Video: Dangers of watching baseball

updated 6/15/2004 5:31:55 PM ET 2004-06-15T21:31:55

Foul balls are such a part of baseball's legacy that it is documented fact that on August 17, 1957, Ritchie Ashburn of the Philadelphia Phillies hit a woman spectator with one of them, breaking her nose.  She was the wife of the sports editor of the “Philadelphia Bulletin” newspaper, Alice Roth.  And while she was being taken out of the stadium on a stretcher, Ashburn, still at bat, hit her with another foul ball. 

Even in Mrs. Roth's injuries can be found the kernel of the essential foul ball at the ballgame story and how funny it is, but there are two such stories that really weren't funny at all. 

Last Sunday 4-year-old Nick O'Brien's had his first game.  In the bottom of the third inning, Gary Matthews, Jr. hit a foul ball towards him, but not only did a burly fan jump from the row behind, he also pinned Nick against the seats and grabbed the ball.  Despite being scolded by Nick's mom, booed by the fans who chanted, “give him the ball,” and chastised on air by the game's announcers, the man would not give up his ill-gotten prize.  Congratulations, homunculus, you stole a $7 baseball from a 4-year-old boy. 

After the incident was replayed on the stadium scoreboard in Arlington, outfielder Reggie Sanders of the visiting St. Louis Cardinals personally handed Nick a ball and one of his bats. Rangers outfielder Kevin Mench gave him a second bat.  Young Nick's reaction to his first baseball game?  One word: “Cool!”

As loathsome as that guy made that incident, it pales in comparison what happened to Jane Costa at Fenway Park in Boston in September of 1998.  Miss Costa was seated about 20 rows behind the Boston dugout when the Red Sox Darren Louis fouled a ball sharply right into the area in which she sat.  She was struck squarely in the face, required reconstructive surgery, including the installation of eight metal plates. 

She sued the Red Sox but last week, the Massachusetts Appeals Court sided with the ball club saying, each customer is assuming the risk and that the warning about balls and bats going into the stands is printed on the back of every ticket and is sufficient. 

According to Costa, her medical bills were approximately $48,000, not including lost wages and damages. “They never called to see how I was, to ask me if I had insurance, if they could do anything for me,” she says. “It just really saddens me. They never so much as sent me a get-well card.” 

This was the No. 4 story on Monday's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." Keith has family history on this topic.  His mother was famously hit by a thrown ball at Yankee stadium in New York in 2000 while she was sitting in the seats. Her injuries were minor, and they did not sue.


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