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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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A Dodger Stadium Tragedy, 1970
2008-06-16 22:35
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

I had no idea, but of the two deaths at professional baseball games caused by foul balls in at least the past five decades, one came off the bat of the Dodgers' Manny Mota in 1970, writes Kevin Baxter of the Times:

It happened more than 38 years ago, yet Manny Mota still can't bring himself to talk about it.

"It's very difficult," the Dodgers coach and former All-Star outfielder said. "It brings up bad memories."

"It" was a foul ball Mota lined into the seats down the first base line at Dodger Stadium during the third inning of an otherwise uneventful mid-May game against the San Francisco Giants in 1970. But what made this foul ball different from the thousands of others Mota hit into the stands during his 20-year big league career was that it hit a 14-year-old boy in the head, just above his left ear.

Five days later, the boy was dead.

"I felt guilty because I hit the foul ball," Mota said quietly in Spanish. "And a young boy lost his life." ...

May 21 editions of the Times that year reported the boy's passing. "After taking two aspirins at the stadium first aid station, (the boy), who 'ate, lived and breathed baseball,' went back to his seat and watched the rest of the game." But after his condition worsened at home, he was an admitted that night to a hospital, where he "lapsed into a coma and never regained consciousness."

The victim's name was given in the 1970 article, but since it was not cited in Baxter's piece, I'm assuming unless I hear otherwise that his family would rather it was not publicized. On the other hand, I am seeing it elsewhere online, so I may reconsider.

"I am very sad and very sorry and there is not much else I can say," Mota told Ross Newhan in a May 22, 1970 game story. "It is part of my life and I will try to live with it."

Comments (63)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2008-06-16 22:53:43
1.   Louis in SF
Haven't read the whole article, but the kid went to school with friends of mine...While it scared all of us a bit it never stopped anyone from going back to the ballpark, or their love for the Dodgers.

One of the things that has changed I believe, if you are hit now with a baseball stadiums are more aggressive in checking you out. In fairness to the Dodgers he showed no immediate signs after he was hit with the ball.

2008-06-16 23:00:39
2.   LogikReader
This isn't going to sound good, but when I read the title, I thought we were going to reference the shooting of a fan in the parking lot. That was deplorable. This story is poignant. I feel terrible for Manny Mota. It wasn't his fault, accidents are bound to happen.
2008-06-16 23:03:21
3.   LogikReader
Speaking of which, I remember during a Mets/Phils game at Citizens Bank Park, there was a foul ball hit by either a Met or a Phillie that shot right into the stands, and a big guy was rushing to protect everyone around him and dodge the ball.

It could have been really REALLY ugly. There was a lady there, and a very small infant in the path of the ball and fortunately, all of them avoided the foul ball. SNY showed replays and the crew only then realized how close it was. Everyone was relieved nobody got hurt.

2008-06-16 23:03:31
4.   Xeifrank
I am surprised that baseball stadiums don't have a short netting/screen down both lines and don't require base coaches to wear helmets and neck gear.
vr, Xei
2008-06-16 23:07:16
5.   LogikReader
3

For the Mets/Phils game last year, it may have actually been a stray bat. In fact, I'm starting to think it was. There's no way for me to know for sure unless "Mikes Baseball Rants" could remember it. Neither is very inviting.

2008-06-16 23:21:10
6.   ucladodger
I'm just surprised this doesn't happen more often (or at least serious injury). The ball comes off of the bat so hard and it seems like only half the people sitting down the 1st and 3rd base lines are actually paying attention to the game.
2008-06-16 23:26:24
7.   Jon Weisman
2 - I've added the date to the headline.
2008-06-17 00:05:33
8.   El Lay Dave
Diamond Leung reporting via his Press-Enterprise blog that the roster change is pretty certain:

Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny is expected to be placed on the disabled list after an MRI exam conducted on his right shoulder Monday revealed inflammation in the bursa and mild tendinitis.

The Dodgers plan to recall Eric Stults from Class AAA Las Vegas to replace Penny in the rotation and start Friday's game, as the left-hander will join the team in Cincinnati today.

2008-06-17 00:26:35
9.   Eric Enders
This is a sad story and I feel awful for the family. However, I don't believe that putting up more netting is a solution. (And clearly the teams don't either, or it would have happened by now.) One of the great joys of going to a baseball game is catching a foul ball. Another of the great joys of going to a baseball game is getting an unimpeded view of the game. Sitting in the front rows along the baselines has always been an "at your own risk" type of activity, and I think that is right and proper.

