Texas Rangers Fan Falls to His Death After Catching Toss from Josh Hamilton

Timothy Howell@@tmurrayhowellCorrespondent IIJuly 8, 2011

Josh Hamilton flipped a fan a foul ball in the second inning.
Josh Hamilton flipped a fan a foul ball in the second inning.Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

Like many adults, I have fond memories of going to baseball games as a child with my dad.  Had it not been for my dad's love for the game of baseball, I may never have had the impetus to write about the game for a profession. 

As a sports journalist, I understand how those in the line of work become obsessed with sports. We often make out sports to be larger than life—they aren't. Baseball, like any other sport, is at its best as a distraction from misfortune and calamity—it was never meant to be the source.

A man identified as Shannon Stone, a firefighter from Brownwood, TX, has passed away due to injuries suffered while attempting to catch a souvenir ball thrown to him by Texas Rangers left-fielder Josh Hamilton.

Josh Hamilton just wanted to give a fan—and his young son—something they could cherish forever: a game ball from a Major League Baseball game delivered by a hometown hero. Hamilton's kind gesture couldn't have possibly turned out worse.

The gruesome accident occurred in the second inning of the Rangers’ series opener against the Oakland Athletics, shortly after Stone allegedly called to Hamilton to throw him a ball hit by Conor Jackson that had landed in foul territory. 

Hamilton obliged and flipped the ball up to Stone who was seated in the first row of seats above and behind the Rangers' 14-foot left field scoreboard. The first row is recessed from the left field wall by a few feet—which creates a gap large enough for a person to fall through.  

Spectators said that immediately after Stone caught the ball, he tumbled over the railing, falling 20 feet head-first.

Paramedics quickly attended to the man, who—according to witnesses—was apparently conscious when he was placed on a stretcher to be taken to a nearby hospital. 

According to a news release issued by the Arlington Fire Department, Stone went into full cardiac arrest en route to John Peter Smith Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:26 PM (CST). Stone's fall occurred at 7:33 PM (CST).

In May of this year a 27-year-old fan at a Colorado Rockies game fell approximately 20 feet, causing injuries that led to his death.

This is the first time a fan has been fatally injured after a fall at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington—but on two prior occasions fans have fallen. The first occurrence was at the first home game of the 1994 season—when the stadium was known as “The Ballpark in Arlington.” A 28-year-old woman lost her balance while posing for a photograph and fell, breaking her arm and neck. She recovered fully.

Eerily, it was almost exactly one year since the last accident when a man—also a firefighter—fell 30 feet from an area of the ballpark directly across the field from where last night’s tragedy occurred. He was released from the hospital two days later after sustaining serious, but non-life threatening injuries.

CEO and President of the Texas Rangers Nolan Ryan spoke about the tragedy during a press conference at 3:00 PM (CST) that was broadcast on ESPN's Dallas Radio affiliate 103.3 FM:

"...It hits us at the roots of who we are. We’re about making memories, about family entertainment, and last night we had a father and a son at the game and had a very tragic incident. It just drives it to the core of what we’re about and the memories we try to make in this game for our fans."

Immediately after the first incident in 1994, the Texas Rangers raised the railing in the upper deck seating areas, which seemed to do the trick, as it would be 16 years until the next accident of this nature occurred. 

A tragedy of this nature certainly raises questions about the overall safety—not just at the Rangers Ballpark—but at all sporting events.

An obviously distraught Josh Hamilton was not available for comment after the conclusion of the Texas Rangers’ 6-0 victory over their AL West rival Oakland Athletics.

My heart and prayers go out to Shannon Stone's young son—who was in attendance—and to the rest of his family, friends, and loved ones. 

My thoughts are with Josh Hamilton—how many thousands of times has he chucked a ball to a fan out of the kindness of his own heart? My prayers are that Hamilton won't blame himself solely. It was just a freak accident—of the most tragic kind.

A fund has been set up for the deceased man's six-year-old son, Cooper.  The Texas Rangers have publicly mentioned they will make a donation, but the details of the amount and where/how the public can donate will not be released until after 5:00 PM (CST).