The Two-Way
1:15 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

After Fan Falls To His Death: Time To Stop Tossing Things Into Stands?

The sad story of a baseball fan's death Thursday after he fell from the stands during a Texas Rangers game raises a question that many of us who go to games have likely asked in recent years:

Is it time for teams to scale back the t-shirt tosses and other things they do that get crowds excited, but also sometimes get people to reach out over railings when they shouldn't?

What happened in Texas certainly doesn't sound like anything more than a terrible accident. As The Dallas Morning News writes, Shannon Stone — a firefighter in Brownwood, Texas — was "reaching over the rail for a foul ball tossed into the stands by Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton during the game against the Oakland A's" when he fell about 20 feet.

Stone was there with his young son, the newspaper says. The boy did not fall. Stone died later. Video of the accident is quite easy to find on YouTube.

According to Arlington, Texas, inspectors the railings at the Rangers' stadium all meet city codes for safety.

But these types of accidents have happened before at American sports stadiums. It's common for baseball players to toss balls to fans. And it's common in all sorts of sports venues for local businesses to promote themselves with t-shirts tossed from "cannons" into the stands. If you've been to games, you know about the scrambles those contests can set off.

Fans obviously accept some risk when they attend games. Foul balls and home runs will end up in the stands. So will hockey pucks (though the NHL installed nets behind its goals after the 2002 death of a fan who was struck by a puck).

But we wonder:

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