Danger at the Ballpark

 

 

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Pitchers are throwing the ball 90 – 100 miles per hour now. A 90-mph fastball can leave the bat at 110 mph. source

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Anyone who pays some attention to baseball knows that it’s dangerous to get near a game.  That’s why batters wear helmets and pads.  And it’s one reason spectators pay attention to every pitch and protect themselves. Also they want the ball. Also the sharp pieces of broken bats fly into the crowd.

While I was driving past Louisville once, I heard on the radio a man from the Louisville Slugger company who said major league players use 80 bats in a season.

These dangers are greatest in the lower, very expensive seats, though we’ve seen  foul balls come toward us on the upper deck.

I feel sorry for anyone hurt anywhere, maybe especially kids; but I feel no support for lawsuits demanding damages from the team owners.

Why do people take small children and even infants into an area swarming with people, then into a park with 40,000 people, some drinking beer and/or margaritas, busy with hot dogs, tacos, and nachos ?  My authoritative belief  is that most kids under 9 or 10 can’t or don’t want to focus on the process of the game or to be alert to dangers of various kinds, including  hygiene in the busy washrooms.  Is that changing table clean?  The kids can learn the game from television as well or better than in the park.  Always with parental help, of course.

When a hot line drive heads into the stands, will you always see it coming?  You’d better.

You can’t expect to collect on an injury that is your own damn fault.

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From the Trib:

Spectators hurt by baseballs face long odds in court
State law shields teams from litigation

