A brief interlude on death at the ballpark

On August 25, 2018, Erwin and Linda Goldbloom went to Dodgers Stadium to see their Dodgers take on the San Diego Padres. They were there to celebrate Linda’s recent 79th birthday and their 59th wedding anniversary.

In the top of the 9th, a Padres batter — there’s confusion over just which batter, but it was either Franmil Reyes, Austin Hedges, Jose Pirela or Manuel Margot — hit a line drive that struck Linda Goldbloom in the head. She was taken to the hospital but died on August 29.

Why is this in the news this week, more than five months later? ESPN’s Outside the Lines just published a report about it and included the coroner’s report, stating that she died of “acute intracranial hemorrhage due to history of blunt force trauma” as a result of the foul ball striking her. The coroner’s report, I guess, makes it official that Linda Goldbloom died due to her presence at a baseball game. The family and the Dodgers seem to have come to a settlement, according to the article.

It’s a tragic thing, and one that puts to bed the notion that you’re only at risk of getting hurt at a ballgame if you’re staring at your phone instead of the action — Goldbloom wasn’t using her phone at the time. Maybe something will be done to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again, such as extending the netting between fans and the field even further.

The thing is, though, that whenever you have people in a public gathering, you have the chance, however remote, that someone’s going to die. Ballparks are no exception to this. There’s a whole website and book dedicated to it. (The website seems inactive, ironically.)

ESPN references two previous deaths that have been associated with balls leaving the playing field and striking a fan:

On September 29, 1943, Clarence Stagemyer, 32, was hit in the head by a wild throw. He was at a doubleheader between Washington and Cleveland at Griffith Stadium. In the 9th inning of Game One, third baseman Sherry Robertson of the Senators threw wildly to first base after a Ken Keltner grounder. The ball hit Stagemyer, who was taken to a hospital for treatment. The deputy coroner ruled he had suffered a concussion and a fractured skull.

On May 16, 1970, Alan Fish, 14 and a star pitcher for his Little League team, went to Dodger Stadium with his family. He’d always brought his glove to baseball games, hoping for a foul ball, but he decided to leave it at home since balls were never hit his way, He was in the process of biting into a hot dog when a liner from Manny Mota hit him on the left temple. He didn’t go to the hospital immediately, but his family took him to Children’s Hospital after the game when he said he didn’t feel good. The following day, he couldn’t control his right arm or leg. He grew progressively worse before dying three days later.

But those are just the deaths from balls. What about falls? There have been many. There are a few that I remember.

On July 7, 2011, firefighter Shannon Stone leaned over a railing at Arlington Stadium to try and catch a ball thrown by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. He fell 20 feet and landed on a concrete walkway. Though he was conscious as paramedics took him out of the ballpark, he went into full arrest in the ambulance and died hours later.

Three people fell to their deaths at Turner Field in Atlanta. Season ticket holder Gregory Murrey, 60, fell from the 400 section to the 201 section in the seventh inning of a Braves-Yankees game on August 29, 2015. Many of the Braves family members witnessed it, as he fell close to the area where the Braves’ wives sit. On August 12, 2013, Ronald Lee Homer Jr. fell 85 feet to a parking lot. That death was eventually ruled a suicide. Finally, on May 22, 2008, Justin Hayes fell about 150 feet down a stairwell and died of his injuries. Police believed he fell while trying to slide down a hand railing.

These are all recent fatalities. One of the authors of the above-mentioned book has speculated that the ballparks are built bigger and bigger, and therefore the falls are higher and higher. So was baseball safer in the “good old days?” Lord, no. Old stadiums were wooden deathtraps that were designed to cram as many paying customers together as humanly possible, safety be damned.

On August 8, 1903, a bunch of fans in Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl crowded the bleachers to watch a fight on the street outside the park. A portion of the left field bleachers collapsed, killing 12 people and injuring more than 200. There was another collapse there on May 14, 1927, as a crowd of fans fleeing a rainstorm caused a portion of the right field stands collapsed. About 50 people were injured in the collapse and subsequent panic, and one person died of heart failure. The poor condition of the stadium played a part in that disaster.

Yankee Stadium was the scene of a similar riot on May 19, 1929, as a large crowd tried to seek cover in a sudden rainstorm. More than 30 people were hurt, many of which were young boys who had come out to watch their hero, Babe Ruth. They were caught up in the retreating crowd and trampled underfoot. The majority of the crowd was unaware of what happened, as the horror took place out of sight. They only knew something awful happened when Ruth ran to home plate, cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted, “There has been an accident — will any physicians in the crowd please come to the club offices at once.”

Eleanor Price, a 17-year-old college student who had accompanied her younger brother George, was carried into the Yankees offices and died of her injuries there. According to the Daily News, “Her chest was crushed into her backbone and all her ribs smashed.” Joseph Carter, 60, was also killed.

Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium was the scene of an escalator-related disaster on May 2, 1954. A group of children were rushing up the moving stairway to get to their seats. The problem was that the escalator was 40 inches wide, and the exit was just 28 inches wide. There was a jam at the top of the stairs, which led to children being piled on top of one another. Many of the 40 who were injured suffered gashes to legs and feet from the escalator steps. One injured girl looked “like she had been clawed by an animal,” reports said. Annette Constantini, 14, suffered head injuries and was killed.

Then there was Bernard Lawrence Doyle, 54, who took the son of a friend to the Polo Grounds on July 4, 1950 to see the Giants play the Dodgers in a doubleheader. About an hour before the game, he suddenly slumped forward, bleeding from his ears. Doyle, a former boxing manager and a railway employee, had been shot in the head in Section 42, Row 3 and was killed instantly. As police later determined, the bullet had been fired by 14-year-old Robert Peeples, who lived next to the Polo Grounds. He had found a gun with one bullet in it and waited until the Fourth of July to fire it into the air. The bullet happened to land right where Doyle was sitting.

In 2018, MLB teams drew a total of 69,671,272 fans. There was one fatality. So, the odds are overwhelming that the worst thing that will happen to you is that your team will lose or your kids will con you into buying overpriced souvenirs. Still, be careful out there!

Follow me on Twitter: @rip_mlb

Follow me on Instagram: @rip_mlb

Follow me on Facebook: ripbaseball

Support RIP Baseball


One thought on “A brief interlude on death at the ballpark

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s