A foul ball is all Shannon Stone wanted for his son Cooper last Friday — so much so that he even stopped on the way to the Texas Rangers game to buy him a new glove. The script was unfolding perfectly when their baseball idol, Josh Hamilton, …
What boy doesn’t dream of catching a foul ball at a baseball game? Wearing my Bill Mazeroski, No. 9, “Lil’ Slugger” T-shirt as a kid, each of the few Pittsburgh Pirate games I attended at old Forbes Field was the time I was sure I’d make a beautiful catch to snag the ultimate souvenir. Never did, of course.
A foul ball is all Shannon Stone wanted for his son Cooper last Friday — so much so that he even stopped on the way to the Texas Rangers game to buy him a new glove. The script was unfolding perfectly when their baseball idol, Josh Hamilton, picked up a foul ball and threw it in their direction. It was a 6-year-old’s dream day until he watched his father fall through a gap between the seats as he caught the ball, stumble over a 33-inch-high railing and fall 20 feet onto concrete to his death.
A 39-year-old firefighter and his only son, “almost attached at the hip” as Cooper’s grandmother said, and joy turned to horror in a second. That’s how fast it can happen to everyone every single day — one mental lapse, one diversion from concentration, and life changes forever.
That’s all it took for Lee Smith many years ago when he was building his dream house just west of Cody on the North Fork Highway. Many people think he died falling from the top of the pagoda-like monstrosity, but his brother told me he fell only 12 feet. He was cutting in a valley section when he slipped on some sawdust, fell and broke his neck.
It was a valley section of my brother Paul’s tiny porch addition I was working on when I fell onto my face and broke my nose several years ago. I was doing the small roofing job at the special Blough pro-bono price, rushing so I could meet my buddies for Monday Night Football. As my dog Trinity watched from under a tree I’d leashed him to, I inched backwards on my knees, cutting shingles from the valley.
Suddenly I ran out of inches and my next conscious thought was, “Why am I down here, why this extreme pain in my face, and why is Trinity nearly pulling over the tree to get to me?”
Mercifully, it was a grass landing my face found, but blood was gushing from my nose and I was staggering around like a Saturday night instead of Monday evening. I still made it to the game, and Trinity licked my nose all the way into town.
At a huge building under construction in Powell in the 80s, I wasn’t having nearly as much fun as a major league baseball game when I fell 25 feet and nearly met my maker. I was roofing for my brother Jess on a two-story building on the way to the old Cemetery Road. I’m not sure what the building houses now, but it was the Farmers Home Administration about 15 years ago, because when I went there to make my house payment, I’d look up and reminisce.
It was a cedar shake roof, and I was using a Skil saw to cut the last course of shakes when I took a couple steps backwards and fell through the air with the greatest of ease (and the saw still whirring beside my ear). I had stepped through the plastic, temporary cover of a skylight and found the concrete floor in a violent hurry.
The carpenters were almost as shocked as I was when I landed, since they’d just settled in for their lunch break when I dropped in on them. I was lucky enough to land on my keester instead of my head, so a shattered pelvis was the main consequence of my flight from focus. Hating roofing like I did, the two months on Worker’s Comp during the hottest part of summer was almost a blessing in disguise, even though it was on crutches.
My friend Todd Jackson loves the Spike TV show, “1,000 Ways to Die,” but 1,000 is probably an underestimation. My friend Phil Moore died skydiving decades ago, and I’ve known people who died skiing, horse-riding and rock-climbing. I often tell people, “Yeah, I live on the edge too. On the edge of my couch.”
But even the most cautious lifestyles offer 1,000 ways to die when one isn’t paying attention, and one can’t pay attention every minute of every day. Little Cooper Stone is forced to forever pay attention to the memory of his beloved Dad trying to catch a baseball for him, falling onto concrete, and then witnessing him die in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
It’s really scary out there. Pay attention. Avoid roofs, bungee cords, raging rapids and even high weeds where snakes hang out. In fact, stay on the edge of your couch, but get up slowly and deliberately when making a trip to the fridge for a cold drink.