By Steve Schmadeke and Elvia Malagon,  Chicago Tribune 10.14.17
Juanita DeJesus never saw the ball coming.
DeJesus was sitting along the first base line at a 2009 minor-league baseball game in Gary when an infield fly struck her in the face just as she looked up to spot the ball. The impact broke several bones in her face and resulted in permanent blindness in her left eye.
Her injuries were strikingly similar to those recently suffered by John “Jay” Loos, a Schaumburg man who filed a negligence lawsuit against the Chicago Cubs this week after also being blinded in his left eye when he was hit by a foul ball while sitting in a seat down the first base line in the outfield at Wrigley Field in late August.
“I had no idea that you were subjected to such missiles and the rate of speed that a ball can come into the stands,” Loos, 60, told reporters Monday. “In the stands, you know, you are sitting behind the plate, you can’t tell when the ball is contacted, you can’t tell where the ball is going, you can’t tell the rate of speed it’s going until it’s on top of you.”
But like DeJesus, whose lawsuit was dismissed outright by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2014, Loos faces long odds of winning in court.
Not only have judges across the country thrown out such lawsuits, but Illinois is one of four states where the legislature enshrined into law the so-called Baseball Rule, which absolves stadium owners of liability so long as an adequate number of seats — largely in the area looking onto home plate — are behind protective netting. Fans who sit elsewhere are presumed to have willingly assumed the risk of being hit by a ball or bat, according to the rule, which is now more than a century old.
The debate over increased safety — versus fans enjoying unobstructed views and the chance to catch a souvenir foul ball — was reignited in September when a little girl was hit by a rocketing foul ball at Yankee Stadium, prompting Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, to say the league is looking again at extending protective netting.
“The events at yesterday’s game involving a young girl were extremely upsetting for everyone in our game,” Manfred said in a statement, adding: “We will redouble our efforts on this important issue.”
In 2015, the league issued recommendations that ballparks have protective netting between the dugouts for any field-level seats within 70 feet of home plate. Those recommendations prompted the Cubs to extend the netting out that distance at Wrigley Field before the 2016 season, a Cubs spokesman has said.
The team’s president of business operations, Crane Kenney, told WSCR-AM 670 The Score last month that the Cubs would add at least 30 more feet of netting before next season as Wrigley Field renovations move the dugouts farther down the foul lines. Last year the White Sox also extended netting at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Beyond the Baseball Rule, legal obstacles include difficulty proving that spectator injuries are so commonplace that the courts should intervene. Last year, a federal judge in California threw out a class-action lawsuit against MLB filed by two fans who argued protective netting should be strung up along the entire length of the foul lines at all stadiums. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to show they and any other fans faced enough risk of injury to give them legal standing to sue.
In Loos’ case, his attorney argues there are two exceptions in the law that could allow them to win the lawsuit. He hopes to convince a judge that the MLB isn’t covered by Illinois’ stadium owner liability law and that the Cubs’ conduct in failing to install netting was reckless — both high hurdles. Another injured fan who alleged the Cubs recklessly removed netting behind home plate in 1992 to make way for skyboxes saw his case dismissed, records show.
“It’s obvious that the Cubs have known people are being seriously injured — it’s happened there before,” said Loos’ attorney, Colin Dunn. “It’s at least going to be a jury question as to whether this was willful and wanton conduct.”
But Dunn indicated the case may get settled. “I got a feeling that they want to talk to us,” he said of the Cubs, whom he reached out to before filing suit. “They do care about their fans. I’m hopeful that they’ll do the right thing.”
A Cubs spokesman declined to comment but directed a reporter to the statement issued by the team Monday that said “the safety of our fans is paramount to a great game day experience.”
It’s not publicly known whether these types of injuries are on the rise, though the class-action lawsuit alleged that they likely were, as pitching speeds go up and batted balls travel faster. A 2003 study found that about 35 fans were injured by foul balls per 1 million spectator visits to major league stadiums.
The risks of being hit by an errant ball or broken bat are low, according to lawsuits filed against other major league teams over injuries. But the injuries they cause can be catastrophic, especially to children.
A 7-year-old Cubs fan attending his first baseball game at Wrigley Field in 2008 was left with a fractured skull and swelling around his brain after being hit in the head by a line drive, the Tribune reported. There are no records indicating the family ever filed a lawsuit.
The Atlanta Braves reportedly settled a lawsuit recently filed by the father of a 6-year-old girl whose skull was fractured by a line drive in 2010.
But in an aside in her ruling to toss a California class-action lawsuit, the judge questioned why the league hadn’t done more to mitigate the danger to its youngest fans.
“Why Major League Baseball, knowing of the risk to children in particular, does little to highlight this risk to parents remains a mystery,” wrote Oakland U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in her ruling throwing out the class-action lawsuit over protective netting.
In 2014 a Bloomberg Businessweek report found that about 1,750 spectators are injured annually by baseballs that fly into the stands. Around 73 million people attend major league games each year.
Spokespeople for the Cubs and White Sox declined to provide figures on how many fans are similarly injured each year.
Figures unearthed in the class-action lawsuit show that during the 2015 season at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles an average of about two people were hurt by foul balls per game out of the 46,000 on average in attendance. In Seattle, about 300 people attending Mariners games were injured by errant baseballs out of the 10 million who attended games between 2005 and 2009, according to an appeals court ruling upholding the dismissal of another fan injury case.
This week, the Chicago City Council passed a toothless resolution calling for the city’s major league teams to surpass MLB’s minimum standards for protective netting and instead “lead the league.” The resolution also asks the teams to “reconsider” the Baseball Rule that transfers liability for spectator injuries to fans who sit in unprotected areas.
In the early 1990s, two rare legal victories for spectators injured while attending separate Cubs and White Sox games may have been the impetus for an Illinois law that now protects stadium owners from similar suits.
Delbert Yates Jr., a fourth-grader, was sitting behind Wrigley Field’s home plate in 1983 when he was struck under his right eye by a Leon Durham pop-up seconds after betting his sister whether Durham would get a hit, court records show. His attorneys at trial presented evidence that the screen behind home base was inadequate, and the family won a $67,500 jury verdict.
A state appeals court upheld the verdict in 1992. That same year, another appellate panel reinstated a lawsuit filed by a woman whose jaw was broken at a White Sox game when she looked up from her popcorn and was struck in the face by a foul ball, finding that the issue of whether the Sox had provided proper warning of her injury risks was a trial issue.
Just six months later, state lawmakers stepped in and passed the Baseball Facility Liability Act, shielding stadium owners from most lawsuits by turning the Baseball Rule into state law. James Jasper, who was struck by a foul ball at a Cubs game, filed a lawsuit over his injury and argued the new law was an unconstitutional handout to stadium owners. But in 1999 an appellate court upheld the law and the lower-court dismissal of Jasper’s lawsuit, essentially ending the legal issue in Illinois.
Outside of Wrigley Field during a recent scheduled playoff game, many fans sided with the Cubs organization on the issue of fan injuries. Among them was Naomi Rodriguez, 56, of Wrigleyville, who said spectators must pay attention to flying balls and bats.
“When you walk in the park, you have to know that this can happen,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just what happens, but I love my Cubbies. I back them up 100 percent.”
Others welcomed more protective netting at Wrigley Field. Mike Ford, 46, of Crown Point, said he believes fans are assuming the risk of being injured by sitting in areas where foul balls typically land. Standing outside of Wrigley Field with his 11-year-old son, Ford said the risk of being hit with one of the balls is one of the reasons why he buys seats in the terrace reserved outfield area.
He would like to see the spectator netting extended at the ballpark, which would expand his seating options.
“I’d be willing to go down to that section if I had the opportunity to,” he said.
sschmadeke@chicagotribune.com
emalagon@chicagotribune.com
Twitter @steveschmadeke
Twitter @elviamalagon

