June 16, 2004

The Kids Can Get Their Own Damn Foul Balls! I'm not sure how I missed the story originally, but I saw over at Tales From the City how some guy at a Rangers game knocked into a four-year-old going for a foul ball, then refused to give the kid the ball even after the whole stadium started chanting at him to do so. He also never picked up a Cardinals T-Shirt which Cardinals reliever Steve Kline had signed and written "Tough Guy" and "Ball Stealer."

Now, this whole story interests me for a couple of reasons, the first of which being that -- at least according to GQ writer Andres Pinter, who wrote a story about how Kline spent numerous schoolyears viciously tormenting him -- Kline is a complete asshole:
For the GQ story, Pinter arranged to meet Kline in a local bar. [T]he meeting was cordial and Pinter left thinking that Kline had mellowed over the years. "I kind of like the guy," he said. "I really do." And Kline? "He deserved everything he got," he later told a GQ fact-checker. "Little smart-ass f---er. Tell Andres if he says anything bad about me, I'm going to track him down!"
And then there's the time he told ESPN that he "hope[d] Mark Prior takes a line drive off the forehead and we never have to see him again." But forgetting about the suddenly noble Kline, and without saying that it's okay to knock over pre-schoolers, this event does remind me of one of the little side-stories of the greatest baseball game I ever attended.

It was Game Two of the 1995 Divisional Playoffs between the Yankees and Mariners, and my friend and I were in the second row of Yankee Stadium's second deck, right near home plate, terrific seats. Only one row separated us from the action, and that row was filled by a father and what we figured to be his three kids, two boys and a girl. And these three kids couldn't have possibly cared less about the game. Seriously, you would have thought that they were on some sort of combination religious service / furniture shopping expedition.

Anyway, somewhere around the middle of the game (or so we assumed at the time), Wade Boggs sent a foul ball screaming towards our section at about eleventy-million MPH, just a white-blur, heat-seeking deathball. My friend and I barely had time to react when the lone fan sitting on the aisle reached out with his gloved hand and speared the ball, just an amazing, possibly life-saving catch. And before we even had a chance to compliment him on it, the catcalls started from the next section over: "Give it to the kids! C'mon, dick, give the ball to the kids!"

Now, these kids barely even noticed the foul ball, and if it had been given to one of them there's no doubt they would have checked to see whether a GameBoy could be plugged in, after which the ball would have been thrown in the closet, never to be seen again. The catcher never turned to look at his tormenters (at least one of whom, according to his jacket, was from my hometown), just told me that he had never caught a foul ball before, not in 25 years of trying, and he'd be damned if he was giving this one up. And still the catcalls continued, for at least the next two innings, until the excitement of the game finally distracted the angry mob.

The game ultimately ended on a Jim Leyritz walk-off homer in the 15th inning, the longest playoff game in AL history. And those kids? They left back in the 8th inning, seemingly relieved that they had finished putting in their "Dad time" for the week. Damn kids.
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