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Is this fair? Seatmates nab 2 fouls

May 08, 2008|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Dodgers' batting lineup didn't have much luck Wednesday. But the team's fan lineup in Dodger Stadium's Section 11, Row N certainly did.

In the bottom of the fifth inning Glen Walker in Seat 1 caught a pop foul hit by Dodger first baseman James Loney.

On the next pitch by the New York Mets' John Maine, Joe Castro in Seat 2 caught a line-shot fouled off Loney's bat.

The crowd in the field-level seats between third base and home went wild.

"It was the weirdest thing," said Walker, 50, of Redondo Beach. "The ball went straight up and came down fast. I caught it on a short hop. I had a baseball glove in my car, but I didn't bring it into the stadium with me. When the ball was coming at me, I wished I had."

Castro, 43, of Long Beach, was high-fiving Walker when the sharp whack of Loney's bat signaled another foul coming the pair's way. It hit the scoreboard on the second-level facade, then bounced into Castro's hand. He was glove-less too.

"It was crazy. Everybody was in disbelief. People around us were yelling, 'Did we just see that?' They were blown away. A guy across the aisle came back from the snack bar and asked if he'd missed anything and we held up our foul balls. He couldn't believe it," said Castro, an insurance broker.

By the game's end, the pair were clutching their baseballs and trying to calculate the odds of back-to-back fouls landing side-by-side in the stands.

"It's got to be one in 10 million," decided Castro. "It has to be millions to one," said Walker, who is a reporter and news anchor at television stations KCBS-2 and KCAL-9.

Baseball aficionados have estimated the odds of a fan catching a foul ball at a typical major league game as ranging from one in 884 to one in 1,189. Variables such as crowd size and stadium configuration make exact projections difficult.

But USC mathematics professor Kenneth Alexander used Wednesday's Dodger Stadium crowd size and game statistics -- 40,696 in attendance and a foul ball count of 48 -- to postulate the odds against Walker and Castro catching back-to-back fouls.

Calculating that only one of 18 pitches were fouled into the stands (other fouls stayed on the playing field) and factoring in the six fans sitting close by the pair, Alexander fielded the problem.

"One in 10,000 is the probability" that the pair would catch two fouls in a row, he concluded. He cautioned, however, that his specialty is probability theory in mathematical physics.

With Wednesday's 12-1 loss to the Mets, the Dodgers are probably wishing mathematical physics could tell them the probability that they'll soon regain their momentum.

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bob.pool@latimes.com

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