Happy New Year ! –Photo

New Year's Eve 2016Nugent and Foote

New Year’s Eve party of Penn State alumni  Rose Bowl tour in hotel in Los Angeles was held at 7:30 with pastry and cheese and speeches.  Several hundred tourists celebrated the New York new year at 9:00 with party ending at 9:30.  I intend to write about this trip for the blog.  RJN

 

 

City Stable Closing

Image result for horse carriage chicago photo
As Old Town stable faces demolition, carriage owners see tenuous future
Elyssa CherneyContact Reporter  Chicago Tribune  12.9.16

The sprawling, two-story stable that sits in the middle of a residential block in Old Town has overcome its share of hurdles.

Since debuting as a riding school in 1871, the red-brick building has survived multiple bankrupted owners, a business license debacle, a horse heist by a former employee and two fires — the most recent was ruled arson.

But the Noble Horse Theatre, regarded as Chicago’s last original stable, may finally meet its end when a developer seeks approval Thursday to erect a seven-story apartment building in its place.

The likely demolition of Noble Horse represents the latest blow to an already beleaguered industry, business owners said. In addition to rising property prices, the horse carriage companies grapple with a number of challenges in Chicago, they said, including restrictions on carriage stand locations and a rush-hour ban.

“It’s hard to see that the city, and society in general, no longer values the entertainment, the contribution and the amazingness of horses,” said Wendy Burtt, Antique Coach & Carriage, one of two companies that housed animals and equipment at Noble Horse until this past spring. “It’s the history of the building that’s so amazing.”

Across from the Brown Line “L” tracks, trash, leaves and stale horse pellets littered the stable grounds Thursday. A gap in the metal fence around the property allowed access to the multibuilding campus, where insulation hung from the ceilings and the walls peeled. Neon spray-painted graffiti was scribbled in a dark hallway that led to a riding arena.

LG Development Group is seeking a zoning change to construct a 252-unit complex at the intersections of North Orleans, West Schiller and North Sedgewick streets and is scheduled to appear before the Chicago Plan Commission next week. LG Development did not respond to a request for comment.

Now Antique Coach and the second business that used the space, Great Lakes Horse & Carriage, have been forced to find lodging elsewhere. Burtt relocated to a warehouse in Lincoln Park, converting it to a stable. Jim Rogers, owner of Great Lakes, said he trucks his horses in from northwest Indiana.

“We are victims of gentrification just like every other small business,” said Burtt, spokeswoman and driver for Antique Coach. “We’re a dying industry. At some point, real estate will be out of our financial reach.”

The 1-acre lot that Noble Horse occupies was worth $500,000 in 1991, according to the Cook County recorder of deeds. In April, when it was sold for development purposes, the land went for at least $7.8 million, records show.

