Prior to the passing of Shannon Stone, the 39-year-old Brownwood, Texas, fan on Thursday, the only other time a fan died in a somewhat similar way in a big league ballgame was more than 40 years ago in Los Angeles.
(Earlier this year, a fan at a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field died when he struck his head on concrete after sliding down a staircase railing at Coors Field. However, he was not trying to catch a foul ball or a ball tossed by a player on the field).
According to a book called “Death at the Ballpark: A Comprehensive Study of Game-Related Fatalities, 1862-2007, on May 16, 1970, Alan Fish, only 14 years old, was killed at Dodger Stadium when Manny Mota slammed a foul ball along the first-base line off the Giants’ Gaylord Perry.
The ball hit Fish, sitting in the second row, on the left temple on the side of his head. He didn’t see it coming.
The boy initially said he was OK. He was taken to a first-aid station set up by the hometown Dodgers, given some headache tablets, and then sent back to his seat.
However, after returning home, Fish wasn’t getting any better from the batted ball – he became disoriented and started acting strangely, like walking around in circles. His parents took him to a local hospital for what they thought was a concussion. He died four days later in the children ward for an inoperable head injury.
That night, the Dodgers issued the following statement: The entire Dodger organization joins in the members of the family of Alan Fish in their sorrow. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
Mota tried to visit the boy in the hospital, but was rebuffed.
Alan’s parents sued to the Dodgers and their doctor, but a court exonerated the team three years later.
Mota would play for another decade, establishing himself as one of the game’s great pinch-hitters.
Ironically, 14 years later, Mota's own teenaged nephew, Adriano Martines, was killed by a lightning strike while playing shortstop.