# The luckiest man who ever lived

April 28, 2012 |

My brother was at the Cincinnati Reds’ game this afternoon, sitting a few rows up in the stands on the first base side. A ball was fouled off, and it bounced on one hop to a guy about five rows in front of him. On the very next pitch, the ball was fouled off again, and the same guy caught it.

OK somebody calculate the odds of this. Assume there are 250 pitches in a game, 5% of which result in balls going into the stands . . .

Seriously I bet this has never happened before.

BTW my brother a published a book this week, which those of you interested in Latin American history or drug policy or getting high would find very interesting.

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1. newsouthzach says:

OK, so there are, on average, 12.5 foul balls into the stands per game by your estimate. I’d guess that there are maybe 2000 seats that are in likely-foul range (infield, field level, etc.), so the odds are about 1 in 160 that a fan in your brother’s location will catch a foul on any given night. The odds are 1 in 20 (again by your estimate) that the following pitch will also go into the stands, and then it’s 1 in 2000 for him to catch that one. So, 1 in 160*20*2000= 1 in 6.4 million. About on par with winning a million dollars in Powerball. I’d say he should buy some lottery tickets.

But the placement of foul balls is not random.

2. I caught 2 foul balls in one AAA game once.
Was sitting in first few rows, first base side (but closer to home plate than 1st base.)

• Furious Jorge says:

On consecutive pitches, though?

3. elm says:

Is the picture saying that Hoke is the second luckiest man alive? Or that the power of his magic pointing enables the man to catch two balls?

4. king farouk says:

Had Hoke unleashed the rare double point (pictures do exist), not only would this gentleman catch two more foul balls, but it also would have rained chili.

• elm says:

Heck, there was a recent triple point photo! (Well, Hoke only provided 2 of the 3 points, but still!)

5. Clark says:

So, when did Bobby Baccalieri become the coach at Michigan?

• Paul Campos says:

That’s actually Jeff Garlin.

6. According to a friend of mine a guy in front of her at a recent Mariners game caught two — and gave one to her son.

She published the facts here

7. wengler says:

I’ve seen it before. Maybe not the very next pitch but the same at bat produced 2 foul balls directly back in front of one of the stadium entrances. A guy sitting with a disabled guy got both of them.

• SaminMpls says:

I have seen that exact same thing — a guy in the first row right next to the entrance who snagged two in the same game.

In the early 90s I saw the same person retrieve — but not actually catch — home run balls hit in consecutive at bats. At that time the Tigers had a lot of right handed power hitters and the Twins didn’t sell many tickets.

8. Sean says:

If this were a better world, getting two foul balls in a row would happen more often than this offense to everything that is holy.

• elm says:

Two questions inspired by that Deadspin post:
1. Would Michael Kay have been so scathing had they been Yankee fans who got the ball (and a Ranger kid who wanted it?)

2. What is wrong with the commenters at Deadspin? It seems the majority think you don’t give the kid the ball, because it would spoil him to give in when he’s crying or because “it’s not my kid so it’s not my problem.” I thought everyone agreed: if there’s a kid nearby, you give him/her the ball!

• Charlie Sweatpants says:

“What is wrong with the commenters at Deadspin?”

In general, Gawker properties attract an assholish element.

• McAllen says:

The parents of the kid have defended the couple who caught the ball, saying that they did offer it to the toddler but the parents refused to take it:

9. Bill Murray says:

Richie Ashburn once injured the same woman with foul line drives in the same at bat — from Wiki

During an August 17, 1957 game, Ashburn hit a foul ball into the stands that struck spectator Alice Roth, wife of Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor Earl Roth, breaking her nose. When play resumed, Ashburn fouled off another ball that struck Roth while she was being carried off in a stretcher.[3] Ashburn and Roth would maintain a friendship for many years and her son later served as a Phillies batboy.

according to the WaPo (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/10/AR2007081001606.html) it was the very next pitch

• Davis says:

I wanted to tell that story but you beat me to it. Ashburn was famous for fouling off good pitches. I didn’t know she was the wife of a sportswriter, though.

No matter how long you watch baseball, you still see things you’ve never seen before.

• Manju says:

Hmmm…Someone should do a before/after analysis of the Philadelphia Bulletin’s Ashburn coverage.

If it were Fox, MediaMatters would totally be on it.

10. rbs says:

That Astros-Braves playoff game in 2005 that went 17 or 18 innings. A guy in the Crawford boxes caught to home runs.

11. Jim Lynch says:

Last year, Nate Scheirholtz of the Giants homered into the right field upper deck at Coors stadium. It was a Ruthian-type blast. His brother didn’t catch it– what would the odds be of that happening?– but it landed in the same section and a mere five rows up from where he was sitting with friends. He ended up paying \$25 for the ball.

