Anybody can go down to a local Big 5 and buy an official Major League baseball for a few bucks. However, there is still an underlying knowledge that if you catch a foul ball in the stands during a baseball game, it’s a pretty special thing. Special enough to drive me to knock down an 85-year-old woman after she swatted a foul ball away from me during a Dodgers-Astros game in 2012.
I have attended close to 400 baseball games in my life. I am 40 years old and I still bring a mitt to the park—the same Ryne Sandberg mitt I got as a 15-year-old freshman before I tried out for the high school baseball team and got cut after hitting .112 and dropping 34 fly balls.
After I was cut, my Major League dreams were dashed, but my love of the game never went away. As I grew older and became less scared of the ball, I actually turned into a fairly decent baseball (well, softball) player. These days, I rarely drop balls when my 10-year-old son fires them at me like Nolan Ryan from his homemade pitcher’s mound in our front yard.
And yet, I had never officially snagged a foul ball. I have come close, verbally cursing a friend who caught one right beside me in Boston when we were 17, and throwing a Dodger Dog at a guy who knocked a ball loose from my paw while I was drunk in college. But the closest I have ever been was when I had a perfect bead on a pop foul soaring off the bat of Dodgers superstar Adrian Gonzales in 2012.
I was in mid-sip of a $15 Bud Light and had just swept away the shells of 3900 peanuts from beneath my feet when I heard a crack of wood and felt the crowd around me begin to rise. I looked up and saw it.
It was pearly white. The sun rays cascaded off the side of the seams as it flew toward my the general vicinity: Third base line, 15 or so rows up, just in front of the overhang. My friend Scott and I both stood up after carefully placing our beers in front of us so as not to spill a drop of that afternoon’s liquid gold. I slipped my left hand into my mitt. The seats around us were sparsely populated, riddled with uninterested Hollywood types who had their phones out and were barely paying attention to the fact that a foul ball was headed towards us at possibly 75 miles per hour… But there was one woman behind us who had also noticed the ball coming in our direction. The octogenarian who would eventually become my sparring partner.
As the ball fell, I sensed a pit of nervousness in my stomach. After all, these opportunities rarely come around. I began to think that this could be my final shot at glory. I raised my mitt in the sky as the ball fell, perfectly angled towards my 1989 Rawlings RBG57.
And then, my new nemesis swung her Michael Kors handbag out from behind me, sending the ball careening into the next row, where it was scooped up by a large woman who was eating nachos out of a batting helmet.
I turned back towards the woman and yelled: “You suck! I can’t believe you just did that!” Already, I was making enemies—a Dodgers fan one row behind her warned me to calm down.
The lady swung her bag at me and hit me in the side of my torso. I was surprised. So, in a reactionary manner, I pushed the bag back her way. Apparently, my push was a little harder than hers. The bag connected with a slap of cheap leather. The lady shrieked and went down. With force. And my face turned white.
And then it began. Two large violent-looking men approached our vicinity. Six frat dudes started throwing cups at me. People screamed. I swallowed hard and looked around, the walls of Dodger blue closing in on where I was standing. I helped the old lady up and apologized, but it was too late. My friend Scott insisted that we get the hell out of there.
I tired to assure the crowd that it was an accident, but they weren’t having it. A man with the LA Dodgers symbol tattooed on the top of his head yelled back at me. Beers were thrown. Security was called. And, finally, I was taken to a secluded area of the stadium known as “Dodger Jail.” Don’t believe it exists? Just go swing a purse at an old lady some afternoon at the stadium.
The waiting area of Dodger Jail was crowded. There were four inebriated fans spewing obscenities at a pair of cops who had stuck them in there to dry out. Another man was present after drunkenly peeing on a large picture of Matt Kemp. Scott and I sat between them, terrified. A police officer asked us what had happened and we explained that the old woman had hit me with her handbag first, and that I had simply acted in self-defense. The cop wasn’t sure what to believe, so he went and retrieved the lady from her seat.
Thirty minutes later, she showed up with her grandson—a preppy-looking fellow in cargo shorts. We told our story again. She told hers. Like any true gangster thrown behind bars would, I started crying. In the end, the lady must have felt sorry for me, because she admitted that she swung the bag first and she believed I was probably acting in self-defense. She also mentioned that I did help her up.
In the end, Scott and I were simply asked to leave. When you are escorted out of Dodger stadium, they like to wait until the top of the sixth inning. That way, you beat the seventh inning stretch crowd who are stocking up on their final beers of the day. I thanked the old lady a thousand times and tried to act nonchalant as Scott and I were escorted through the field box mezzanine towards the exit.
On our way out of the stadium, I heard a familiar crack of the bat. I looked up to see a beautiful white baseball, soaring toward my general direction, roughly 10-12 rows down in the lower seats. If I had dashed as hard as I was able, I might have had a shot at seizing the souvenir… but I was also aware that a night in jail probably awaited me if I made the effort.
So I let it land in the crowd, where a bearded man in a Sandy Koufax jersey made a great grab and held the ball aloft for the entire stadium to see.
Featured Image: Adam_sk