Tear Down the Goalposts With Care: 7 Injuries to Spectators
Torn ACLs. Black eyes. Concussions. High ankle sprains. The litany of common sports injuries is distressingly long, and each one can drive fans to madness by keeping their favorite players out of action. However, at least most of these misfortunes happen on the field, to players who are well compensated for their bodily risks. Occasionally, though, an unlucky fan ends up on a trainer's table after some bizarre spectator-squashing mishap. Here are a few stories to keep you on your toes the next time you head to the stadium.
1. Unlike Lightning, Ashburn Strikes Twice
In August 1957, legendary Phillies centerfielder Richie Ashburn stepped up to the plate during a home game against the New York Giants. Ashburn fouled off a pitch that drilled Phils fan Alice Roth right in the face, breaking her nose. Naturally, play paused for a few moments so Roth could receive medical attention, but once medics got her onto a stretcher, play resumed. Ashburn couldn't square up the pitcher's next offering, either, and he ended up fouling off the next pitch "“ directly into Roth as she was being carried out of the stadium. Although he was a beloved figure in Philly, Ashburn couldn't hope for much good media coverage after this odd feat. Alice Roth was the wife of Earl Roth, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin's sports editor.
2. Beware Falling Fans
As pregame public address announcements warn us, it's always a good idea to pay attention to the game just so you'll know if some stray piece of equipment is hurtling your way. It might not just be the field of play you need to worry about, though. Gravity and sports fans may combine in a rather dangerous fashion. In 2007 Paul Robinson, a teacher from Seattle, was visiting Yankee Stadium with his family when a stumbling fan sprawled forward and landed on Robinson's head. The fan, who wasn't identified, actually broke Robinson's neck, and although doctors said he was lucky to be alive, the teacher received treatment and managed to finish the rest of the family's sightseeing tour of New York.
Robinson's not the only one who's fallen prey to falling fans, though. On December 4, 2008 a fan fell from the 300 level of Scotiabank Place, home of the Ottawa Senators, all the way down to the 200 level, where he landed on a female fan. Amazingly, neither of the two suffered serious injuries. Even more amazingly, the unlucky fan that took the spill apparently hadn't been drinking.
3. Jay Gibbons' Questionable Romantic Ways
The last couple of years have been rough for Jay Gibbon's baseball career. After showing great promise in his first few seasons in the majors, Gibbons' production declined as he became embroiled in baseball's steroids scandal. He probably couldn't ask for much support from home, either, after what he pulled on September 24, 2006. During a home game against Minnesota, the Orioles outfielder fouled a pitch straight back over the screen behind home plate, where it nailed his wife, Laura, in the ribs. Mrs. Gibbons escaped with little more than bruised ribs, but Jay surely heard about it when he got home that night.
4. Chuck Knoblauch: Worst Person in the World
When former Yankees All-Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch inexplicably lost the ability to throw the ball to first base during the 2000 season, SportsCenter anchors joked that fans all over the stadium were in the line of fire for the errant throws. This ribbing proved strangely fitting when former SportsCenter host Keith Olbermann's mom became one of Knoblauch's victims that June.
Marie Olbermann was sitting behind the first-base dugout for a game against the White Sox when Knoblauch airmailed a throw to first baseman Tino Martinez. Instead of finding the bottom of Martinez's mitt, Knoblauch toss nailed Mrs. Olbermann. She received medical treatment at the stadium but was quickly back in her seat. Since she was uninjured, her son got off a great zinger at Knoblauch's expense when he quipped, "Her eyeglasses were broken, as was her confidence in Chuck Knoblauch."
5. Ah, Duke Football
When you're a fan of one of organized sports' most downtrodden squads, you don't get much of a chance to celebrate. A Duke football fan illustrated this truth painfully in 2007. When the Blue Devils broke a 22-game losing streak on the road with a 20-14 victory over Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois, Duke students went crazy back on campus in Durham, North Carolina. During the revelry, fans streamed into Wallace Wade Stadium to tear down the goalposts. (Fans of successful football teams might be scratching their heads right now. I can't tell you anything that will make this story make sense. Let's just assume they didn't know any better.) Since the Blue Devils weren't very experienced at winning, though, their fans weren't too experienced at tearing down goal posts. One sophomore didn't know how to get out of the post's way and took an upright to the noggin as the goalpost fell. She was knocked out, but thankfully was just fine, if a little embarrassed, after she came to.
6. MLB Emulates WWE
Serious baseball fans may know Texas Rangers reliever Frank Francisco as a righthander whose four-year career has included two very good years bookending two pretty average ones. Casual baseball fans may know him as a lunatic who attacks fans. During the 2004 season, Francisco and fellow Rangers reliever Doug Brocail got into a confrontation with fans sitting around the visiting bullpen at Oakland Coliseum. As the situation escalated in the ninth inning of a tie game, Francisco picked up a folding chair and chucked it at the heckling fans. The chair stuck Jennifer Bueno in the head and opened a cut that required stitches. Francisco was arrested for aggravated battery, a charge to which he later pleaded no contest, and later publicly apologized and paid Bueno a settlement.
7. Mad Max, Not Just a Nickname
Retired NBA shooting guard Vernon Maxwell was nicknamed Mad Max due to his dead-eyed shooting ability and also in part due to his erratic behavior. In February 1995, a Portland fan learned that Maxwell could actually get mad when the then-Rockets guard rushed into the stands and punched a fan who was heckling him. Maxwell later claimed that the fan was taunting him over a recent miscarriage by his wife, but the excuse didn't fly with the NBA. The league slapped Maxwell with a $20,000 fine and a 10-game suspension.