Four Notable Foul Balls
By ice rivers
Even though I was a strong advocate for protecting baseball fans by puttng up screens down the first and third base lines, it does take some of the immediacy away from the game and is no help to photographers.
A checked swing foul ball gets into the stands quicker than human reaction time so the fans sitting along first and third base near the dugouts were virtually sitting ducks. We lived to talk about a lot of close calls and great stories about near misses and non-fatal hits.
When it comes to foul balls, it's time to talk about umpires and when it's time to talk about umpires and foul balls, it's time to talk about Frank Pulli.
Pulli umpired in four World Series and two All-Star Games, as well as 3,774 games in the National League, along with 10 other playoff series.
According to Wikipedia, Pulli was the first umpire in baseball history to use instant replay in a game in 1999, reviewing a home run hit by Florida Marlins outfielder Cliff Floyd against the St. Louis Cardinals. The call was originally a home run, but Pulli reversed the call to a double after looking at a TV monitor near the dugout. The National League office later announced that Pulli erred in using instant replay, but replay was adopted in 2008 for home run calls.
Fair is foul and foul is fair we learned from the witches in Macbeth.
Frank was nine years ahead of his time, always a problem. Just as nothing can stop an idea whose time has come, nothing can advance an idea whose time has not yet arrived.
Timing is very important in baseball and the ball arrives in a hurry.
I once heard ex-pitcher and current analyst Rick Sutcliffe talking about fould balls, timing and Frank Pulli. According to Sutcliffe, he snuck into the umpire clubhouse before a game that he was pitching. The umpires inspect baseballs before each game and that responsibility falls upon the umpire calling balls and strikes which happened to be Frank Pulli who happened to be going to the john when Sutcliffe snuck into the umpire lair. Sutcliffe brought a felt tip pen with him. He wrote "God loves you, Frank." on a baseball just to see if Pulli would noticde it during the game. He stuck the ball deep into the pouch.
Sure enough, in the very first inning with Sutcliffe on the mound, several balls were hit foul.
Pulli reached in his pouch. Grabbed the ball with the message on it and threw it out to Sutcliffe. He never noticed the writing on the ball but Sutcliffe did. With the ball, Sutcliffe threw a curve to the next hitter, who fouled the ball into the stands where it was retrieved by one of Sutcliffe's friends who was at the game with a complimentary ticket supplied by Rick.
What are the odds, right?
What are the odds, that the friend of Sutcliffe who caught the ball was named Frank.
True story according to Sutcliffe.
His astonished friend showed Sutcliffe the ball after the game, still in a daze and trying to figure out the meaning of the whole situation.
I mentioned FOUR fall balls right?
On August 17, 1957, Philadelphia Phillies star outfielder Richie Ashburn playing against the New York Giants at Connie Mack Stadium, smashed a foul ball into the stands, where it was greeted by the nose of Alice Roth. Much blood and pain ensued. The game was delayed while Alice was stetchered out.
After a brief delay for medical staff to attend to the lady, Ashburn lined the next pitch foul hitting the women as she was being carried off on the stretcher. That ball broke a bone in her leg.
The woman's name was Alice Roth. She was the wife of Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor Earl Roth.
Alice had to be removed from the game on a stretcher. The game resumed while Mrs. Roth was being stretchered out.
Ever since I heard that story a few years ago, my Richie Ashburn baseball card has always looked a little weirder.