over Kaufman Stadium and therefore cannot require extended netting, this action is significant nonetheless in putting pressure on the Royals to improve fan safety.  The Royals, in response, stated that the team is conducting a “feasibility study” to determine if extended netting is warranted.  Interestingly, newly-appointed County Executive Frank White, an All-Star second baseman with the Royals for 18 seasons, was instrumental in securing passage of this resolution.  The Jackson County Legislature is to be congratulated for being the first representative body in a major league city to recognize the importance of fan safety.

Posted by: Bob Gorman | December 10, 2015

MLB’s Response to Extending Safety Netting

MLB has just issued its “plan” for extended safety netting.  The press release is as follows:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 9, 2015

MLB ISSUES FAN SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS

Fan Safety Initiative Leads to New Netting Recommendations for Next Year

            The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball has issued recommendations to all 30 Major League Clubs aimed at enhancing the safety of fans attending Major League Baseball games, while also preserving the interactive elements that are integral to the baseball fan experience.

            The recommendations — which resulted from a review that began earlier this summer — include the following:

  • Clubs are encouraged to implement or maintain netting (or another effective protective screen or barrier of their choosing) that shields from line-drive foul balls all field-level seats that are located between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate, inclusive of any adjacent camera wells) and within 70 feet of home plate.  The Commissioner’s Office has retained a consultant specializing in stadium architecture and protective netting to assist interested Clubs in implementing this recommendation.     
  • Although Clubs already provide warnings to fans about the dangers posed by batted balls and bats entering the stands and the need to pay attention to the action on the field during each at-bat, the Commissioner’s Office recommends that Clubs continue to explore ways to educate their fans on these issues and is providing Clubs with resources to assist them in this area.
  • The Commissioner’s Office will be working with the Clubs and online ticketing sellers to identify ways to provide customers with additional information at the point of sale about which seats are (and are not) behind netting.

            Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said: “Major League Baseball prides itself on providing fans in our ballparks with unparalleled proximity and access to our players and the game taking place on the field.  At the same time, it is important that fans have the option to sit behind protective netting or in other areas of the ballpark where foul balls and bats are less likely to enter.  This recommendation attempts to balance the need for an adequate number of seating options with our desire to preserve the interactive pre-game and in-game fan experience that often centers around the dugouts, where fans can catch foul balls, see their favorite players up close and, if they are lucky, catch a tossed ball or other souvenir.   

            “I am confident that this recommendation will result not only in additional netting at Major League ballparks but also draw additional attention to the need for fans who make the choice not to sit behind netting to be prepared for the possibility of foul balls and bats entering the stands.”

# # #

Contact: Patrick Courtney or Michael Teevan, Major League Baseball, (212) 931-7878, mlbpressbox.com, twitter.com/mlb_pr.

 

This plan is, of course, totally inadequate.  Not only is safety netting not extended far enough, it is not even required.  I’m sad to say I’m not surprised by this response to fan injuries.  MLB won’t make any significant changes until it starts losing some lawsuits.  As long as baseball continues to receive near blanket protection under the antiquated “assumption of risk” doctrine, it has no real incentive to do anything more.  Let’s just hope no one has to die before organized ball gets serious about the problem of fan safety.

 

Posted by: Bob Gorman | October 22, 2015

New Edition of Death at the Ballpark Now Available

The second edition of Death at the Ballpark has now been published and is available for purchase directly from the publisher, McFarland, or from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  This new edition is a complete revision of the earlier one.  It includes all of the incidents found in the first edition as well as some 1,200 additional fatalities.

Posted by: Bob Gorman | October 10, 2015

Class Action Lawsuit Update

On July 13, 2015, a class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Major League Baseball.  According to the law firm handling the suit, “The nationwide class action seeks to change current MLB rules and practices, including requiring the MLB to retrofit all existing major league and minor league indoor and outdoor ballparks to extend protective netting from foul pole to foul pole by the beginning of the 2016-2017 MLB season. Relief sought also stipulates that all future ballparks intended to house major or minor league baseball games need to include at minimum this amount of safety netting. Plaintiffs also seek to create a program to study spectator injuries in an effort to continually reevaluate whether additional measures should be taken, so that precautionary measures can continue to evolve as the sport continues to evolve.” (http://www.hbsslaw.com/cases-and-investigations/cases/Major-League-Baseball-Season-Ticket-Holders).