I wondered why Nate didn’t comp him better seats, too.

12. c u n d gulag says:

There was a great story I read once, where Richie Ashburn fouled a ball off and hit a woman.

She was hurt. He had broken her nose, and he went over and apologized.

She was being taken out of the park on a stretcher as he returned to the plate.

He then proceeded to foul-off the next pitch – and hit THE SAME woman as she was being carried off!

He again went over to apologize.
She asked him (if I remember correctly), “What do you have against me, Mr. Ashburn?”

What are the odds of THAT happening again?

• Tcaalaw says:

“Bill Murray” already posted that story about seven hours ago and just three posts above this one.

what are the odds that the same story is posted twice in the same thread, only three posts away from each other?

my buddy caught a foul ball at a sox game, well not so much caught as won the scramble for it under the seats. we were sitting way down the left field line, just in foul territory, and it was a rocket off the bat of i want to say carlton fisk that would have been a home run had it been fair, that bounced all over the place, off of several pairs of hands including mine, some seats, etc. so he won the scramble for the ball, thrust it triumphantly in the air for the cameras and everyone to see, sat down, we all wanted to see it. including the guy sitting in front of us, who had half of a nacho platter dumped on his hat during the melee. so he turns around, with cheese all over his hat, and asks to see the ball, which my buddy lets him see. we laughed our asses off, and named him cheese hat. the funniest part was that not only didn’t we tell him about his hat, but neither did his friends, and he spent the next couple of hours with a nacho cheese hat, none the wiser.

asked my buddy if he still had that ball, the famous cheese hat ball, not too long ago. no, he lost it. should have given it to a kid.

• Furious Jorge says:

No need to be an ass about it.

• c u n d gulag says:

OOOOOOOPS!!!
Sorry.

I usually read everyone’s comments to make sure I don’t look like the idiot I am and repeat someone elses point/story.

But I was in a rush because I only had a few minutes to comment before some relatives came over to eat the meal I’d prepared all morning.

But it IS a good story, isn’t it?

13. Hanspeter says:

Batters and pitchers are not random, so you can’t just calculate simple probabilities as to where the ball will go. Hitting a ball to he same place twice isn’t automatic, but there’s a reason the outfield pulls towards one side or the other when certain batters are up.

• skidmarx says:

Yes,indeed, the most likely trajectory of one ball will be the same as the previous ball, even if such duplication is fairly unlikely.

• Bill Murray says:

the type of pitch probably makes a difference in where the ball goes too

14. skidmarx says:

When you’re brother says

Combined with the historical circumstances of marijuana use in Mexico, which I thoroughly detail in Home Grown, it seems quite plausible that marijuana did occasionally produce bouts of “mad” behavior and even violence in Mexico a century ago (though certainly not all of such reports were legitimate; some were exaggerations by the press, others efforts by criminals to invoke the insanity defense).

I feel that is incumbent upon him to demonstrate that marijuana ever produced such effects, given the other more plausible explanations.
I would get angry about this, but, you know, what was the question again?

The problem is the placement of hit balls, foul or fair, are not random. Assuming the same pitcher and same batter, I would think it would be fairly common. The pitcher has certain tendencies and habits and is pitching in a certain way to maximize the outcome he wants, the batter is also trying to place the ball in a certain spot to maximize the results he wants. Put those two together with the number of foul balls per game and I think it would happen every other game or so.

16. calling all toasters says:

I guess Steve Bartman was only half as lucky as the luckiest man in the world. That’s still pretty lucky, though.

17. There was a great Radiolab episode about probabilities that explained how alot of these patterns seem totally unlikely to us because our brains don’t comprehend probability very well, when in fact these things are much more common than our intuition would guess. Iirc, they cited the example that there have been many people who won the lottery twice. And a couple that have won it twice on the same day.

18. Stag Party Palin says:

It’s “lucky” to get two foul balls in two consecutive pitches? Only if the balls are made of gold, dude.

The luckiest man who ever lived is Andrew Lloyd Weber. Full stop.

19. witless chum says:

It’s gonna be pretty amusing to watch the U of M soap opera this year, when all the bounces that went their way last year probably won’t do so again.

20. Gary K says:

But isn’t somebody going to fix the bogus calculation of the very first post? Accepting all the assumptions there, it’s still the event “somebody caught two consecutive foul balls” that amazes us, not “this particular guy caught two consecutive foul balls.” So remove the first factor 160, leaving us with a probability of 1 in 40,000, not at all astronomical. One would expect that this sort of thing has occurred many times in the history of MLB.