April 18, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Erwin Goldbloom’s wife died from a foul ball. He wants MLB to act

Erwin Goldbloom still watches the Dodgers on television and roots for the team he has followed faithfully for six decades, but he hasn’t set foot in Dodger Stadium since that fateful summer night in 2018, and he has no plans to return.

“There are too many memories,” Goldbloom, 87, said. “I just can’t go there anymore.”

Goldbloom and his 79-year-old wife, Linda, were sitting in the loge level of the stadium, just to the first-base side of home plate, when Linda was struck in the head by a foul ball in the top of the ninth inning of a game between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres on Aug. 25, 2018.

Linda Goldbloom, a longtime Dodgers fan, died four days later of “acute intracranial hemorrhage due to a history of blunt force trauma,” becoming the first fan to die after being hit by a foul ball at a big league game since 14-year-old Alan Fish was killed in Dodger Stadium on May 16, 1970.

“For me, it was a traumatic experience being at a ballgame, which I’ve been doing since I was four years old, and the next thing I know, my wife is in surgery at USC Medical Center,” said Goldbloom, a Dodgers partial season-ticket holder for some 20 years.

“I never got to speak to her from the time they put her in the ambulance, because she went immediately to surgery and died [four] days later from bleeding in the brain. My wife of 59 years is dearly missed by her three grown children and seven grandchildren.”

Erwin Goldbloom, who moved from his longtime West Hills home to Camarillo in 2019, recalled the painful experience during a Wednesday videoconference as part of a campaign to pressure baseball to expand safety netting at major league, minor league and spring-training stadiums throughout the country for the 2021 season.

The effort is being spearheaded by Jordan Skopp, 57, a Brooklyn-based realtor and lifelong baseball fan who is writing a book about the dangers of hard-hit foul balls and has started an online petition imploring fans to voice their concerns to Major League Baseball.

“My family’s goal is to never have this happen to anybody again,” Goldbloom said. “Nobody ever thinks it’s going to happen to them, and a lot of foul balls, you can easily get out of the way of. But this one wasn’t. I was sitting right next to her, and she was hit in the head.”

Goldbloom said his family and the Dodgers reached an agreement through mediation over a wrongful-death lawsuit, and the terms of the financial settlement were confidential.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred encouraged clubs to extend safety netting to the near-ends of both dugouts before the 2016 season and to at least the far-ends of both dugouts by 2018, but the netting in Dodger Stadium was not high enough to shield Linda Goldbloom from harm.

Manfred announced last winter that all 30 teams would extend netting into the outfield for the start of the 2020 season, with seven clubs extending them to the foul pole and 15 to the elbow in the outfield “where the stands begin to angle away from the field of play.”

But with the pandemic forcing teams to play in empty stadiums, there was less urgency to comply with the mandate.

After two young fans were struck by line drives in Dodger Stadium 2019, the team that August increased the height of the netting behind home plate from 26 feet to 33 feet and extended the netting an additional 124 feet down the baselines, almost to the foul poles.

The Angels added 35 feet to each side of their protective netting before the 2020 season, extending to sections roughly halfway between the infield and foul poles down each line in Angel Stadium.

According to Deadspin, 15 fans were seriously injured by foul balls in the 2019 regular season. Skopp’s research identified at least 39 children seriously injured by foul balls from 2008-2019 at major league and minor league games. Most of the children were struck in the head.

When Skopp phoned the spring training box offices of all 30 clubs last February and March, he said 16 of 30 teams — several teams share Cactus League and Grapefruit League stadiums — did not have safety nets that expanded beyond the end of the dugouts.

“It’s not a matter of if somebody will be seriously hurt, it’s when,” Skopp said. “I believe MLB has a moral imperative to take care of all the minor league affiliates. Why not have a baseball community with maiming-free zones, where nobody will be seriously injured again? I think we can do it.”

Skopp sent a letter to Manfred and the 30 team owners two weeks ago asking MLB to mandate “comprehensive extended netting” at all major league, minor league and spring training facilities. MLB confirmed receipt of the letter but has not formally responded.

“I hope it goes without saying,” Manfred said at the 2019 winter meetings, “that the safety of our fans in the ballpark are of paramount concern both to Major League Baseball and to the individual clubs.”