The foul ball is an American sports icon. It's as American as Babe Ruth or rock 'n' roll or the game of baseball itself. Little kids dream of catching one. Fans use them as a canvas for their heroes' autographs. Family rooms across the nation display them as trophies.
The foul ball is also, as anyone who's ever been in a big-league baseball stadium knows, a rock-hard, 5-ounce (141-gram) mindless missile of leather and yarn that can maim and potentially kill.
Luckily, after a surge of highly publicized and serious injuries to fans hit by these screaming fouls, things are changing for the safer in the grand old American pastime. As a new season begins, all 30 Major League Baseball teams have extended the protective netting that keeps the most dangerous of foul balls from zipping into the stands, stretching the nets from behind home plate all the way around to the far side of the dugout along both foul lines. (The nets in most stadiums used to stop before the near side of the dugout, closest to home plate.) Some teams have taken safety measures even further, stringing extra netting in front of the first row of seats down the lines to the foul poles in each corner of the field.
That's a big step for MLB, especially considering that the industry, legally speaking, probably doesn't have to do it. Historically, if you're nailed by one of these line drives, it's been harder to successfully sue the team for an injury than it is to snare one of the little buggers from the front row. With no netting in the way. Blindfolded. Without your trusty glove.
- The Baseball Rule
- Closer to the Action
- Protecting Fans or MLB?
The Baseball Rule
A piece of common law known colloquially as the Baseball Rule has been doing the dirty work for MLB teams for more than a century, stating (in terms not nearly as simple as these) that if you go to a game, you take your chances. The risk of injury at a ballpark is not shouldered by the teams or the batter or the commissioner or the bat manufacturers. It's all on you, the fan.
Baseball teams almost never have had to pay for injuries their fans suffer from batted balls as long as:
- The teams protect the fans closest to the action (thus, the netting) and,
- The teams give fans the opportunity to sit in a relatively safe seat.
That's the Baseball Rule.
Still, there have been horrific injuries in the headlines — maybe the ugliest was a 1-year-old girl who was hit in the face by a ball traveling better than 100 mph (160 kph) in October 2017 in Yankee Stadium. Now with an almost universal call for better safety measures (even from nervous teams themselves) and some major upheaval in how the game is played, MLB is making the changes.
The move is hardly altruistic. Baseball is clearly trying to protect its own interests, preparing for a day when the Baseball Rule may not be there to shield it from lawsuits.
"When you start to see young kids getting hurt, where it's harder to argue they assume the risk of liability," says Nathaniel Grow, a professor of business law and ethics at the University of Indiana Kelley School of Business, "that theoretically could be the type of case that a court would start to push back on [the Baseball Rule] a little."
Grow, who has a law degree from the University of Michigan, and University of Georgia student Zachary Flagel have studied the history of the liability issue in baseball and delved into the recent spate of fan injuries in an article titled "The Faulty Law and Economics of the 'Baseball Rule'," which will be published in an upcoming issue of the William and Mary Law Review. In it, they argue that the Baseball Rule is antiquated — it was established in 1913 — and no longer applicable for today's game.
Closer to the Action
Grow points out that fans now sit some 20 percent closer to the action — and those dangerous foul balls — than they did only 25 years ago, the result of 21 new, more-intimate stadiums having been built in the last quarter-century. In addition, pitchers are throwing harder (leading to foul balls coming off bats more quickly), and hitters are bigger and stronger (thanks to advanced training techniques).
Add to that this undeniably dangerous 21st-century fact of life: Many spectators are distracted from the game by any number of bells and whistles — smartphones, vendors, video scoreboards, annoying mascots — making fans even more vulnerable to a sizzling foul ball.
According to Bloomberg, some 1,750 fans are injured by foul balls in major league stadiums every year. Only one fan death ever has been attributed to being hit by a foul ball — in 1970 — but the recent injuries are sending a chill into everyone involved with the game.
