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HIGH LIFE A WEEKLY FORUM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS : How Many Fans Get Conked on the Head at the Ballpark?

July 07, 1989

In Cecil Adams' column "The Straight Dope," which has appeared in alternative newspapers since 1973, he answered the following letter:

"While sitting in the ballpark the other day, my companions made fun of me because of my fear of the stray fly ball. I maintain that getting cracked in the head . . . has laid a fan to rest more than a few times. . . . I know you'll prove my fears have a foundation in truth."

"Baseball may be the most statistics-crazed sport of them all," Adams answered, "but the clubs seem strangely reluctant to keep records of fan fatalities. You may have noticed the disclaimer printed on the back of your ticket, in which the management gracefully declines any responsibility for injuries you may suffer while in the park. There is some question as to whether that disclaimer would stand up in court, but so far it's worked pretty well: no lawsuits have been filed in anyone's memory, and so none of the clubs bother to keep tabs on the people who pass through the first-aid stations.

". . . Faced with a shocking lack of documentation, I am forced to invent some of my own," Adams answered. "It does happen: I came up with a ballpark figure of three or four serious injuries to fans caused by batted balls per club, per year. Now, let us assume the absolute worst: a nice, round, easily managed figure of five. There are 12 teams in the National League and 14 in the American. With the help of some simple multiplication, we come up with a total, nationwide figure of 130 injuries each year.

"The combined attendance in 1977 (I know this is a long time ago, but that's the last time I figured it out) for all National and American League games was 38,703,975, which makes your odds for survival look fairly good: you'd have one chance in 297,723 of being beaned."

"I always turn to the sports pages first, which record people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures."

--Chief Justice Earl Warren

(1891-1974)

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