The world of sports has always been a mix of outstanding athletic ability and celebrity star power. There is a certain amount of showmanship that goes along with the athletes, and oftentimes this can lead to time in the limelight. Ever since the time of Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield while at bat or Muhammad Ali’s famous “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” speech, it’s not just movie stars that become famous.
Since baseball is thought of as America’s pastime, many of the most iconic moments in American history have happened on the field. Millions of Americans flock to baseball stadiums every season, and there are even die-hard fans that go to exhibition games. While Hollywood celebrities and music artists are allowed some leeway when it comes to partying or outlandish behavior, athletes are held to a much higher standard. Baseball contracts often include a morality clause, which only furthers the wholesome “apple pie” element of the sport.
However, not all the events that have happened at a baseball stadium have been positive. Whether it’s been a single player, an entire team, or one of the millions of fans that visit every game, there have been a number of incidents that have changed the way we view baseball stadiums and the sport altogether. Check out our list of 15 of the most shocking events that happened at a baseball stadium, and test your knowledge on how well you know about some of these headline making events in baseball.
15. Randy Johnson Throws A Pitch And Explodes A Bird
Since the speed gun first made its appearance in baseball, fans have come to understand the full intensity of a pitcher’s throw. Sometimes reaching triple digits, there’s no question how damaging a major league baseball can be. Recorded in all its glory, a 2001 game starring Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson pitched a ball at San Francisco Giant, Calvin Murray, in a play that will go down in infamy. Just as he released the ball, a bird flew in front of the pitch and was hit. Cameras picked up this fluke occurrence, and showed the bird explode on contact in a puff of feathers. The crowd gasped, and it became the most infamous bird casualty in baseball.
14. Man Catches Foul Ball Holding A Baby
Being part of the audience at a baseball game, requires constant awareness on the part of the viewer. From balls landing in the bleachers to broken bats flying into the crowd, people should be aware of the potential dangers at baseball stadiums. There have been a number of fans that have actually had to leave for medical reasons due to being hit by flying objects at a baseball game, so it’s not unheard of to be overly cautious. While the sport is considered ultra kid friendly, there is always a worry that a ball that would seriously injure an adult could hit a child in the stands and cause a fatality. One fan that didn’t seem to worry about the dangers of being hit by a ball made headlines in the news during June 2015 when he caught a foul ball while holding his infant son. While it was a good play for the Cubs, since it stole an out for the opposing Los Angeles Dodgers, many thought it was incredibly poor parenting on the father’s part.
13. George Brett Pine Tar Incident
Since many of today’s scandals in baseball entail illegal substances and corked bats, too much pine tar on a bat seems extremely tame. However, in 1983 this was made into a huge scandal in baseball, and resulted in the best temper tantrum from a player ever recorded on the field. George Brett was playing for the Kansas City Royals in a game against the New York Yankees when he was accused of putting too much pine tar on the bat. Lee Macphail, who was the American League President of baseball from 1974 to 1984, gave an interview with MLB.com explaining the reasoning behind the pine tar debate and said, “The only reason for that, was that it was spoiling a lot of ball, and the clubs didn’t want those balls being used that much and thrown out.” This is quite different than a corked bat situation where the hitter was given unfair advantage, and is often viewed as a frivolous rule in baseball. In the meantime, George Brett scored a two-run homer to win the game for the Royals, when the Yankee manager called the pine tar issue into question. However, it was George Brett’s reaction that landed him on this list. Storming off the bench, running after the ump, and looking completely deranged while his fellow teammates had to pull him away; fans got to see how intense the players can be about the sport and their legacy.
