Dayton Daily News

Family of fan killed by foul ball speaks out

Higher protective netting needed in stadiums, they say.

- Tyler Kepner

Linda Goldbloom was 79 years old when she died Aug. 29 from a traumatic head injury. It had occurred four days earlier, when she was struck in the head by a foul ball while watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

The ball sizzled over protective netting and into her loge-level seat behind home plate. Her daughter, Jana Brody, compared it to a bullet from a gun.

“I would love to see higher nets,” Brody said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “The trajectory of the ball can only get hit so far until it starts to arc and come down and then be a more manageable ball to catch or whatever. But where she was sitting, there was no chance for it to lob over. It was a straight shot.”

Brody, who was not with her parents at the game, said she and her family were in shock after the accident. As the months went by, she wondered why the story had not come out. No telecast had followed the flight of the fatal foul ball, which was hit by a Padres batter during a tense ninth inning. The Dodgers had not publicized the accident, and the family had not contacted the news media.

But as Brody researched fan injuries, she noticed an article published last spring that mentioned only one known instance of a fan being killed by a foul ball — 14-yearold Alan Fish, also at Dodger Stadium, in 1970. (The only other reported death of a fan involving a ball occurred in 1943 when a man was hit by an overthrown ball from the field.)

Brody contacted the author of the piece, Willie Weinbaum of ESPN, to add her mother’s name to the grim list.

Goldbloom’s death — first reported by Weinbaum on Monday — occurred during the first season in which all 30 stadiums in Major League Baseball had netting that extended at least to the far edge of each dugout. But that netting did not protect Goldbloom, who sat in Section 106, Row C, Seat 5, on the level beneath the press box behind home plate.

“I realized it was our responsibi­lity to tell,” Brody said. “Nobody knew. That was important to me to get just the awareness out — yes, the netting got widened, but it didn’t go vertical, and that would have been a huge change for my mom if it went up, too.”

When asked if the Dodgers might extend the netting to protect fans on the loge level where Goldbloom was seated, Joe Jareck, the Dodgers’ senior director for public relations, said the team would not comment beyond a statement that expressed sympathy for Goldbloom. It said “the matter has been resolved” between the team and the family.

Major League Baseball in a statement Tuesday defended the safety of its ballparks by saying it had increased the “inventory of protected seats.” The statement asserted that teams were “constantly evaluating the coverage and design of their ballpark netting,” although stopped short of recommendi­ng that the netting be raised, as it is in Japan.

“You can see right through the nets, so what’s the big deal?” Brody said. “I can’t understand why it took so long for them to even widen it.”

In December 2015, Commission­er Rob Manfred issued recommenda­tions to all teams to install netting extending from the ends of the dugout closest to the plate to within 70 feet of the plate. The Dodgers announced that day that they would comply, but some teams held out, reluctant to alienate fans in expensive lower-level seats.

The New York Yankees were one of those teams but relented last January, a few months after a foul ball severely injured a toddler behind the third-base dugout. A disclaimer in place since 1913 and printed on the back of every ticket in Major League Baseball warns of the “risk and danger inherent to the game” and the possibilit­y of injury from, among other things, “thrown or batted balls.”

But baseball has changed greatly since then, and the risk of injury to spectators has risen, mainly from the constructi­on of new stadiums designed to bring fans closer to the action.

According to a study published last year in the William & Mary Law Review, fans sitting behind home plate are, on average, nearly 21 percent closer to the action at a major-league game than they were 100 years ago — and the average amount of foul territory has decreased by the same amount. That reduces fans’ reaction time in an era that also features bigger, faster and stronger players.

Brody said she was not sure which player hit the foul ball that killed her mother — “It doesn’t matter,” she said — but she would like baseball to improve the safety for fans.

“We don’t want fans to have a false sense of security, like, ‘We’re fine now, the nets are widened,’” she said. “These guys hit balls hard, and they’re throwing 100-mile-an-hour pitches.”

She said the warning on the ticket was not enough.

“We were laughing: On the back of the ticket, ‘Enter at your own risk’ is in tiny, tiny print, and then ‘Buy Farmer John hot dogs’ is in like 20-point font,” she said. “I mean, stuff like that is kind of ridiculous.”

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