August 4, 1983.
1983 – While warming up before the fifth inning of the Yankees 3-1 win over the
Blue Jays game at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium, New York outfielder Dave Winfield accidentally kills a seagull with a thrown ball. After the game, Winfield is brought to the Ontario Provincial Police station on charges of cruelty to animals and is forced to post a $500 bond before being released. The charges will be dropped the following day.
Imagine. You’ve played 4 innings of an otherwise uneventful ballgame and are warming up for the 5th. After throwing the ball around the field, you lob it into the catcher to start the next inning, and BAM!!! A seagull flies right into the darn thing, falls dead to the ground, and you’re hauled off to the police department to face charges. That’s one you won’t forget! And this is kinda sorta before the nutcases surface that are trying to protect the tutsigz ant from forever being extinct. I thought this little ditty was so intriguing it sent me to the baseball archives to see what other oddities and potential hazards might be lurking out there
A few years ago a fan was cheering for her local baseball team, sitting close to the dugout. She took a look at the score board and “boom” it hit her! A foul ball slammed into her face, ripping her lip, shattering her teeth and fracturing her palate. This type of thing doesn’t happen very often, but more often than you’d think. Usually it says on your ticket that liability is very limited. Recently we had seats right behind left field. I spent an entire week-end trying to dig up an old mitt, knowing we’d be sitting in “home run territory”. As it was, the guy next to us spent most of the game at the beer stand and asked me to take care of his mitt. No home runs our way this time but you just never know.
On March 25,2001, during the 7th inning of a Diamondback/Giants game, Randy Johnson sent a
lethal pitch towards the catcher’s mitt, only to hit and kill a dove who flew in front of home plate at exactly the wrong time! The pitch sent the bird over the catcher’s, Rod Barajas’, head and landed a few feet from the plate amid a sea of feathers. He explained later he was waiting for the ball, expecting to catch it, and all he saw was an explosion, feathers flying everywhere. The bird literally disintegrated. Pundits mused because it was a bird it was a “fowl” ball. Others commented the bird obviously wasn’t a baseball fan or he wouldn’t have flown within 5 feet of home plate – in any direction – when Johnson was pitching! The official ruling from the umpire was “No Pitch” and play resumed.
On a lighter note, The San Diego Chicken mascot appeared at a Chicago Bulls game (wrong sport!) back in January, 1991, and in his enthusiasm tackled a cheerleader (must have run out of pickup lines) and injured her. She sued the chicken and was awarded $300,000 for her injuries.
In July, 2000, the Florida mascot, Billy the Marlin, fired his trusty air-pressurized T-shirt Gun into the stands, accidentally hit an elderly male fan in the head, hitting him unconscious. He recovered and, naturally, filed a lawsuit.
On August 24, 1919, Cleveland pitcher Ray Caldwell is flattened by a bolt of lightning in his debut with the team. He recovers to get the final out of the game, and defeats Philadelphia, 2-1
Going way back, August 24, 1886 – Just as he reaches the ball on a long hit by Jimmy Wolf, Reds center fielder Abner Powell’s pants are grabbed by a stray dog. Wolf circles the bases with the homer that wins the game for Louisville 5-3 in eleven innings
In 1998, the infamous Phillie Phanatic cost his team $2.5 million after he aggressively hugged a store employee at a grand opening. Phillie is the most sued mascot in baseball history, known especially for flipping trays out of concession workers’ hands and causing grief just about everywhere he appears in the stands.
Just remember, if you’re going to the ballpark, take a mitt, wear a motorcycle helmet or some other protective device, stay alert and watch out for those dogs and birds!