For some Old Town residents, Noble Horse Theatre is a relic of how the neighborhood was in the 1990s before — as one woman walking her dog put it — “it was all fancy with condos.”

Maurice Simpson, 53, who has lived nearby since the 1960s, said he never went inside the stable but is sad to see it go. One of his friends rented a carriage for his wedding eight years ago, Simpson said.

“I’m against any sort of demolition in the old neighborhood,” he said. “But we are undergoing massive changes. Some people don’t see the [stable] as necessary.”

Some younger residents who were newer to the area weren’t familiar with the property and wondered about its purpose. After learning about Noble Horse from a Chicago Tribune reporter, Allison Hammer, a 31-year-old nurse, said she would have been curious to know more.

“Historical landmarks are an important part of preserving the city,” said Hammer, who’s lived in Old Town for three years.

The carriage operators have mixed reactions about the fate of Noble Horse. Burtt will mourn the loss of a city gem. Rogers, however, is more concerned with practicalities.

Rogers said he got six months’ notice to vacate but has struggled finding another affordable space to rent where landlords don’t mind livestock. In his 20 years of running the company, Rogers said, he’s relocated at least eight times. He operates three horse-drawn carriages in the city.

“It was extremely inconvenient, but it’s just like another change of address,” he said. “It’s a great place, and it’s too bad.”

Burtt and Ortega, who run 10 carriages each, said their operations are too large to transport by truck. They need to house the horses close to downtown so the animals can walk to Michigan Avenue, where throngs of eager tourists make up the heart of their profits.

Ortega, whose stable is in an industrial area at North Kingsbury and West Willow streets, was among the first to rent stable space at Noble Horse in 1981. That was when the property straddled the troubled Cabrini-Green housing project and gunshots frequently rang out, recalled Ortega.

“When I started there, it was dirt poor,” he said. “There were shootings there in the middle of the street, and the neighbors were happy we moved onto the street because we brought some civility and they felt they could come out at night.”

Dan Sampson, who used to run the city’s largest carriage company, operated the Noble Horse then. He took it over in 1984 and revived the stable over 25 years, offering riding lessons, the carriage service and eventually a dinner-show production. He also pushed a $2.5 million renovation, adding 300 seats to the arena in 2003.

But Sampson also faced adversity. The stable was nearly bankrupt in 1991, a real estate company threatened to bulldoze it in 1997 and a fire ravaged the interior in the same year.

As Sampson built the business, the neighborhood changed. Cabrini Green shuttered for good in 2011. Gentrification continued as swanky restaurants popped up, and The Second City comedy club attracted an artsy crowd to settle nearby, though the 2008 economic crisis stalled some of the development.

At its height in the ’80s and ’90s, there were 60 horse-drawn carriages clopping the streets of downtown — compared with the 23 in use now. Though the current companies have converted some spaces to serve as stables, they say the Noble Horse building is the last standing stable originally built for that purpose.

By 2009, Sampson could not sustain his carriage and dinner-show business, blaming the city’s regulations for a hand in its demise. Afterward, Burtt and Rogers rented space from the property owner, real-estate developer Sheldon Baskin.

The most recent blaze in February, which damaged 13 horse-drawn carriages, appears to have been set by animal rights extremists, according to the FBI. Graffiti typically associated with that movement — spray-painted messages of “Save the horses” and “freedom” — was discovered in the barn, said the FBI, which is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Burtt said the industry can’t afford to fight the Noble Horse closure and said she had to emotionally detach from the property. She filmed as the last horse rode out of the barn for the final time April 1, chronicling what she calls the end of an era.

“There are kids in the city who will never have contact with horses like ours if we’re gone,” Burtt said. “Tourism in Chicago is a No. 1 industry, and we bring a very important aspect to the tourism industry, but they are forgetting about us … We’re not big business companies, we’re not corporate finance. We’re just small people trying to do our thing.”

Tour of “Hidden Union Station”

 

Furnished by John

November 11, 2015

The hidden Union Station: Take a tour        source

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A historic photo of Union Station’s old ticket room, now being converted to a first-class passenger lounge.