All that makes the Baseball Rule more vulnerable to reinterpretation by the courts than ever. Baseball is paying attention and taking action.
"Providing baseball fans with a variety of seating options when they come to the ballpark, including seats behind protective netting, is important," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement before the season began. "Major League Clubs are constantly evaluating the coverage and design of their ballpark netting and I am pleased that they are providing fans an increased inventory of protected seats."
Protecting Fans or MLB?
Ironically, MLB's move to better protect its fans from being hurt — and itself from possible litigation — could well lead to the downfall of the very law that has kept angry fans and lawyers at bay.
"If Major League Baseball is saying we need more netting, that should strongly suggest to the courts that [the Baseball Rule] probably needs to be looked at again," Grow says. "If even the business is saying what's legally required isn't enough ..."
As good as the Baseball Rule has been to MLB, striking it down would not be awful for the game, Grow contends. It's a notion taken from the law and economics movement, which says that "law is best viewed as a social tool that promotes economic efficiency."
Grow explains the idea: "Who can avoid this injury the easiest or the best? Let's [make] that person responsible. Then we're getting the maximum protection at the lowest cost.
"Here, that argument is the team can spend $10,000 to $12,000 to put in an extra net that's going to avoid a $150,000 injury. Society on a whole, financially speaking, is better off if the team does that."
It seems a small price to pay for a little protection. For everybody.
Now That's Good To Know
Grow says the wording on the back of tickets, along with the Baseball Rule, scares off potential lawsuits and strengthens baseball's defense (though the Baseball Rule remains, for now, the true suit-blocker). From the Yankees tickets: "The bearer of the Ticket assumes all risk and danger incidental to the sport of baseball ... including specifically (but not exclusively) the danger of being injured by thrown bats, fragments thereof, and thrown or batted balls and agrees that ... [here, the ticket lists a bunch of baseball entities] ... nor any of their respective agents, players, officers, employees and owners shall be liable for injuries or loss of personal property resulting from such causes."
When a batter hits a foul ball, one strike is added to the count. But if a batter hits a foul ball while there are already two strikes in the count, no strikes are given to the batter.What happens if you get hit at a baseball game? ›
The majority of foul balls strike the face which often results in severe injuries to the face, eyes, or brain. A foul ball injury can leave you with expensive medical bills including reconstructive surgery needs. You may also have to take time off work to recover from these injuries.Does a foul ball count as a hit? ›
A strike is a ball that passes through any part of the strike zone in flight. A foul ball is also counted as a strike when a hitter has less than two strikes. When a batter accumulates three strikes, he is out. If the batter bunts a foul ball with two strikes then it is counted as a strike and the batter is out.Are foul tips reviewable? ›
These plays include subjective calls, such as check swings, infield fly rule, and balls and strikes. Other calls that are considered non-reviewable are trap plays (infield), foul tips, and mound visit count.Who is responsible if a baseball hits a car? ›
Most likely, you will need to file a claim on your car insurance policy under comprehensive coverage if your vehicle is damaged at a baseball stadium or golf course. You probably will not know who caused the damage, and the stadium or course will not accept liability.What is the foul ball rule in baseball? ›
Comment: A batted ball not touched by a fielder, which hits the pitcher's rubber and rebounds into foul territory, between home and first, or between home and third base is a foul ball. A batted ball that is not a foul ball is a fair ball. A foul ball may be either in play or out of play.What happens if a baseball hits a fan? ›
The penalty for fan interference in baseball is the ball is ruled a dead ball and umpires will advance base runners to where they believe those base runners would have advanced to if the interference had not taken place. The fan responsible for the interference will usually be thrown out of the game.How often do people get hit by baseballs? ›
That translates to an average of almost three injuries for every four games played. While many of these injuries may be simple bumps and bruises caused by being hit by an errant foul ball, others have not been so lucky.Can you sue if you get hit with a hockey puck? ›
Balls [or pucks] do fly into the crowds — as do men and sometimes cars. These injuries are usually considered a part of the game and the injured party will be unable to sue.Why is the third foul not a strike? ›
A strike is issued for the batter if he had fewer than two strikes. If the batter already has two strikes against him when he hits a foul ball, a strike is not issued unless the ball was bunted to become a foul ball, in which case a third strike is issued and a strikeout recorded for the batter and pitcher.
