A 39-year-old firefighter named Shannon Stone in Arlington, Texas, takes his 6-year-old son to see a Rangers game and to try to catch a foul ball -- a dream shared by fathers and sons that's as old as the game itself. Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton picks up such a ball and, like every other outfielder in minor and major league baseball, gently tosses it up into the stands.
Dad reaches out for the ball, loses his balance, falls over the rail and dies.
His last words before he lost consciousness? Somebody has to get his son, who's up in the stands all by himself.
The boy lost his father because his dad was simply reaching for a baseball.
I can't begin to imagine the eternal nightmare the tragedy will be for the child. His dad was just trying to put a smile on his face. That's all. Shannon Stone wasn't drunk, wasn't doing anything stupid, wasn't trying to make SportsCenter with some play of the day. He was just trying to catch a gently tossed ball for his son -- a memory they could treasure for a lifetime.
Yet a man who has exited burning buildings carrying human beings in his hands dies catching a baseball.
How does this child ever learn to live with this pain? How will he not be reminded of it almost every minute of the day, especially in Texas, where there's baseball around all the time. You've got Ranger games, televised games on satellite and cable every night, and Little League through high school games in every town. America's past time killed a boy's father.
How sick of an irony is that?
How will Hamilton not be scarred for life? How will he not break out in a cold sweat every time he picks up a foul ball? It wasn't his fault. It was just a one in a billion freak accident.
And the fans who watched the firefighter-father fall to the concrete -- how will they ever get over that?
If the father had a heart attack or got struck by lightning -- or died trying to rescue someone -- that I might at least be able to comprehend. Those horrors are within the realm of imagination. But this -- it's simply preposterous. There are a lot of ways to get killed in a baseball stadium. A Potomac Nationals player was lucky to survive a blow to the head. It's a blessing that screaming line drives over the dugouts don't hurt more fans than they do. But a tossed ball?
I'm still sick.
I can't stop thinking about it. My love for baseball runs deep. The game has given me great joy in my life -- from going to games with my dad when I was a kid to coaching kids once I grew up. My girlfriend and I spend as much time as we can traveling to minor league games now.
I remember a famous game I went to with my dad. You've heard of this one. It was Aug. 1, 1978 in Atlanta. I was 9-years-old and a huge fan of our loveable loser Braves. A then beloved guy named Pete Rose was chasing Joe DiMaggio's record of 56 consecutive games with a hit. Rose was at 44. I loved him and the Big Red Machine, too. We wanted to see him reach 45 and continue his quest.
Rose hits a foul ball to the right side between first base and the outfield. (If anyone has that game on TV, I want to see it.) The ball is coming directly toward me and my dad. We both stand up, extend our arms. My heart is thumping. I'm envisioning my greatest souvenir -- a foul ball hit by Charlie Hustle during "the streak". The ball continues directly toward us as if sent on purpose. It's mine ... until the ball hits a low-hanging electrical wire and bounces to someone else.
I was crushed. We had that sucker.
Rose went on to strike out in his last at-bat and the streak ended. I've still got the ticket stub to this day.
I've also still got my dad.