I am, however, all for extra announcements imploring the people with those seats to pay attention so they don't get hit with a ball (or, these days, a bat). The fact that only two deaths have occurred in the last 50 years, however, is probably a good indicator that most people are, in fact, paying attention to the game.

2008-06-17 00:33:35
10.   dzzrtRatt
This is one reason I get so tense when I'm surrounded by fans who aren't paying attention to the game, especially kids who are more focused on the cotton candy man or a beach ball.

It's fun to catch a foul ball; sometimes it's also self-defense.

2008-06-17 00:49:31
11.   Eric Enders
The one foul ball I've ever caught was one that could have killed me had I been looking the other way. I was sitting in the first row behind the dugout and a really nasty line drive was hit right at me. Instinctively I just reached up (with a hand that had a pencil in it; I was keeping score) and through some sort of dumb luck I managed to catch the ball. Couple of sprained fingers, but that was it.

There's a famous story about Richie Ashburn... it's supposed to be a funny story, but maybe not so funny in light of the Manny Mota incident. Anyway, here's how Wikipedia tells it-

"During an August 17, 1957 game, Ashburn hit a foul ball into the stands that struck spectator Alice Roth, wife of Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor Earl Roth, breaking her nose. When play resumed, Ashburn fouled off another ball that struck Roth while she was being carried off in a stretcher."

2008-06-17 00:59:09
12.   Greg Brock
The interview with Tino Sanchez, whose foul ball killed Mike Coolbaugh, is among the most gut-wrenching interviews I have ever seen.

Oh, and Wille got fired.

2008-06-17 01:07:02
13.   Andrew Shimmin
Pitching coach Rick Peterson and first-base coach Tom Nieto got the boot, with him.

http://tinyurl.com/4u55ww

2008-06-17 01:07:25
14.   Eric Enders
Nobody ever felt sorry for Carl Mays. Of course, even before he killed Ray Chapman he was known as a headhunter, and one of the biggest jerks in the game. So they didn't really treat him any differently after 1920 than before.
2008-06-17 04:41:14
15.   D4P
it hit a 14-year-old boy in the head, just above his left ear

I was 12 years old when I got hit on the left side of my head, just above my temple. It didn't feel good.

2008-06-17 05:13:20
16.   Ken Noe
I had tickets--but wasn't able to use them, thanks goodness--the night minor league outfielder Alfredo Edmead was killed during a game in Salem, Virginia in 1974. His head collided with the knew of second baseman Pablo Cruz, the longtime Pirate minor leaguer who had signed Edmead, as they converged on the ball. I think this was the last player death during a game, but I could be wrong.
2008-06-17 06:26:01
17.   Doctor
That's very sad.... I was at the Giants As last Friday in the "Bullpen Suite" (in front of the box seats by the Giants 'pen) and was amazed at how the fence protecting the people in the suite from foul balls was about 5'5" high. Im 6'1" and my wife is 5'9" so we felt totally exposed because the part of the fence that is eye level is not even see through. Your basically sitting ducks for slicing foul balls. To make matters worse- there is a keg and people milling about in there- its very very dangerous. If any of you ever happen to see a game there be careful. Sad story though....
2008-06-17 06:38:56
18.   DodgerBlueBruce
11 Hard to believe but I saw Barry Larkin hit a foul ball into the stands and as the woman the ball hit was being carried off on a stretcher, he hit her with another foul ball in the same at bat. Honest.

Anyone else going to the game tonight?
Indiana Jon?

2008-06-17 06:47:14
19.   Bluebleeder87
yes, very sad story only 14 years old man wow.
2008-06-17 07:30:40
20.   OhioBlues12
I will be at the game tonight.
2008-06-17 07:41:49
21.   Xeifrank
Good luck to Stults in his start this friday. I don't quite understand why Guo can't get the start and Stults used in the bullpen. I guess Guo isn't stretched out enough with all his low leverage one or two inning appearances. Kind of sad that the pitcher that has pitched the best for us so far this year is relegated to mop up.
vr, Xei
2008-06-17 07:42:16
22.   Brent Knapp
There was an interesting show on TV this weekend called Sportscience that examined when Bryce Florie, red sox pitcher, was hit in the face in 2000 with a comebacker. They estimated that ball was traveling 120 mpg off the bat and carried 5,500 pounds of force, which is more than twice as much force as a 95 mph fastball. I'm not a physicist but I think it is because velocity is squared in E=mv^2. I'm surprised that pitchers/base coaches/fans aren't seriously injured more often.
2008-06-17 07:42:27
23.   PadreJeremy
Back in 1993, I wrote my law school thesis on the legal responsibility of foul balls and flying pucks. The interesting thing is that it did not include the human suffering that occurs in these situations. Sad story to read.
2008-06-17 07:53:11
24.   Mike Scioscias tragic illness
21 I agree that I'd like to see Kuo in the rotation, but you're probably right that he's not stretched out, and that would tax the bullpen.

