I need a lawyer!

No, I’m not in any legal trouble. There’s just a small law-related baseball mystery that I’m trying to solve for my book, and I’m hoping someone might be able to help.

First of all, did you know that fans weren’t allowed to keep baseballs in the old days?
And that fans often tried to keep baseballs anyway and often got in serious trouble?

Well, according to one of my sources, the last major incident took place in 1937 at — where else? — Yankee Stadium. There was a fan who tried to retrieve a foul ball that had gotten stuck in the protective netting behind the plate. Guess what happened next? He got roughed up by stadium security (Shocker!) and ended up successfully suing the team (Ha-HAAA!!!) for $7,500. Now, it’s possible that security went after him because he did something stupid, like trying to climb up and grab it. I don’t know. But it’s still a cool story either way. (And no, I’m not trying to be anti-Yankees. I’m just telling it like it is. The New York Giants were actually the worst team in  terms of hassling fans for baseballs 100 years ago. And now the San Francisco Giants are the best.)

The main thing I want to find out is this fan’s name. My source doesn’t reveal that. So I’m wondering if there’s some type of mega-database that lists all the lawsuits ever filed in the history of the universe. Or if there’s any other way that I might be able to find some details. (Obviously the Yankees aren’t gonna help.)

And by the way, this is totally unrelated, but there’s a documentary called “Holy Land Hardball” that’s going to be airing on the MLB Network tonight (January 10th) at 10pm ET. It’s about the Israeli Baseball League. I’ve already seen it. It’s really funny and interesting. Consider this my official recommendation to check it out…

I got it all under control now. A big thanks to the lawyers out there who left comments and emailed me with suggestions


  1. jgk363@comcast.net

    i’ve got nothing in regard to your question.
    i just wanted to tell you that i’m very fortunate to know you.

    That said–
    Seattle? When?

  2. bigappleblogger

    thanks for reccomending holy land hardball, i’m watching it soon. for the record NOBODY in israel (except american tourists) give a crap about baseball. they treat baseball like americans treat cricket. it was really sad vacationing there for only that reason

  3. goisles

    I looked on a database I can access and there do not appear to be any reported cases on this matter, i.e. cases that were litigated resulting in decision published in law books. I did, however, find an interesting recent case where a Yankee Stadium Security employee was hit by a foul ball through an open area of netting giving ESPN camera acess and while the employee was forced to sit on a stool looking away from the play. The court was allowing his lawsuit to go forward. There were several other cases relating to foul balls and/or Yankee Stadium.

    Unfortunately, while I could be wrong, for cases filed prior to 1990, I don’t believe many jurisdictions or legal databases carry electronic versions of civils cases that were merely filed as opposed to reaching a formal decision. The place which should have the record is the court where the lawsuit was filed. The easiest search possibility would be if the lawsuit was filed in the Bronx, and you could call the Clerk’s Office to find out how you could get information on the range of dates you’re seeking. However, the lawsuit could have been filed elsewhere, like Manhattan or Westchester, or even in federal court if the plaintiff lived in another state (I’m not an expert on venue rules in the 1930s). In addition, no lawsuit may have been filed and the issue may have been resolved out of court.

  4. zackhample

    I’ll tell you when: This year! We’ll discuss as Opening Day approaches.

    Thanks for the email, and for your help with this. You are really going above and beyond.

    Yeah, well, baseball is a complex sport, and for people who didn’t grow up watching it, I can understand why it seems boring.

    Thank you SO much. Wow…I had no idea it would be this tough. It’s interesting just to know how the database system even works.

  5. Evan.bizzz@gmail.com

    Hey Zack,

    I just got invited to a Q and A with Joe Torre. Any ideas of a question in case I get called on? Keep on grinding away at that book!


  6. txfilmmkr

    Sorry, bro. I ran a couple quick searches through Westlaw and LexisNexis and came up empty. Like FatherPuck said, it may not have been recorded if it wasn’t appealed or anything that would get it noticed.

    Donny in Houston

  7. MLBallhawk

    This comment has nothing to do with any of this post but I just ordered my Angels season tickets for this year and I look forward to seeing all the Ballhawks and Ballsnaggers at the All Star game in Anaheim this summer!


  8. zackhample

    I just remembered that you posted this question on an earlier entry, and I neglected to answer it. Sorry about that. If it were ME, I’d ask Joe if he has any interesting stories related to the ball itself. Or how the ball has changed since he first reached the majors. Or…you know, if he thinks the ball is juiced now. Or…when he has a ball in his hand and he’s gonna toss it into the crowd, how does he decide who to give it to. Stuff like that.

    Well, thanks for trying.

    Hooray for random comments! Hopefully I can make it out for the Derby, but right now I’d have to say that the chances are pretty slim.

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