A foul tip is always a strike, regardless of the existing ball-and-strike count. A player with two strikes against him is automatically struck out. A player with fewer than two strikes against him is not out.Is a dropped foul ball fair? ›
When calling an infield fly that is close to the foul line, you signal and verbalize loudly "INFIELD FLY IF FAIR!" If the ball drops uncaught in foul territory, or is first touched (but not caught) by a fielder in foul territory, it is no longer an infield fly but just a foul ball and the batter is not out.How much is a MLB umpire salary? ›
Professional baseball umpires don't make quite as much as the MLB player minimum salary, but they're still well off financially. According to Career Trend, the starting rookie umpire salary is $150,000 and the more experienced umpires and senior umpires (like Joe West) rake in as much as $450,000 per year.Do MLB umpires review their calls? ›
Potential home run calls: The umpires' decision to call or not call a home run may be reviewed if there is a question as to whether the ball left the playing field or struck an object; whether the ball struck the top of a fence, hit a railing or otherwise stayed within the field of play; whether the ball was interfered ...Can you steal a base on a caught foul ball? ›
You cannot steal a base on a “dead” or foul ball. Overthrown or passed balls may be stolen on, as long as the ball is still considered to be “live” The base ahead of you must be unoccupied (unless the runner ahead of you also attempts to steal the base in front of them; this is known as a double steal)Who is responsible for damage caused by a golf ball? ›
There is clear California case law on these points of law. However, if the golfer intentionally or recklessly hits a ball at a home/car, then the golfer may be responsible.Can a basketball break a car window? ›
A bouncing basketball may not crack a windshield, but the impact could affect the edges of a windshield. If the edge of a windshield is loosened or moved, you increase the danger of a whole windshield flying off. A mobile auto glass technician will help seal the windshield and ensure the glass is secure to the vehicle.Will a basketball dent a car? ›
Yes, it can, even though a car's body is made from aluminum and steel, a basketball can dent a car when the ball is dropping from a basketball rim that is 7 to 10 feet. An average men's size basketball that rebounds off the rim, can bounce several feet higher than the height of the rim.Can a foul ball roll back fair? ›
Short answer: if a batted ball is in foul territory and crosses back into fair territory before passing the 1st/3rd base (without the influence of a fielder), it is fair. If it passes back into fair territory after the base, it's foul.What's the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip? ›
Definition. A foul tip is a batted ball that goes sharply and directly to the catcher's hand or glove and is legally caught. A foul tip is considered equivalent to a ball in which the batter swings and misses, in that the baserunners are able to advance at their own risk (without needing to tag up).
If a batted ball hits the plate first it's a foul ball.
Approved Ruling: Home plate, first, second, and third base are all completely within fair territory. The foul lines are also within fair territory. In order to rule the ball foul, it must have come to rest in foul territory or be touched in foul territory.