12. Blue Jays and Rangers Brawl In Texas
While other sports have a straight-forward way of following rules and regulations, baseball has a few rules off the books. If an opposing pitcher hits the other team’s star player, you better believe turnaround is fair play in the next inning. So, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers already had some history since the “tit for bat” issues involving José Bautista from 2015. Coming to a head in May 2016, Bautista was moving into second base when he confronted second baseman, Rougned Odor. Odor immediately pushed Bautista, which caused Bautista to wind back with a closed fist. However, he couldn’t throw the punch in time because Odor clocked him right in the face. It isn’t exactly a new concept for both benches to clear, but it is rare for there to be such a clean shot placed in baseball. The shot heard around the world, it made headlines because of how it sparked a debate. While some felt it was a product of the silent rule in baseball that seems to take away from the art of the sport, others enjoyed that it showed players actually caring about whether or not they win or lose the game.
11. Cowgill Hit In The Face At Bat
Getting hit by the ball is often considered a rite of passage in baseball, since it’s inevitable that a player will get hit at least once in their career. There are a number of memorable baseball injuries throughout time, but it was a hit to the face in 2014 that showed the graphic nature of the dangers of being at bat. Los Angeles Angels player, Collin Cowgill, was at bat against Texas Rangers pitcher, Matt West, when he positioned himself for a bunt. While he tried to miss being hit, his efforts were too late, and he wound up getting hit directly in the face without any protection. He suffered a broken nose and broken thumb, and the result was a bloody mess that was all caught on slow motion video for all to see.
10. Ty Cobb Beats Up A Fan
Long before A.J. Pierzynski made a name for himself as being the hothead of baseball, Ty Cobb was the original bad boy that ruled the sport. While hecklers have been part of baseball since the very first game was ever played, that doesn’t mean every player handles it well. During a now-infamous game in 1912, Cobb was being heckled by a persistent “fan” that seemed to up the ante with each passing inning. Throwing racial insults (calling him a “half-n***er) and calling out Cobb’s mom, Cobb finally lost it. He flew into the stands, and started pummeling the heckler, Claude Lueker. Lueker had been in an industrial accident, and had lost most of his fingers. So, not only did he beat up a fan, but he beat up a handicapped fan. Teammates came out in support of Cobb, even though Cobb was ultimately suspended for the incident. Nowadays, an incident like that would be unheard of, and just goes to show how much baseball has changed.
9. Steve Bartman Catches Cubs Ball And Spoils World Series Chances
Cubs fans have always been a superstitious bunch, often referencing “The Billy Goat” curse as to why they haven’t been able to win a World Series since 1908. A 2003 incident only added fuel to the fire when it came to the idea that the Cubs truly were cursed. At a time when the Cubs were so close to making it to the World Series again, Luis Castillo hit a foul ball that was in reach of Cubs outfielder Moises Alou. While there were other fans in the stands reaching out for the ball, it was Steve Bartman who made the catch that stole the out. With many believing this was the catalyst to the Cubs losing the game, and ultimately being eliminated in the playoffs, Steve Bartman became a notorious figure that even received death threats from diehard fans.
8. Boston Red Sox Beat The Curse And Win World Series
The Boston Red Sox are another team with a long history and die hard fans that definitely believe in superstitions. The “Curse of the Bambino” is a rich part of Red Sox history, and was referenced each time the 1918 World Series win was mentioned. Unlike other teams that have themes of “keep hope alive” and “this is our year,” Red Sox fans seemed to accept the curse as fact. From the Lost series that highlighted Jack’s phrase, “That’s why the Red Sox will never win the World Series,” to the Fever Pitch film that started with, “and by day’s end, poor Ben had become one of God’s most pathetic creatures – a Red Sox Fan,” it seemed like they would never win again. Yet, 2004 proved to be their year, and it became an iconic moment in baseball history – the game that lifted the curse.
7. Black Sox Throw The World Series
When it was discovered that Pete Rose placed bets in baseball while he was a player, it seemed like a huge scandal. Regardless of the fact that he was placing bets for his team to win, which many felt like it was just a form of team spirit rather than something worthy of punishment, it created a huge stain on his legacy. However, this was nothing compared to the scandal that rocked the 1919 World Series. Eight players were banned from baseball for their role in fixing the series, and a part of American history died a little with the thought that players would intentionally lose the World Series for something as trivial as money.