Besides, if we're lucky in any respect, it's that Stults happened to be on the same schedule as Penny, so he's on normal rest.

2008-06-17 07:53:54
25.   Daniel Zappala
I will be at the Giants game tonight. Not sure where I'll be sitting yet, though the fact that these are group tickets will likely give you some indication. I'd be happy to meet any of the Bay Area DT contingent. Would also appreciate it if you can point me to a decent place to eat at the ballpark.
2008-06-17 07:56:34
26.   madmac
A couple weeks ago we went a minor league game between the Nuts(Rocks) and the Mavs(M's). We had field level, front row seats right next to 3rd base. My three little girls were with us and I felt so exposed. After sitting there for the game I was amazed that fatalities weren't more common. Also during that game there were two or three bats that slipped from the batters hands and flew into the stands.
2008-06-17 08:10:02
27.   ToyCannon
The infamous John Bowker now has more home runs then our celebrated kidpack.

Greg Brock once made fun of adult fans who bring gloves to the game. I didn't really understand the scorn because for most of us, it is a defensive device, not only for ourselves but for the people around us whose only action would be evasive. Line drive foul balls off professional ballplayers scare the bejesus out of me.

2008-06-17 08:13:04
28.   DodgerBlueBruce
20 I will be making the drive down from Oxford. Where you sitting? Regardless of where my seat is I usually stand out be the Pepsi Smokestacks in centerfield.
2008-06-17 08:13:47
29.   ToyCannon
23
What was the conclusion? I know the back of a ticket says that we enter the stadium at our own risk, but I was always told that didn't mean squat and that if you were hurt at the stadium you still had a legal right to sue. Is that true, or is it a case by case situation?
2008-06-17 08:14:27
30.   DodgerBlueBruce
20 Should be by the Pepsi smokestacks.
2008-06-17 08:19:13
31.   Eric Stephen
There's a Loney article in the Times today about him going the other way more, and the resulting overall success from it.

http://tinyurl.com/6ev3sq

There's a mention of Mattingly giving Loney some pointers while the club was in Chicago last month. A quick of the stats shows Loney is hitting .348/.400/.449 since the beginning of that series.

It's probably a small sample size, but this seems like yet another example of Don Mattingly making a difference. I think he sees things that Mike Easler doesn't. Mattingly said since his son is on summer vacation, he can spend more time with the Dodgers next month. I for one can't wait.

2008-06-17 08:20:40
32.   Bumsrap
I have never been comfortable in seats that are exposed to line drives and I try to avoid them. Now we have more and more sharp bats flying into the stands. One thing that could be changed for fan safety is not allowing players to dive/flip into the stands trying to catch a ball. When they flip and their cleats are slung toward someones head it is more dangerous than it needs to be. Fans need to stay off the field and players need to stay out of the stands.
2008-06-17 08:22:09
33.   Eric Stephen
25
I was at two games at Pac Bell Park (I can't remember if it's SBC or AT&T now, but I like the original name) in 2006, and I don't think there are many places you can go wrong in the food department.

I had clam chowder in a bread bowl (I don't remember where in the park that was) and it was excellent.

2008-06-17 08:24:08
34.   Bumsrap
Loney has hit much better wherever Easler hasn't been his hitting coach and much worse wherever Easler has been his hitting coach.
2008-06-17 08:27:38
35.   JoeyP
Regairfield had it right yesterday when he said the Dodgers were going to be really screwed if the kids just stay as average players.

Its going to be key to next GM to correctly value each kid---> shipping out the ones with limited upside and keeping those that are true difference makers.

Because if the next GM keeps all the kids, what will end up happening is they'll become arbitration eligible, begin to take up quite a bit of payroll---> but if they are only average players the return on investment is going to shrink. It'll be like farm grown average PVL.

