Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Heads Up! It's a Foul Ball!

When the ball hits the bat, or vice versa, and the ball does not travel between the white lines, the umpire raises his hands and declares, “Foul Ball”.
At that point in time, action on the field stops. Time stands still, as the pitcher prepares to throw another pitch to the batter.

Most often, the ball is fouled into the dirt at home plate, and occasionally onto the batter’s front foot, or shin. Many batters nowadays wear a special shin protector to keep those nasty blows to a minimum. Catchers are well protected against foul tips which can strike a catcher anywhere---in the chest, on the shoulder, on the mask. Even the umpire needs protection against these tips, although you may occasionally see the man who calls balls and strikes writhing in pain following a foul ball. Most of the time they attempt to mask their misery.

Any foul ball that enters the stands becomes one of the most sought-after items in all of sport. Fans go to great lengths to retrieve baseballs that leave the playing area. When those balls have some historical significance, they may also have some value. When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled for the home run lead several years ago, McGwire’s final home run ball fetched more than a million dollars for the lucky fan.

You cannot catch a foul ball while you are seated in your Lazy Boy chair in front of your television set. Last Sunday a group of us headed to Toronto to see Lou Piniella’s Cubs go head to head with the Jays on Fathers’ Day.

There is a murmur that ripples through the crowd near the area where a towering foul ball is expected to land. All heads crane toward the expected target. Fans prepare to catch the ball as it descends. The fan that retrieves the ball raises it triumphantly above his or her head, acknowledging the accolades of those seated nearby.

Fans can assist their home teams by catching foul balls that would likely fall in the first three or four rows along the first and third base lines. Players are permitted to reach into the stands to catch those balls; however, it makes good sense for a dedicated fan to fight off an opponent who wants to put one of the good guys out.

Foul balls make their way along the field to the base coaches. The coaches usually pick up those balls and gently toss them into the stands to a young fan. Some of the batted balls that reach the base coaches are screamers, and the coaches have to duck to save their hides. This year, for the first time in Major League history, all base coaches must wear batting helmets while in position on the field. Last year a minor league coach was killed by a foul ball, resulting in the new rule.

The cheap seats at the Rogers Centre are in the 500 section. On rare occasions, foul balls may reach that area. Most of the time, they fall in the lower levels. Each level is divided by a concrete façade. When the foul balls hit the concrete, it is a good time for all fans in the area to pay close attention. The balls ricochet in all directions, sometimes striking empty seats, caroming into new territory.

It is always a good idea to have some idea where the ball’s flight might be. The game of baseball has also been prone to the knock that it moves so slowly that it is not always necessary for fans to pay close attention. More than one fan has been caught on camera chatting with a buddy while a foul ball descends into his beer cup.

Several years ago, a friend from Belleville sat in the front row of a Jays game. A screaming foul tip was headed straight for his head. The fan beside him stuck up his glove and saved his life. (His words). He called me the next day to tell me that he was most grateful to my son for taking his glove to the game that day. Always take your glove to the game, especially if you are seated in the danger areas.

Thurman Munson played for the New York Yankees. He was chosen to be the captain of the Yankees, the first since Lou Gherig. He was a tough competitor, standing barely six feet but often tipping the scales over 200 pounds. Mildly put, his demeanour was somewhat surly.

In the early 1970s, the Yankees were at home for a weekend series. In fact they were not at Yankee Stadium, but played at Shea, the Mets home field, while their own ball park was under renovation. During the Friday night game, my brother David snagged a fly ball off the bat of Munson’s bat.

The following day, he went down to the field level, and, from the top of the dugout, politely asked Munson to sign the ball, explaining that it had come off his bat. Munson scowled. David again asked him to sign the ball. Munson indicated that it might be the last thing on earth that he would like to do, with some profanity. My brother retorted in kind. Munson chased him, in full garb, about 30 rows up into the stands, near the hot dog stand.

Yet another saga in the great game of baseball!

James Hurst

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?