On October 5, Major League Baseball filed a motion with this same district court asking that the suit be dismissed, stating the usual argument that the dangers to fans from foul balls and bats are widely known and that spectators are adequately warned about these dangers.  A hearing on this motion is set for November 13.

In the meantime, fan injuries continue to mount.  To date, the firm has identified at least 74 serious fan injuries since the suit was filed. (http://www.hbsslaw.com/newsroom/Injuries-Mount-As-Players-and-Commentators-Warn-MLB-That-Another-Fan-May-Die).

Posted by: Bob Gorman | September 8, 2015

Fan Fatalities from Falls

The recent death of 60-year-old Gregory Murrey after falling over an upper deck railing at Turner Field has raised awareness of one of dangers of the modern large-capacity ballparks.  While fans have died from falls in the past, it’s really been in the last 50 years that there has been a spike in such fatalities.  And with good reason: today’s mega-stadiums are much larger and higher than those in earlier decades.  What follows is a list of these fatalities from 1969 to the present, including suicides.

8/5/1969 Memorial Stadium, Baltimore George Shramek, 24 Jumped from upper deck during batting practice
7/22/1971 Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh Gary Pettitt, 22 Fell while jumping from one exit ramp to another
8/24/1971 Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia Glenn Shober, 37 Fell through opening where left field scoreboard was lowered when not in use
4/18/1972 Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh Joseph Farrell, 17 Fell while jumping from one exit ramp to another
8/29/1979 Olympic Stadium, Montreal Michel Bergeron, 28 Climbed a glass wall and fell 10 feet into the visitor’s bullpen
7/13/1980 Shea Stadium, New York Bruce Winick, 28 Jumped from 5th mezzanine level to street below after arguing with a friend
7/19/1982 Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati Lora Schneeman, 21 Fell 35 feet from the upper deck to first row of lower level seats
6/6/1984 Candlestick Park, San Francisco Anthony Perry, 30 Fell from upper deck while yelling at the Giants as they left the field after a loss
5/1/1985 Shea Stadium, New York Mark Leddy, 21 Fell while sliding down the rail of an escalator
5/16/1986 Comiskey Park, Chicago Edward Joyce, 53 Fell while sitting on upper deck railing
4/24/1989 Shea Stadium, NY Norine Cusick, 46 Committed suicide by climbing to the top of a 120 foot foul pole and jumping while stadium was empty
4/27/1989 Royals Stadium, Kansas City Mike Wurzer, 20 Tried to do handstand while walking down aisle and flipped over upper deck railing
8/13/1991 SkyDome, Toronto Kenneth Piery, 39 Fell seven stories while jumping from ramp to ramp
8/13/1993 Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh Clifford Toolerton, 75 Fell down stairs while walking to his seat
4/25/1999 Yankee Stadium, New York Francisco Munoz, 37 Fell while riding on escalator hand rail
9/17/2003 Pacific Bell Park, San Francisco Todd Adams, 35 Fell over railing 25 feet to sidewalk outside of park
7/29/2004 Miller Park, Milwaukee James Kolata, 48 Fell while riding on escalator hand rail
4/15/2008 Shea Stadium, New York Antonio Nararainsami, 36 Fell while sliding down escalator hand rail
5/21/2008 Turner Field, Atlanta Justin Hayes, 25 Fell while sliding down stair railing
5/14/2010 Miller Park, Milwaukee Stuart Springstube, 51 Fell over railing while reaching for a batted ball during batting practice. 15-foot fall resulted in his death from brain hemorrhage three weeks later
5/25/2011 Coors Field, Denver Robert Seamans, 27 Fell while sliding down stair railing
7/7/2011 Rangers Ballpark, Arlington Shannon Stone, 39 Fell over railing while attempting to catch a foul ball
8/12/2013 Turner Field Ronald Homer, 30 Fell over upper deck railing into the players parking lot; Was ruled a suicide
8/29/2015 Turner Field Gregory Murrey, 60 Fell from upper deck in the stands behind home plate
Posted by: Bob Gorman | August 3, 2015

Fan Injuries in 2015

What follows is a list of some of the serious injuries from balls and bats suffered by fans at major and minor league games during the 2015 season.  It is by no means a comprehensive list:

A man was struck over his right eye during an April 11 game at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.  The blow resulted in an inch and a half gash just above his eyebrow.

A woman standing behind home plate during an April 20 game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh was struck on the back of the head and knocked unconscious when the force of the foul ball pushed the protective netting back against her.