The next GM's job will very challenging. The easiest thing to do would be to do nothing, and then if the kids stay average or fail---> just blame the kids. Hopefully the new guy will be pro-active, bold, and bring a much more analytical side to the table.

2008-06-17 08:28:56
36.   Eric Stephen
25
Daniel, here is a list of the concessions at AT&T Park:

http://tinyurl.com/57ah23

2008-06-17 08:29:12
37.   JoeyP
31---Loney's problem isnt hitting for average. Its hitting for power. And going the other way isnt going to help him develop home run power.
2008-06-17 08:31:05
38.   Bumsrap
Lowe's name is on the list of pitchers someone has written that the Yankees might want now that Wang is through for the season. The Yankees also want a right hitting first baseman and Kent might fill that need. The Yankees have quite a few top 100 prospects but I would prefer to try to get a multi-team trade made if Lowe and or Penny and or Kent were to go to the Yankees.

The Dodgers would be left with a rotation of Billingsley, Kershaw, Kuo, Park, Kuroda with long relievers including Stultz, McDonald, Wade.

2008-06-17 08:33:20
39.   MollyKnight
Not a good day to be a Mets beat writer. And pretty shady of Minaya to let Randolph fly all the way to California only to get fired after winning the ballgame.
2008-06-17 08:35:57
40.   underdog
25 Wish I could join ya, Daniel! I'll be home watching the Lakers game with my foot up (literally, since I'm trying to heal a smashed toe). But it would be fun, despite hating the Giants. SBC Park is nice.

{in ominous voice} Beware the garlic fries.... Bewaaaare!

They're delicious but if you're like me you may regret eating them soon after, and/or regret letting your kids eat them.

There are delicious chicken sausage sandwiches, at least on the club level if not elsewhere. Behind the bleachers is a tasty Caribbean shack. And so on. Enjoy! (Even if it is the Giants.)

--

Terrible story above; I'd never heard of it, and am sorry not only for the victim's family but also for poor Manny Mota, who did nothing wrong but play baseball and do what every hitter does, foul a ball off.

2008-06-17 08:35:57
41.   Eric Stephen
37
Going the other way doesn't necessarily mean he's flipping the bat one handed for a slap single through the 5.5 hole. I think it's just a tool to get Loney to stay consistent in his swing, almost a timing mechanism to keep him locked in at the plate.
2008-06-17 08:37:33
42.   underdog
30 That is pretty shady, indeed. Poor Willie. He's better off doing something else anyway.

--

I'm glad they're calling Stults up. Whether he or Kuo on Friday, either couldn't fare worse than Penny has lately. I think starting Stults is fine; Kuo seems to do better when coming in long relief if he's not fully stretched out. Maybe he and Stults can tag team. Either way, they'll be better than Bad Penny.

2008-06-17 08:39:11
43.   ToyCannon
31
Who needs home run power when you are a triples machine?
2008-06-17 08:39:11
44.   Eric Stephen
Daniel might see the 5th straight game featuring a Marcus Thames HR. In Thames' last 29 PA, he has 7 hits, all of which are HR.
2008-06-17 08:40:16
45.   Bob Hendley
21 - "Kind of sad that the pitcher that has pitched the best for us so far this year is relegated to mop up".

Sad, perhaps, but the word "criminal" also comes to my mind.

2008-06-17 08:40:24
46.   Daniel Zappala
40 I've been torn about going tonight. I've never been to the new park up here, so I really want to see it. On the other hand, I would love to watch the Lakers game too. I don't suppose they'll give scoreboard updates there.
2008-06-17 08:41:05
47.   Eric Stephen
46
No need to worry Daniel. You can still watch Game 7 Thursday.
2008-06-17 08:44:04
48.   D4P
No reason for a Laker fan to watch Game 6. Record it and go back and watch if and only if the Lakers win Games 6 and 7.
2008-06-17 08:44:19
49.   Daniel Zappala
47 Except on Thursday I'll be on a plane home. I missed Game 5 because I was on a plane here. What lousy timing I have.
2008-06-17 08:45:26
50.   ToyCannon
I think we are to worried about the fact we don't have a Ryan Braun. Nothing wrong with a team full of average to above average offensive players, and I think everyone in the kidpack can become that. With Billingsley/Kershaw anchoring the rotation the future some of us envisioned is still sustainable.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2008-06-17 08:45:46
51.   Bob Hendley
Whether out of the pen or in the rotation Kuo needs to get into high leverage situations. Proctor can mop up, or JP for that matter.
2008-06-17 08:47:12
52.   JoeyP
JD Drew's on a similar to tear as Marcus Thames.