Baserunning instances that are subject to appeal include a runner failing to tag up correctly on a caught fly ball, a runner failing to touch the bases in order -- either when advancing or retreating -- a runner failing to return to first base promptly after overrunning or oversliding it, and a runner failing to touch ...Does it hurt to catch a foul ball? ›
For baseball players, many rules determine how to catch a foul ball. However, for a spectator in the stands, there are virtually no rules. As long as you stay in the stands and catch the foul ball after it's crossed the boundary, you should be perfectly fine. That being said, a foul ball can also hit and hurt you.How many people get hit by baseballs? ›
A recent study found that more than 800 fans had been injured by baseballs while attending a Major League Baseball game during the last eight seasons. That number, while staggering, is likely just the tip of the iceberg.How fast is a foul ball going? ›
Some reports have the exit speed as low as about 85 MPH; others have it as high as 120.Can you sue a customer if they hit you? ›
The straightforward answer is yes, you could potentially sue anyone. However, you want to make sure that your lawsuit is well-developed and backed up with strong evidence. When someone hits you, they could be liable for battery and / or assault. These are the legal terms used for lawsuits.Can someone sue you for punching them? ›
A: You can sue anyone for any reason, the real question is whether your lawsuit is frivolous or not. Battery is both a crime and a tort. This means that the person who attacked you can be punished in a criminal court for the crime of battery, and the person can also be sued civilly for the tort of battery.Can an NHL player sue another player? ›
As such, a hockey player that sustains serious injuries as a result of another party's recklessness on the ice may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the negligent party. In these cases, injured players may not necessarily need to prove that their injuries were motivated by another party's malicious intent.Why do catcher's throw to third base after a strikeout? ›
Catchers typically throw the ball to third base after a strikeout to keep fielders in the game. This is called throwing “around the horn.” Although it may not seem like it, throwing the ball to third post strikeout is beneficial for a lot of the players involved.Can you foul a bunt with 2 strikes? ›
Can you bunt with 2 strikes? In any level of baseball, a batter is allowed to bunt with 2 strikes. However, when a batter has 2 strikes and the bunt attempt results in a foul ball, the ball is ruled a strike and the at-bat is recorded as a strikeout.
If it drops to the ground, it is simply a foul ball, and runners cannot advance. A ground ball hit in foul territory is simply a foul ball, and cannot be played.Can the catcher catch a foul tip? ›
Foul Tip vs Foul Ball - Catcher's Hands Key to Legal Catch - YouTubeIs a foul tip into the catcher's glove a strikeout? ›
Official Rule 5.09(a)
If a foul tip first strikes the catcher's glove and then goes on through and is caught by both hands against his body or protector, before the ball touches the ground, it is a strike, and if third strike, batter is out.
The primary physics involved is the frictional force as the ball skids along the surface of the bat when the bat just skims the ball, leading to a foul tip directly away from the pitcher. If the frictional force is away from the pitcher, the ball will speed up. And if toward the pitcher, it will slow down.Can a runner tag on a caught foul ball? ›
Yes, a runner can tag up and advance on a foul ball that is caught in the air by a defensive player. Just like tagging up on a regular fly ball, the runner must keep a foot on the bag until the ball lands in the defenders glove at which point the runner can advance and the ball is live.Can a runner touch a foul ball? ›
On all other batted balls, the base runner must make way for a fielder attempting to field a fly ball, and must not allow himself to be touched by the ball, even if he has to step off the bag to do so. If a runner (or umpire) is touched by a batted ball over foul territory, this is not interference.Can a batter step on home plate? ›
Can you step on home plate while batting? No, you cannot, because the batter must keep both feet inside the batter's box at all times. Rule 6.02 in the major league baseball rulebook specifies that if the batter steps outside the box when swinging at the pitched baseball, he will be called out.How much meal money do MLB players get? ›
MLB Player Stipends
It's almost unbelievable, but just six years ago, the 2016 collective bargaining agreement actually lowered the amount players would receive for meals to a mere $30 per day.
Most bat boys make around $9 or $10 an hour.
Also, since they only work home games, they only get 81 days of work each year.
The answer is a resounding NO! Top-level professional umpires benefit from a comprehensive travel and expenses package that is paid for by Major League Baseball. This includes all airfares, ground transportation, accommodation, and meals while on the road.