6. 1989 World Series Earthquake
In the first cross-town world series since the 1950’s, the 1989 World Series was a huge event for those in the San Francisco area. While the excitement of these two teams matching up was enough to make it monumental in baseball, things got really heated right before the start of Game 3. A 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit and caused structural damage in the stadium and the surrounding area. The Bay Bridge collapsed due to the earthquake, and concrete fell from the top of the stadium. Causing extreme chaos, this was part of the series that could not have been foreshadowed, and definitely made a mark on how we view location when determining games in the World Series.
5. Mother Goes Missing At Baseball Stadium
Mother of three, Ingrid Rounsaville Lyne, was reported missing after meeting a man online and meeting him at a Mariners game. A Facebook plea posted her picture and her vehicle, which was also missing. Baseball stadiums would seem like the perfect place to first meet a date from an online romance, since it is ultra public and seemingly safe. However, adult body parts that were later found out to be Lyne’s were found in a recycling bin, and John Charlton was later arrested and held on a $2 million bond. Lyne’s family released a statement saying, “Ingrid, beloved mother, daughter, sister, and friend was taken from us for reasons we still cannot comprehend.”
4. Father Dies While Trying To Catch A Ball
39-year-old firefighter, Shannon Stone, went to a Texas Rangers game against the Oakland A’s in the hopes of catching a ball for his six-year-old son. When Conor Jackson hit a foul ball, outfield Josh Hamilton, retrieved it and threw it into the stands for a lucky fan to catch. Shannon Stone dove to make the catch for his son, and fell over the railing in a head-first fall dropping 20 feet to the ground. Hearts were broken to see his 6-year-old son standing by the railing looking down at his fallen father, and the world mourned at this horrific loss. The Texas Rangers unveiled a statue in 2012, depicting Shannon Stone and his son Cooper walking hand-in-hand at the stadium – a reminder of the tragedy that spawn from a father’s love for his son and the game of baseball.
3. Ray Chapman Killed By Carl Mays
It isn’t unheard of for a player to be hit by a pitch while at bat, whether it’s a rogue pitch or something intentional to teach a lesson. However, the worst of these types of injuries involve concussions and a few broken bones at the most. Ray Chapman, a major league baseball player with the Cleveland Indians, was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Carl Mays, a player for the Yankees. In 1920, during a time when players didn’t wear helmet while at bat, Ray Chapman died 12 hours after being hit in the head. This changed the face of baseball as we know it, and led to the ban of the spitball and the batting helmet rule which was enforced in 1950.
2. Bat Boy Dies During Swinging Practice
Bat boys are often thought of as the luckiest kids in the world, since they get to be part of professional baseball. Oftentimes bat boys have some sort of connection to the team in order to get this coveted position. Kaiser Carlile was the bat boy for Liberal Bee Jays, and was the son of the cousin of the Bee Jays general manager. During a 2015 game against the San Diego Waves, 9-year-old Carlile was running to retrieve a bat when he was hit by a player performing a practice swing. Although the boy was wearing a helmet, the full force of the swing hit him in the head and knocked him to the ground. The boy later died from his injuries, and the organization released a statement saying, “With the permission of the family, and with much sorrow and a very broken heart, I regretfully inform everyone that Kaiser Carlile passed away earlier this evening. Please keep his family and our team in your thoughts and prayers.”
1. Lou Gehrig Publicly Announces His Disease
When Lou Gehrig benched himself due to illness in 1939, no one thought it would be the last game he ever played. Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, this rare disease would later become known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Yankee Stadium hosted Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, and Gehrig gave a now-infamous speech that has become part of baseball and American history. “For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth,” he said. Lou Gehrig ultimately succumbed to the disease and passed June 2, 1941.
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