Posted by: Bob Gorman | July 2, 2015

Fan Fatalities: An Historical Overview

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 fatalities125 (includes one at a major league game and two at minor league games)

Thrown ball fatalities46 (includes one at a major league game and one at a minor league game)

Bat fatalities48

Collision fatalities4

Violence-related fatalities77 (includes seven at major league games and five at minor league games)

Weather-related fatalities39 (includes two at major league games and seven at minor league games)

Field-related fatalities41 (includes 17 at major league games and three at minor league games)

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Responses

  1. Are the statistics for foul ball deaths worldwide? What league’s do they span across?

    • All statistics are for the United States only and do not include fatalities in other countries. The only major league foul ball fatality was at a Los Angeles Dodgers game in 1970. There have been two minor league foul ball fatalities. The first was in 1960 at a Miami Marlins game. The Marlins were then a member of the International League. The second fatality occurred in 2010 at an independent United League game in San Angelo, TX.

  2. So in the history of major league baseball, with teams playing 162 games a year X 30 teams X 100+ years there has been ONE death?

    • That is correct. And there have been two at minor league games (the most recent was 2010) and 123 at amateur games. In addition, there has been one fatality at a major league game from a ball thrown in the stands as well as one at a minor league game and 44 at amateur games. Bats have killed 48 fans at amateur games.

      While fortunately foul ball deaths are infrequent, it is estimated that over 1,700 fans are injured by foul balls at major league games every season. Many of these injuries are quite serious, more than a few life-altering. I attend Charlotte Knights games on a regular basis and it is not uncommon for me to see fans struck by foul balls. This past Saturday, in fact, a fan and a coach were struck by foul balls and both had to be taken to the hospital. Do we really have to wait until someone is killed before MLB takes further action to protect fans?

  3. Is this data from “Death at the Ballpark”? Where does this info come from?

    • All data comes from the second edition of Death at the Ballpark, which is due out at the end of the year. Most of the accounts of fatalities covered in the book come from newspaper articles. In our research, we attempted to verify every fatality before including it in the book. We used local newspaper accounts when available and double checked them with death certificates when possible.


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