His only punishment is in the court of public opinion, also known as social media. But why don't umpires get punished for being bad at their jobs? The logical assumption is that if umpires faced real consequences for poor performance or conduct, they'd be motivated to perform their duties with extra care.How accurate are home plate umpires? ›
And why not? Hoberg leads MLB umpires with an accuracy rating of 96.4% on ball-strike calls, and three umpires have matched his MLB-best 94.9% consistency rating. Umpires, like the players they govern, can get better with age and Hoberg appears to be entering a sweet spot in his career.Do umpires get graded? ›
Well, according to the report, the league evaluates umpires on such a lenient scale that it makes it nearly impossible to hold any umpire accountable for poor performance. The umpiring union negotiated for such a grading system, and it's exactly why incompetent umpiring remains an issue for baseball fans.Does wild pitch count as steal? ›
For example, if a runner takes an extra base on a wild pitch or a passed ball, he is not awarded a stolen base. However, if he was attempting to steal as a wild pitch/passed ball was thrown, he is generally given credit for it.Can you steal home in baseball? ›
Stealing home is usually only done when another base runner is stealing simultaneously as a distraction. In some cases, however, if the player on third base notices that the pitcher has an unusually long pre-pitch routine, they may take off for home as soon as the pitcher goes into his motion.Is it a stolen base if the catcher doesn't throw? ›
A stolen base doesn't need to have a catcher throw to the base. However, sometimes the base stealer's lead off from a base and jump was so good that the catcher wouldn't risk the throw to the base. The only time a stolen base won't occur if a catcher doesn't throw to a base is during a fielder's choice situation.Is it a penalty if you hit yourself with a golf ball? ›
Rule 19-2: Hitting Yourself (Penalty Reduced)
REVISED: Now the penalty for your own ball striking you, your partner, either of your caddies or any of your side's equipment will only be a one-stroke penalty in either stroke play or match play.
“Just as there is no penalty if a player's ball accidentally deflects off his or her body, equipment or caddie, there is no need for a penalty when a player accidentally strikes his or her own ball in making a stroke.”What is the rule if someone hits your golf ball? ›
Basically the player whose ball is in motion will absorb the penalty when collision between balls takes place in the putting green. It is going to be a 2-stroke penalty against the golfer whose stroke caused the collision. The golfer whose ball was at rest when struck will not be penalized.Is there a penalty if your golf ball hits another ball? ›
There is no penalty when a ball played from off the putting green (chipping) moves another ball. However, in stroke play, when a ball played from the putting green hits another ball on the putting green the person making the stroke incurs a penalty of two strokes.
Previously under the Rules of Golf if you accidentally struck the ball twice with your club during a shot you were penalized another stroke. The rule has been amended to only count one shot and no penalty if a player accidentally hits the ball twice.Do you get relief from an immovable obstruction in golf? ›
There is no relief under Rule 16.1: When playing the ball as it lies would be clearly unreasonable because of something other than an abnormal course conditionAbnormal Course Condition: Any of these four defined conditions: (such as when a player is standing in temporary water. Continued) or on an immovable obstruction.What is Rule 1.2 A in golf? ›
New Rule: Rule 1.2a consolidates the expected standards of player conduct: It declares that players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by acting with integrity, showing consideration to others and taking good care of the course.What happens if a golf ball hits your head? ›
"If you're having headaches, blurred vision, double vision, nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, you need to be evaluated by trained medical personnel," Janda said. "These head injuries can actually smolder over time and can lead to catastrophic events."Is there a penalty for hitting another golf ball on the green 2022? ›
In stroke play only, if both balls lay on the putting green prior to the stroke, the player making the stroke incurs a penalty of two strokes (Rule 19-5a). The moved ball must be replaced (Rule 18-5) and the striking ball is played from where it came to rest. In match play there is no penalty.Does a swing and a miss count as a stroke? ›
What counts as a stroke in golf? Under the Rules of Golf, any stroke in which you intend to hit the ball counts. It doesn't matter how far the ball goes. If you swing and miss, and you were trying to hit the ball, then it counts.Can you chip on a green? ›
Are Golfers Allowed to Chip on The Green? The short answer is yes, golfers can chip on the green.