A boy seated near the first base-side dugout was struck on the head by a checked-swing foul ball during a game at San Francisco’s A. T. & T.  Ballpark on May 3.

A woman was struck in the face and near-fatally injured by the barrel of a broken bat during a game at Fenway Park on June 5.

A woman and a child were injured by foul balls at a New Jersey Jackals game played at Montclair State University on June 13.  Both were taken to a local hospital as a precaution.

A young boy was stuck on the upper chest near his left shoulder by a foul ball during a Philadelphia Phillies game on June 19.  He was taken to the hospital for observation.

A man and a woman were struck by the same line drive foul ball during a Marlins game on June 28.  The woman, who was seated in the first row along the right field line was hit in the face when the speeding ball ricocheted off the railing in front of her seat.  She was removed by wheelchair and taken to an area hospital for treatment and observation.  A man sitting near her was hit on the head by the same ball.  He received treatment at the stadium first aid station.

A woman was knocked unconscious when a pop foul ball struck her on the right side of her head during a Lynchburg (VA) Hillcats game on July 4.

A single mother of two was struck in the face by a foul ball during a game at Miller Park in Milwaukee on July 6.  Surgery was required, during which two titanium plates were placed in her head.  She sustained permanent nerve damage on the left side of her head and severe injuries to her left eye.

A women was struck between the eyes by a foul ball during a game at Fenway Park on July 10.  The injury resulted in over 30 stitches.

A woman was struck on the head by a foul ball during a South Bend (IN) Cubs game on July 21.  She had to be carried from the stadium by EMS personnel and was transported to a local hospital for treatment.

A 10-year-old girl was stuck in the face by a foul ball during a game at Durham (NC) Athletic Park on July 31.

A single mother of two was struck between the eyes by a foul ball during a Frisco (TX) RoughRiders minor league game on August 14.  A week after the injury, she underwent nine hours of reconstructive surgery.

A woman seated behind the home team dugout during a Detroit Tigers game on August 21 was struck on the head by a foul ball.  She was treated at the stadium first aid station before being transported to a local hospital for further treatment.

A woman seated behind the camera well along the first base side of Wrigley Field on August 21 was struck in the left side of her head by a line drive foul ball and had to be removed by stretcher and taken to a local hospital as a precaution.

An elderly couple attending a Miami Marlins game on September 6 were struck by the same foul ball.  Seated along the left field line some 200 feet from home plate, the line shot off the bat of a Mets player first struck the woman on her right eye before it ricocheted and hit her husband on the top of his head.  Both were treated at the stadium first aid station before being reseated behind the protective netting near home plate.

A man was struck on the left shoulder by a line drive foul ball during the first inning of a Red Sox-Blue Jays game at Fenway park on September 9.  He left his seat after he was hit, but later returned holding an ice pack to his injured shoulder.

Posted by: Bob Gorman | July 23, 2015

Infographic on Foul Balls

The Pucuda Leading Edge Blog has produced an interesting infographic on the dangers associated with foul balls.  To view it, click on the following link: http://resources.netting.com/blog/foul-balls-are-more-dangerous-than-you-think

Posted by: Bob Gorman | July 6, 2015

Player Fatalities: An Historical Overview

Hundreds of players in the United States at all levels of play have died since 1862 while engaged in the National Pastime.  The numerical breakdown by cause is as follows (not including health-related causes):

Beanings288 (includes one in a major league game and 11 in minor league games)

Other pitched ball fatalities109 (includes one in a minor league game)

Thrown ball fatalities127 (includes one in a minor league game)

Bat fatalities83

Batted ball fatalities189 (includes one in a minor league game)

Collision fatalities101 (includes four in minor league games)

Weather-related fatalities80 (includes one in a minor league game)

Fatalities due to field conditions87

Violence-related fatalities48

Posted by: Bob Gorman | July 2, 2015

Fenway Park Incident

On June 5, 2015, spectator Tonya Carpenter was struck by the barrel of a broken bat while seated at field level during a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park.  The bat hit her in the face, resulting in serious injuries that a first appeared to be life-threatening.  This incident once again raises the issue of fan safety and the Baseball Rule (i. e., assumption of risk).  For too long baseball has been protected by the Baseball Rule.  As a result, organized ball has done little to improve fan safety beyond placing netting behind home plate and putting warnings on the back of tickets and making pre-game announcements about the danger from balls and bats entering the stands.  For a discussion of this issue, I recommend listening to “Is Fenway Safe Enough for Fans?“, an 11-minute segment on WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

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