Anyone who’s seen “The Untouchables,” the Kevin Costner version, has an idea of how stunning Chicago’s Union Station used to be.

The famous baby-carriage scene in the 1987 film showed some of the station’s beauty, set on marble steps flanked by brass railings that flowed into a huge room. It suggested what used to be the reality: Union Station was the O’Hare International Airport from the mid-’20s until the Korean War, the meeting place for the nation.

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The famous Union Station staircase scene from “The Untouchables.”

Recently, Crain’s photographer Manuel Martinez and I got a chance to look at what is hidden behind the walls of the million-square-foot structure. And, despite tarnish and dust and soot, it’s a lot.

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One of the many hidden areas of Union Station that commuters don’t see.

Tucked behind impervious walls and locked doors or accessed only by keyed elevators is a different world—700,000 or so square feet of empty but usable space, below, which station owner Amtrak is seeking partners to redevelop.

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The entire west wall of the building, flanking the Great Hall, used to be a mass of men and women’s lounges, a 17-barber barbershop and three-story Fred Harvey House Restaurant, both a cafe and a fine-dining room.

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Above, historic photos of Union Station’s cafe, barbershop and dining room. Below, the barbershop then and now.

The cafe closed after a fire in 1981 and is empty—except for the Christmas decorations and fixtures stored in a corner, the blackened walls and the boarded-up three-story windows.

One small room in the station has been redeveloped as a lounge with Wi-Fi, satellite and other perks, at $20 a day. But at the moment, that’s about it.

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The redeveloped lounge.

There’s almost as much space on the east wall, underneath Canal Street. That used to be high-end retail, with a Marshall Field’s-esque look. Included: a false exterior wall with no ceiling (below), designed to give retailers a place to display their wares to pedestrians and to let a little more natural light enter. One section is being eyed for an indoor/outdoor cafe. Another room, once used to sell tickets, is being remodeled into a lounge for first-class passengers.

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The remains of the false exterior wall today.

Lightwells are a frequent feature of the building, which was partially designed by Daniel Burham—of Burnham Plan fame—before his death. “Daniel Burnham was a pain in the butt because he was a build-forever (type of guy),” says Amtrak building manager Paul Sanders. “Well, guess what. We’re at forever.”

That’s seen even better upstairs, in the seven empty floors that used to house railroad offices and that flank the Great Hall’s glass atrium, which, miraculously, is still there.

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Above, a now-empty area where a new first-class lounge could be located.

The offices are empty, stripped to the walls, wheelchair accessible and ready for development, Sanders enthuses.

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A walled-off area in Union Station that used to house a women’s lounge.

The area collectively is referred to as the station headhouse, and Amtrak is hoping to return it to what it looked like when it opened after 10 years of construction in 1925—and to make a few bucks off of it, too.

Union Station’s Great Hall, then and now.

Amtrak also is hoping to peddle adjoining air rights, too. If responses come in to its bid requests, the passenger rail service will get some badly needed money. And Chicago will get a piece of its history back.

Changes coming? Above, Union Station’s cafe, then and now.

Update, 12: 45 p.m. — In a somewhat related matter, two Illinois Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Dan Lipinski, have been named to the Senate/House conference committee that will hammer out the first multi-year road and transit bill in a decade.

The bill at the moment does not include financing for Amtrak, which is expected to be funded in a separate bill. But one key item is support for freight rail, with several projects in the pipeline that would help unclog Union Station, which was built as a long-distance rail hub but now mostly houses Metra’s commuter service. There’s also some pots of money at issue that Amtrak could tap for Union Station work.

Lipinski told me in an interview that his priorities in the conference include freight rail, as well as securing the somewhat higher overall spending level the Senate wants. Lipinski said he believes funding problems involving Chicago Transit Authority projects—especially extension of the Red Line south to the city limits and rebuilding the Red Line north—appear to have been taken care of. But the situation remains flexible until a bill is enacted.

Present-day photos by Manuel Martinez; historic photos via Amtrak.