By Wayne William Cipriano
I saw a news story on television the other night that snapped up my attention. You know how you sometimes gel out in front of the screen and then your short-term memory plays something back to you that you just heard and you say, “Wha…?”
This story was about injuries suffered by fans at major league baseball parks, getting hit by balls and even an occasional bat. I was not taping the show so I have to rely on the short-term memory and what I heard after I began to pay closer attention, so I may have some of the stats wrong. You should check them out for yourself.
What I think I heard was burgeoning pressure to protect fans by rigging more netting and other protective devices between the stands and the field because according to what I think I heard, there were 1700 persons “injured” last year at big league games.
Since the story was not on PBS but on a network news show where it is often entertainment and always short, details were lacking. I imagine 1700 “injuries” were about normal, but I could be wrong.
Several questions present. First, what is an injury? I would think it is a fan catching a baseball with his face or being struck by a slipped or broken bat. But, once lawyers interested in liability get involved, I have no trouble visualizing twisted ankles, sunburns, beer fights, and so on, all being classed as “injuries related to major league baseball game attendance.”
How many of there “injuries” would netting prevent?
If there are 1700 “injuries” per year, what proportion of all the fans who attended all the games do those 1700 fans represent? Is the game worth the candle? I don’t follow baseball as I did when I was a kid. I think each team still plays about 162 games and since it seems like there are 50 or so teams in each of the two leagues, there are a boat load of games played every year, and with thousands of fans watching even the less popular teams, that is a lot of fans from which that 1700 comes.
We could take a moment to talk about how many of the fans attending major league games last year were “injured” during their trips to and from the games and compare that number to the 1700 “injured” during the games. I have no idea how to generate that statistic and I am pretty sure that if I did, some nut would suggest we bubble-wrap ourselves on game day. But, as usual, I digress…
What I am saying is this –– Yes, it is very serious when a fan, even one partially anesthetized due to 10¢ beer night, gets a ball bounced off his noggin, but are these “injuries” of sufficient number and severity that one of the most cherished parts of big league baseball – the kid who brings his brand new glove to the game, catches a fly ball, and hands it to his little sister – should be abolished by the erection of netting and such to prevent balls and bats from reaching the fans?
I don’t know how to respond to a question that balances so closely on the scale of tradition/safety, but I do know this… As a turncoat Yankee fan, (I once owned a real Mickey Mantle rookie card) who married a Chicago gal raised just down the street from Wrigley Field and has become entranced by the Cubs’ never-ending voyage to the World’s Championship, crushed each and every year on the Rocks of Reality, there is one tradition I will miss terribly and for which I would willingly forego protection from a face full of baseball. That tradition?
“THROW IT BACK!!!”