Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox hit a home run at Rangers Ballpark on Tuesday night, only the ball didn't stay in the seats for long. After a young boy held the ball that his (apparent) father caught, a woman reported to be the boy's big sister took the ball and threw it back onto the field. She was willfully caving to the peer pressure of the fans around her (including members of her own party) that demanded the enemy home run sent back. And what did the boy think of big sis doing this? He told a Fox Sports TV reporter:
You're darned right, Coby (or Colby). As Rangers broadcaster Tom Grieve said, "That's not right." And it's all the fault of Chicago Cubs fans.
They're the ones, specifically the Bleacher Bums back of the late 1960s and '70s, who eventually inspired the rest of Major League Baseball fandom to copy the deplorable act of throwing an opponent's home-run ball back onto the field.
The gag is, it's like catching an ugly fish you don't want, so throw you it back. As if the home-run hitter would be forced to stop at a base because of an impending relay throw. Shamefully stupid tradition. The worst in sports. The concept itself, the giving in to peer pressure, the whole bit. Dennis Franz and Joe Mantegna or not.
This ain't no ugly bottom feeder. This is an official league ball. Catching a foul ball or, even better, a home run, is one of the coolest things that could ever happen to a fan at a game. No matter who hit the ball, regardless if he's on "your" team or not. You keep the ball, or give it to a kid. You don't take it from the kid, Backward Barbara. And if it's a famous player, you really shouldn't return the ball.
For example: If you root for the Phillies and you catch a Bryce Harper home-run ball, you are being — what's a nice word? — short-sighted by sending it back. Go watch the NFL, where commissioner Roger Goodell personally comes down from a skybox to swipe any footballs that might have gone fat left and into the grandstand. Those cost good money, you know!
Baseball is freedom's game. Independent thinkers should be encouraged. Liberty from stupid traditions should be encouraged. Keeping a baseball should be encouraged. So, the next time someone tells you to throw back a home-run ball, tell them to throw themselves on the field and see how it feels.
At least the kid got another ball (or two, by the look of things). It's not the same ball. It's still not right. At least it's something. But it's still like the kid says: