John Grindrod: Often the real story isn’t on the pitch
Of course, now that so many are tired of the pandemic and ready to fill the stands again at games, there will be these in-game stories filled with great moments for talented sportswriters like Jim Naveau and Tom Usher to write. their accounts that fill our sports pages.
However, at any sports venue, there are also these other stories that can occur in the lobbies and seats that surround the playing field. I thought of this several weeks ago when I heard the results of an investigation into a tragic story that occurred last season at Petco Park in San Diego, where a 40-year-old woman and her 5-year-old son fell to their deaths in a third-level lobby. San Diego police findings are that the incident was a murder-suicide although the family of the deceased disputes those findings.
The incident reminded me of another tragedy, this one purely accidental, which happened at a baseball game in 2008. At Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton tried to offer a souvenir to a fan and threw a ball in the stands towards a 39-year-old father accompanied by his son. When the father reached for the ball, he lost his balance, toppled over the railing and died.
The incident was actually the second fatality in a Major League Baseball game this 2008 season. In Denver, at Coors Field, a 27-year-old man died while attempting to slide down a railing when he lost his balance and fell 20 feet, landing on his head.
Four years ago I was within meters of an incident which did not cause instant death but surely caused serious bodily harm to someone and possible long term consequences while I was at Huntington Field in Columbus watching the Clippers play the Louisville Bats. As he sat in the left field bleachers with Lady Jane, I followed a bat line drive from a visiting bat. As soon as the ball was hit, I knew it would hit the seats. Only once in my life have I caught a ball at a pro baseball game and thought it might be my second.
However, within seconds of hearing the loud crack of the bat, I could see that the ball was moving with far too much speed to attempt a strike. A second or two later the ball came, less than a yard from my seat at the end of the aisle. How do I know it was no more than a meter? It was because a man sitting directly across the aisle wearing an orange Texas Longhorn cap was turning to his left as he spoke to the person sitting next to him when, dully, the bullet ricocheted off the side of his head, bending his knees and dropping him to the concrete. . Paramedics were on the scene within seconds, bandaging his head and putting him in a wheelchair to escort him to an ambulance.
Of course, several years ago, due to the increase in fans being hit by batted balls, Major League Baseball installed nets in all thirty stadiums along both foul lines. According to an NBC News investigation, there were more than 800 cases of serious injury to spectators hit by balls or bats that slipped from players’ hands between 2012 and 2019. However, the incident I witnessed actually happened beyond the outfield. And this incident comes with a cautionary tale. When attending a baseball game, always pay attention to what you paid to see.
Of course, sometimes the stories that take place in stadiums aren’t so dire. The one that certainly fit the burlesque category happened in 1988 and was seen by my lifelong friend, Mike Schepp, and me. Mike and I were sitting in the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium on a snowy day in December, a week before the big Santa’s Day. We sat in the noisiest section of the stadium, the stands behind the east end area, known as The Dog Pound, while watching newcomer Don Strock, replacing an injured Bernie Kosar, lead a furious rally in the fourth quarter to overcome former LCC teacher and coach, then Houston head coach, Jerry Glanville’s Oilers, 28-23.
The Dog Pound in the now razed municipality was a pretty wild scene at the time. On this gray 22 degree day with a -8 wind chill, there was a distinct smell of marijuana and quite a few spilled vials. Additionally, occasional skirmishes would break out between fans who had over-served themselves and simply couldn’t agree on certain issues.
Mike and I had the last two seats in the aisle, about four rows from the railing, and on three occasions the same young man in a green and black checkered coat appeared to come out on the short side of some physical altercations crashed down the steps directly in front of us. Each time he would get up and run back up the steps yelling at his opponent and sure enough, before much time was up, there he was rolling back next to us.
Yes, indeed, while many stories at sporting events take place on the surface of the game, there are also those stories – sometimes tragic, sometimes hurtful, and sometimes rather comical – that take place around the playing field.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, freelance writer and editor, and author of two books. Join it at [email protected]