After fan is hit by bat, calls to end ‘baseball rule’

A fan, who was accidentally hit in the head with a broken bat by Oakland Athletics’ Brett Lawrie, is helped from the stands during a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston, Friday, June 5, 2015. The game was stopped while they wheeled her down the first base line.  Charles Krupa | AP

It was a horrible scene Friday night at Fenway Park in Boston when a woman was hit by the shards of a bat.

Tonya Carpenter is in serious condition after suffering head injuries. She’s expected to survive.

You’ve perhaps seen the small print on the backside of tickets for baseball games: Not responsible for injuries from balls and bats. Is that true? Pretty much.

“That is a longstanding legal principle that fans who chose to sit where balls or shards of bat could hit them have a duty to pay attention for their own safety,” Steven A. Adelman, a sports attorney focusing on venue safety, tells the Boston Globe, which is owned by John Henry, the owner of the Red Sox.

A warning sign is displayed in the stands at Fenway Park before a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics in Boston, Saturday, June 6, 2015. Michael Dwyer | AP

But the so-called “Baseball Rule” was adopted when the game was a lot different. Things happen a lot faster now. The sport also creates more “sideshows” to distract fans from what’s happening on the field.

“The Baseball Rule is ripe for change,” Martin W. Healy, head of the Massachusetts Bar Association, said. “The immunity the baseball rule has provided to baseball has to be tossed out.”

The Red Sox, one of the richest teams in sports, probably won’t be helping the woman, Tonya Carpenter, with her medical expenses then.

Monte Hoske knows how that goes. When his 4-year-old daughter, Alexis, had her skull fractured by a foul ball in Kansas City, Mo., in 2011, he couldn’t get any help from the Kansas City Royals. He asked three times. He was turned down three times. His attorney told him not to bother filing a lawsuit.

There are exceptions. In Missouri last year a court ruled that flying hot dogs aren’t covered by the Baseball Rule, finding in favor of a fan who was hit in the eye when the Royals’ mascot threw a hot dog into the crowd.

Only one fan has ever been killed by an object in the stands at a Major League Baseball game, according to Robert Gorman, who wrote “Death at the Ballpark.”

While Alan Fish, 14, was the only fan killed by a foul ball at a major league game (Los Angeles Dodgers, May 16, 1970), one fan at a minor league game and 49 fans at amateur games were fatally injured by foul balls.

In addition, balls thrown into the stands killed one fan at a major league game (Clarence Stagemyer at Griffith Stadium, September 29, 1943), one at a minor league game, and 17 at amateur games. Bat blows killed eight fans, while collisions with players resulted in two deaths. (editor’s note: The book was written in 2007, before a Texas fan fell to his death chasing a ball thrown into the stands.)

The most unusual foul ball fatality occurred on October 25, 1902, at an amateur game in Morristown, Ohio.

Stanton Walker, 20, was seated between Frank Hyde, who was scoring the game, and Leroy Wilson, another fan. During the course of the game, Hyde asked Wilson for a knife so he could sharpen his pencil. Wilson opened the blade of his penknife and handed it to Walker to pass along to Hyde. Just as Walker took the knife, a foul ball struck him on the hand and drove the blade into his chest over his heart. Walker bled to death within moments.

In the absence of any help from baseball, Tonya Carpenter’s brother in law has set up a GoFundMe page to help with her expenses.

Commenters urged people not to donate because “the Red Sox will take care of everything.”

No they won’t.