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.
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).
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|
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.
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
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):
Beanings – 288 (includes one in a major league game and 11 in minor league games)
Other pitched ball fatalities – 109 (includes one in a minor league game)
Thrown ball fatalities – 127 (includes one in a minor league game)
Bat fatalities – 83
Batted ball fatalities – 189 (includes one in a minor league game)
Collision fatalities – 101 (includes four in minor league games)
Weather-related fatalities – 80 (includes one in a minor league game)
Fatalities due to field conditions – 87
Violence-related fatalities – 48
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.
The new edition of Death at the Ballpark will be published later this year. It will include over 2,000 game-related fatalities among players, field personnel and spectators at all levels of play in the United States from 1862 through 2014. The number of fatalities is more than twice as many as appeared in the first edition of the book.
I frequently get asked about the number of fans killed by various causes (excluding hearth-related deaths) while watching the game. The numerical breakdown is as follows:
Foul ball fatalities – 125 (includes one at a major league game and two at minor league games)
Thrown ball fatalities – 46 (includes one at a major league game and one at a minor league game)
Bat fatalities – 48
Collision fatalities – 4
Violence-related fatalities – 77 (includes seven at major league games and five at minor league games)
Weather-related fatalities – 39 (includes two at major league games and seven at minor league games)
Field-related fatalities – 41 (includes 17 at major league games and three at minor league games)
There are two recent studies that underscore the danger to fans from foul balls. Gathering data from several major league parks and using a mathematical model vetted by five mathematicians and statisticians, journalist David Glovin estimates that some 1,750 fans are injured by foul balls at major league games every year. His findings can be found on the Bloomberg website at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-09/baseball-caught-looking-as-fouls-injure-1-750-fans-a-year.html. When one factors in the number of minor league, collegiate, high school, American Legion, and other amateur games that are played each season, the danger to spectators is significant.
In a study entitled “Don’t Sit There…Or There…Or There: An Analysis of Ball Park Protection and Foul Ball Injury Risks,” published in the International Journal of Sport Management (October 2012, pp. 423-443), researchers led by Gil Fried at the University of New Haven (CT), confirmed that the field level seating areas along the first and third base lines are the most likely to have foul balls hit into them.
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.