As the World Series 2013 gets underway at Fenway Park tonight, a sea of red will rise above the Green Monster on Yawkey Way. While the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox take the mound, with Adam Wainright and former Chicago Cub Jon Lester, I am thinking about just one thing.
Home run balls, that is. Foul balls. Balls that could earn an adult a lot of money if sold.
If anyone remembers the movie "61," about Roger Maris' 61st home run ball.....the ball that broke Babe Ruth's regular-season home run record, you know what I mean.
On that day, there were something like 1,000 people at Yankee Stadium. All were sitting, that September day, when the last regular season game actually took place in September, in the right field seats, so as to better their chances of actually catching THE BALL.
That ball was worth a lot of money. It could be sold, as Maris (Barry Tubb) explains to his wife. But Mrs. Roger Maris (Jennifer Crystal Foley), according to the movie, didn't see it that way. "What, all that money, just for a baseball?"
If you remember, everyone wanted to catch the ball. A man from Brooklyn caught it. He was going to sell it and buy a house with the proceeds. Maris and the man were photographed in the locker room. When the man offers to give it back to Maris, he demurs, saying "Go ahead and buy your house. I've got the bat."
Gameday balls. Souvenirs. In a World Series, they are priceless.
Like a good beer to an Irishman, you'd apparently run over your mother to get one.
But that said, it's dangerous to catch balls. And in this age of YouTube and Deadspin scrutiny....
Just last week in Boston, ball-ripping from one hand to another made national news not more than a week ago, during the hotly contested Red Sox-Detroit Tigers series. A woman, apparently a Tigers fan, caught the ball, and a man (presumably a Red Sox fan) ripped it out of her hand to throw it back. As the Blade reported:
“That’s my baseball!” the woman appears to be mouthing while the man rips it from her hands, which Deadspin suggests could mean the two don’t know each other.
According to Yahoo, the man was making off-handed comments during the game, including racist ones.
“He was talking all game,” 25-year-old Angelo Sikoutris, who says he was on the receiving end of the man’s insults, told Yahoo Sports.
The comments included the man calling Sikoutris “Prince Fielder’s crackhead brother,” a “Go back to the ghetto,” and even a “Bye, Travon” directed at Sikoutris after the man was eventually kicked out of the stadium for throwing the ball on the field.
But the worst are when balls are stolen from the hands of children.
At a regular season game in 2011, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Juan Miranda tossed a ball to a little red-haired girl in Minute Maid Park during a series with the Houston Astros, then in the National League. In a video that made the rounds in the summer of 2013, a rabid woman fan literally snatches the ball, which has bounced into a young girl's hands, runs back to her seat, and high-fives two males in the seats behind her. If you haven't seen it, here's the link:
Her audacity appalls me. But unless the woman was bringing it home to her own children, there's no excuse for it.
Look, I can be that greedy, too. I get it. A game-used ball is a precious, sought-after souvenir. Sure, I want it. There aren't that many. Most ballplayers will throw a few into the stands, especially during fielding practice. A home run ball, or any other World Series memorabilia, is estimated to go around $1,000. Often, it's listed on Ebay within seconds of the CATCH.
And on the other Coast, a 16-year-old boy was allegedly assaulted and robbed of a home run ball he grabbed in August at AT&T Park, according to the San Francisco Examiner. A baldheaded African-American man was seen running up to the boy, who was wearing a Red Sox Dustin Pedroia jersey, who grabbed his wrist in pain.
Police are still investigating the matter.
I may not have ever had a baby, but I do know the protocol when it comes to ballpark manners. Children first. Children last. Children always. You don't snatch it away.
My blogging brother Will Leitch wrote an excellent commentary on catching balls that agrees with my thinking about baseballs and children:
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