Ok admit it.
Ever since you were a little kid and attended a major league baseball game you hoped that one day you would bring home a baseball, the ultimate souvenir.
Seven years later I did obtain a baseball and a hole in the knee of my pants.
While standing amongst a group of kids near the Tiger bullpen prior to a game, we called out to pitcher Joe Sparma to throw a ball to us and sure enough he tossed it over the railing as we made a mad scramble. Somehow I managed to grab the ball as it rolled underneath the green seats. I was of course thrilled, especially when I was walking under the stands and saw Tiger announcer George Kell who kindly signed the ball for me.
As a kid I used to love to stand in the lower deck left field stands during batting practice to try and nab a ball but I never had any luck. Back then the penny-pinching Tiger management frowned upon players throwing baseballs to the fans during practice and certainly not during a game. Willie Horton was certainly the exception as he would toss balls to lucky fans. Willie recently told me that Jim Campbell would actually fine him for the cost of those baseballs.
For years I never came really close to catching a foul ball or a home run ball………until the last year at Tiger Stadium.
On September 10th 1999 I went down to Tiger Stadium by myself and walked around the baseball shrine sitting in different sections. Around the 8th inning I was standing at the fence in the lower right field stands when Detroit’s Luis Polonia hit a homer of the face of the upper deck in right that bounced back onto the field. I called out to Blue Jays rightfielder Shawn Green if he would toss me the ball which he did but it went over my head and rolled down the exit ramp to the feet of an usher who picked up. Damn.
Finally I worked up the nerve to ask the usher if I could buy the home run ball from him and he said, “Sure, how about $10?” I gladly paid him. I later figured out that it was the 22nd to the last home run hit at Tiger Stadium. The scuffed up ball is now in a plastic holder sitting in my office.
This year a fascinating book has been published called The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the Stitches (Includes Tips for Snagging Your Own Major League Ball) by Zack Hample (Anchor Books 2011).
The author is a baseball fan best known for having snagged 4,662 baseballs and counting from 48 different major league stadiums. You will get a kick out of his many stories including one on none other than Charlie Sheen.
Four years after paying $93,000 for the ball that rolled through Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series, Sheen paid $6,537.50 just to try and catch a home run ball. On April 19, 1996 the Tigers were in Anaheim to play the Angels and Sheen bought 2,615 outfield seats to increase his odds of catching the ball. Unfortunately for Charlie a home run ball never came his way.
Check out this amazing video that accompanies this blog entry of a soundman at Yankee Stadium catching a foul ball.
We would love to hear your own stories about successfully, (or unsuccessfully) getting a baseball at the ballpark by leaving a comment in the comment section to this blog entry.