He's hit 8HRs in 50 Abs in June.

Currently leads the AL in OPS:
.322/.429/.588

Drew's declining power may have been a little overblown.

SLG by Year:
2003- .512
2004- .569
2005- .520
2006- .498
2007- .423
2008- .588

Really only 2007 was a down power year.
He fits in perfect in Boston. The Grand Slam last year in the playoffs probably took alot of pressure off.

2008-06-17 08:48:01
53.   CajunDodger
43
I think forcing Loney to be a pull-type hitter would result in 30-40 more strikeouts and fewer walks. He is much more Kevin Youkilis than Derrek Lee. The homeruns are still needed, but that should have come from Jones/Kemp/Kent this year. If Loney can plateau with 20-25 dingers per year with a .390 OBP and stellar defense, that is fine by me.
2008-06-17 08:48:04
54.   LogikReader
47

There is no game 7. There is only the one game. The Lakers only have to win the one game.

That's the way to think about it. There is only one game. We'll see what happens.

2008-06-17 08:48:13
55.   regfairfield
50 The problem with that strategy is you really can't carry any deadweight, and we're locked into deadweight for a while. Even more so if Hu doesn't become more than a .310 on base guy.
2008-06-17 08:49:03
56.   ToyCannon
One home run changed everything huh? More then likely his shoulder has gotten healthy and the power has come back.
2008-06-17 08:49:13
57.   Jon Weisman
NPUT
2008-06-17 08:50:55
58.   regfairfield
52 If Drew were right handed, he'd be perfect. He's too much of a pull hitter to abuse Fenway like a Mike Lowell can.
2008-06-17 08:51:00
59.   ToyCannon
55
One deadweight offensive player who makes up for it on defense will bring down the offense of a team consisting of 800-850 OPS players for the other seven? I don't think so.
2008-06-17 08:51:33
60.   regfairfield
59 One no. Combine him with Pierre and Jones. Yes.
2008-06-17 10:50:05
61.   jet
Re fans being injured or killed by foul balls: I seem to recall that Maury Wills either severely injured or killed a kid in the loge level in the early 60s. There was an extended and unsuccessful lawsuit. Does anyone have any knowledge of this?

Also, I personally witnessed the most horrific fan-being-hit-by-a-foul ball in my life. I was sitting in the loge level behind the plate ('fastball alley') in the early 90s when a line drive skimmed just over the netting. The ball was headed directly at a middle-aged woman in my row, next section. Her husband (probably now ex-husband) cupped his hands in front of her face to 'catch' the screaming liner, only to chicken out at the last minute and let the ball hit the poor woman square in the face. She was on the ground in convulsions and with blood spurting everywhere from broken facial bones. The paramedics took her to the concourse, worked on her, then took her to the hospital. The husband was roundly booed.

2008-06-17 11:45:23
62.   DougS
When I lived in Chicago, I once played golf with a fellow who said he got a broken collar bone from a foul ball in Comiskey. That must have been fun.

The NHL has dealt with this issue, of course, by putting up nets in their arenas, but I'm not sure how well it would work in baseball; anchoring the nets properly in an outdoor stadium is probably a bit trickier than in an indoor arena.

I don't remember that incident with Manny Mota because it was just a bit before MLB was on my young radar screen. Given Mota's rep as a decent fellow (and the fact that he's had a bunch of kids of his own), I'm sure it's been a helluva thing to deal with.

2008-06-17 13:16:41
63.   gibsonhobbs88
61,62 & 27 - That is why if I do have seats in the sections where foul balls might be hit, I do bring a glove. It's not to be greedy and hope to get a ball, it's for protection for myself and for my wife when we go to the game. Since I'm left handed and the glove is on my right hand, I always have her sit to my right so my glove can react faster and it's not a backhand attempt. Manny Mota has never come across as anything but a decent humble guy and a devoted family man and even though it was a complete accident, I can see him taking something like that to heart. That one man in 61 was a coward and should have been roundly booed. His poor wife is now probably facially deformed for life and tramatized anywhere near a baseball diamond. "What's a couple fingers, dude compared to your wife's face and emotional state". If I didn't have a glove, I would put my arm or a shoulder anything in the path so the ball wouldn't hit my wife in the face.

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