In August 2018, Linda Goldbloom was struck on the head by a foul ball while she attended a San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game. Although she was rushed to the hospital for emergency brain surgery, she bled out and died. There was no media coverage of her death, and the Dodgers never publicly addressed the incident or its aftermath.
Of course, it is easy to say people don’t pay enough attention at baseball games. According to The Wall Street Journal, the average MLB game consists of only eighteen minutes of actual play. That leaves plenty of time for people to focus on conversations with others, food, or their phones. And even those most closely attending to the game in front of them do not have enough time to react to a 100-mph foul ball when they’re behind home plate or just behind the protective netting.
Foul balls have always been a problem in baseball, but there are only two other recorded deaths that resulted from them, one in 1943 and the other in 1970. The number of injuries is significantly higher: almost 1,800 people are hurt at MLB games by foul balls every season. Many people file personal injury lawsuits, but they lose every time. Why? Because of the Baseball Rule.
The Baseball Rule says that you assume all risks of injury when you attend a baseball game. If every team had to pay out personal injury settlements, ticket prices would be much higher. But should plaintiffs always lose, even if they cannot assume the particular risk that led to their injuries? What about the two-year-old who had her face smashed at a Yankees game two years ago? Or the man who suffered permanent damage to his left eye in 2011 when people in front of him opened umbrellas, and he couldn’t see the ball heading straight for him? Or the lady at Fenway Park who suffered facial fractures and neurological damage because glass that should have protected her had been removed for renovations? None of these people could have stopped what happened to them, no matter how closely they paid attention.
The Baseball Rule is not going anywhere. But plenty of ballparks still refuse to add all necessary netting or protective barriers, although by 2018, all thirty MLB ballparks agreed to extend netting to at least the end of both dugouts. So, if you go to a game this year, enjoy yourself! But make sure you have health insurance. And pay attention.