A completely avoidable tragedy

By now you’ve probably heard about the terrible tragedy that occurred at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington earlier tonight. A foul ball off the bat of Conor Jackson went down the LF line and caromed into fair territory, where Josh Hamilton picked it up and tossed it to some fans in the outfield seats. Shannon Stone, a firefighter from Brownwood, TX, leaned over a railing for the ball and fell some 20 feet to the ground below. He later died of his injuries. This is the third incident of a fan falling over a railing at Rangers Ballpark, this one being the first death. He had brought his 6-year-old son to the game.

Any adult who sits in an elevated front row should be aware of the potential for danger, especially if you’re fixated on catching a ball. The LF seats in Arlington are a unique situation in that there is a sizable gap between the front row and the out-of-town scoreboard, which forms the LF wall. I have no idea why the gap is there. Historically, the scoreboard was manually operated, which would require some space for the crew to maneuver. After the scoreboards were changed to LED panels two years ago, the space in back of the scoreboard seemed to be unnecessary, except for perhaps ventilation purposes. At the Coliseum, there is no such gap between the scoreboard and the seats. Instead, there’s a three-foot-wide yellow ledge which provides a roof for the crew, and then a wall which extends up to the bleacher seating. Every other ballpark with a scoreboard built into the wall has fans either directly above the scoreboard, or separated by either a net or something solid. The Giants even put in an extra rail at AT&T Park’s bleachers to keep fans from reaching over the fence and potentially interfering with a ball in play.

A gap with no purpose. (Image taken from CSNCA broadcast)

Why the Rangers didn’t install either a net or a chain link “cage” is beyond me. Installation wouldn’t have cost much and would not have compromised ventilation for the scoreboard. It’s not like they haven’t had such a system at Wrigley for decades.

In Arlington, the prior incidents caused the Rangers to raise the railings from 30.5 inches to a height of 46 inches, or so they said. In foul territory this is difficult to pull off, because every fan is looking down into the action on the field (20-35 degrees). Higher railings could compromise views. A closer look shows that the raised railings only occur along the aisles, not the seating sections. That in itself is tragic given the location of this incident. Outfield seats have a much less severe angle of the action, especially the pitcher-batter confrontation. It would’ve been easy to make 36 inch or higher railings uniform across the board, which might have been high enough to keep the man from falling. To understand how unsafe it is, take a look at this picture provided by the AP to ESPN. Notice on the far right how the railing is lower than the fan’s butt? That’s not good.

It’s simple. Either put up a net or raise the railings to a height that might actually protect people instead of merely providing a footrest. Or do both. It’s only your fans’ safety at stake, Nolan. For now, all anyone can do is send their sympathies to the family of the fallen firefighter. Still, it’s hard to get over the fact that this incident was thoroughly avoidable.

P.S. – The tour I took last summer of Rangers Ballpark didn’t allow us anywhere near the field because it was a game day.

18 Responses to A completely avoidable tragedy

  1. Zonis says:

    Thats what I get for leaving the bar after getting down 5-0

  2. jk-usa says:

    What a horrible tragedy.
    ML, good observations on the very low railings and the no netting below. It could of been avoided for sure, and a huge lawsuit is a given. I hope they make some fixes ASAP. The 3rd incident of a fan falling here is 3 too much.
    Knowing that the fan died later, Fosse’s comments and laughing on the video made me cringe.

  3. Dan says:

    jk for once we agree wholeheartedly. I wanted to reach through my computer screen and slap Fosse while he was laughing. Given the context of what happened it was absolutely cringe inducing. But even given what he knew at the time it was probably out of line. I mean the guy had just fallen a very long way and the people above already looked very concerned at that point he starts chuckling away. Terrible tragedy for the family. It’s just a baseball people it’s not worth it.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    Sick to my stomach. I watched my girls sleep a little bit longer than usual last night.
    .
    I don’t think Ray realized how serious the situation was or he wouldn’t have laughed. We should give him the benefit of the doubt.

  5. David says:

    Fosse had no idea. R.I.P.

    Selig should have every ballpark look into this incident, so it doesn’t happen anywhere else.

  6. BASG says:

    It’s tough to call out something relating to a tragedy like this is great, but this post is. I have to admit, I knew nothing about setups such as these, and how other parks have created safety measures to prevent accidents just like this from occurring. The Rangers need to see this post; hopefully they’re already aware of this info and woke up this morning motivated to make the necessary changes.

  7. BASG says:

    In the first sentence, “is great” should read “as great,” in case that was confusing.

  8. cuppingmaster says:

    I haven’t been out there in several years, but the bleacher “boxes” up in LCF and RCF (flanking CF) at the O.co have an extremely low railing, as I remember. Barely up to one’s knee. I was always nervous when I used to go shag out there in BP.

  9. jk-usa says:

    I know Fosse wasn’t aware of it at the time. Just knowing later that the guy died and seeing the video several times, it’s just tough to watch and hear. My wife freaked out, seeing the guy fall. I told her thats about 20 feet and he hit his head on the concrete below. I use to love shagging balls back in the day at the Coli (my teen years in the late 70′s), but I’ve seen guys trip over seats, get scraped up, bang their knees, etc.. Is it really worth it? Nope.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    The difference is the “bleachers” in Oakland have a ledge to fall onto in stead of a 20 foot plunge to concrete… The more I think about this the more it just sucks.

  11. Dinosaur Jr. says:

    Actually on either side of the score board its a much longer fall. If im in the CF bleachers looking down get vertigo.

  12. Brian says:

    The “yellow ledge” is along most of the front of section 135, all of 136, and a small amount of 137, as well as the corresponding sections in RF. If you lean forward and fell from 134, the rest of 137, or to the right of 138/139 you would fall all the way to field level, at least 20 feet.

  13. Brian says:

    http://deadspin.com/5819404/of-rangers-and-railings

    Looks like the minimum height for railings for any kind of platform seating is 26 inches, while the minimum height for a railing where people may be coming down stairs is 42 inches (which the railings in the front of the 200 and 300 level seats in the non-1996-remodeled sections of the Coliseum are clearly not).

  14. Anon says:

    after going to a funeral today to bury one of my friends, death is no laughing matter. it’s more shocking that the guy was at least conscious enough at the time of the incident to ask to watch out for his son while being taken out on a stretcher. God bless and RIP! :(

    http://www.mercurynews.com/athletics/ci_18436166

  15. Dinosaur Jr. says:

    @Anon. Death is no laughing matter but your trolling email address is wtfbbqoakland? grow up. (sorry ML.)

  16. jk-usa says:

    @Dino–Anon, formerly ST, had some similar crap last year linked to his name, ripping me personally in the phony e-mail address. I asked him to take it off and he finally did after a few days. This guy is too much and will never grow up. I know more mature 7 year olds. (sorry ML, but i hope you remember that, and I complained to you about it).

  17. gojohn10 says:

    Selig just said a whole lot of nothin’ about the A’s during his townhall chat in Phoenix

  18. GoA's says:

    On a more important note—to anyone who wants to make a donation to the family of Shannon Stone—never going to change what happened but might take just a bit of the burden off and let them know how many people care about them—seeing his son during his funeral was more than enough for me to want to contribute—thoughts and prayers are with his family—-

    https://secure.mlb.com/tex/community/shannon_stone_fund.jsp

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