by Page Sutton
Like every sport, baseball has a ton of iconic legends and famous stories. It wouldn’t be unusual to automatically think of Babe Ruth’s famous batting statistics, Yogi Berra’s fascinating career, or Jackie Robinson’s influential narrative. While these baseball icons are captivating, a question stands: what about the little stuff? The quirks of the game are what really makes baseball special to all of its fans. These peculiarities are not often reported, making them even more exciting to read about! Here is an interesting find in the world of baseball, from Pillbox to you ‒ because what’s better than reading about baseball bizarreries?
Catching a foul ball in the stands is usually a triumph to most baseball spectators. When we were kids, my dad always made us bring our gloves to Twins games because in his words, “you never know, you could snag a foul!” Though I never did get the chance to “snag” one, I witnessed it many times. Feelings of exhilaration and pride overwhelmed those fans, creating memories that last a lifetime.
There are always times when catching a foul ball is bittersweet, like when your team is at bat and the ball you catch results in an out, but I doubt that Alice Roth felt any of the “sweet” part during her experience. On the warm, summer evening of August 17, 1957, Phillies fans flooded Connie Mack Stadium to watch a game against the New York Giants in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is said that nearly 8,000 fans filled the seats that night. Among them was Alice Roth, wife of Earl Roth, a Philadelphian sports editor. Alice brought her grandchildren to the game, expecting a night of fun and relaxation with her family. They sat behind third base.
Richie Ashburn is best known for his impressive batting averages in the beginning seasons of his career with the Phillies. In his first season with Philadelphia, Ashburn batted .333 of 117 games. He was given the nicknames “Whitey,” “Putt-Putt,” and the “Tilden Flash,” and made several All-Star appearances. Ashburn stepped up to the plate for his first at-bat, and knocked one out toward third. Whitey must have been off his game that night, because Alice Roth, who was probably enjoying crackerjacks with her grandchildren, was struck straight in the nose with Ashburn’s foul. Medics were tending to Roth, whose nose was now very broken, when Ashburn swung at the next pitch. Another foul b-lined toward Roth and hit her again, this time in the leg. With a broken nose and leg, Alice Roth and her grandkids left the most unlucky baseball game they had ever been to. At least the Phillies still won the game, right?
Experts say that the chances of catching a foul in left field are about 1 in 556 ‒ not very common. Supposedly, fans are injured by fly balls at a rate of twice per every three games, or roughly 1,750 fans annually. Unsurprisingly, there are no statistics on what the odds of getting hit twice by consecutive foul balls are, though I think it’s safe to say that they are not very high. Perhaps if Alice had brought a mitt with her that night, she would have had better luck.