Two foul balls — one a lifetime memory the other a lifetime of anguish

by on May 2, 2011

Baseball Fan & Facebook Friend Dennis Anderson’s email submission to Baseballisms.com reprinted with permission. We love to hear foul ball stories, but have not actually caught one in a game … as Dennis accurately details, it’s a lifetime memory.  We are honored that he has shared this story with us.

I caught a foul ball at Wrigley Field.

foul ball catch For a baseball fan, possessing a foul ball you caught at a major-league game is the same as an art collector acquiring a Renoir. It’s gold.

So I know what was going through Steve Bartman’s head when he reached over Wrigley Field’s brick wall in left field as Chicago Cubs outfielder Moises Alou tried to catch a Luis Castillo foul pop.

Was Bartman the reason the Cubs lost that game and ultimately the 2003 National League Championship Series to the Florida Marlins?

I don’t know. But Bartman, then 26 years old, was just doing what any fan would do in that situation. His hands weren’t the only ones reaching for the ball.

Every baseball fan has been there, feeling the thrill that surges through your body as the foul ball gets closer to your section. The rush intensifies as you realize it’s coming directly at you.

I’m sure Bartman experienced that.

My foul ball was hit in the bottom of the fourth by Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston on June 15, 1988, off Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Doug Drabek. I, like Bartman, was 26.

It was a beautiful day, sun was shining, and fluffy white clouds hung in a light azure sky. It was exactly a year after my dad had died. I was feeling down and decided to play hooky from work. I went up to the Wrigley ticket window and asked for one box seat.

Even now, the first thing I do when I locate my seat at a ballpark is figure the chances of a foul ball coming my way.

Bartman likely did the same thing when he sat down for that important game for his Cubs. Yes, he could even reach out and touch a player from his seat, never mind catch a ball.

My seat was 18 rows behind home plate, off the first base side. It was the kind of place I’d hover as a kid whether at Wrigley or old Comiskey Park waiting for a chance to get near a foul ball. I’d tell my dad that I was going for some Cracker Jack and just walk the concourse nearest the field for a couple of innings. A ball never came.

But there I was on this beautiful June day in Wrigley Field.

Smack. The ball went straight over my head. I stood up and turned around to see it hit the facade of the upper deck, bounce off and fall into my waiting hands that were still clutching my pencil and scorecard.

My heart was pumping. I took a look at the ball, still cloudy with the mud the home plate ump rubbed on it just 90 minutes before. It had a black mark from where Dunston’s bat had hit it.

A man sitting a row behind me gave me a high-five, others patted me on the back.

Bartman got a beer shower for his effort.

On the next pitch, Dunston homered into the right field bleachers. On my scorecard, I wrote next to Dunston’s homer: “I caught a foul ball!!!”

At the end of the inning, I ran to a pay phone and called my wife at work to tell her about my prize. She flattered me with a few kind words, and back I went to my seat. Some fans asked to see the ball and I offered it up. Each inspected the red stitching, the National League president’s signature and the Rawlings logo in light blue type.

One man offered me $20 for a ball that he could have bought at the souvenir stand for $4.50. No sale. I’d been waiting years for this. After the game, the man’s offer went up to $100. Still, my answer was no.

Today, the ball has a place of honor in my library.

I can remember no pain when the ball hit my hand, only joy.

Bartman’s has a pain that will linger a lifetime.

Dennis Anderson

 

 

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