Coroner: Fan struck in head by foul ball during Dodgers game died of blunt force injury

ByWillie Weinbaum ESPN logo
Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A California woman died in August as a result of being hit in the head by a batted ball at Dodger Stadium, according to a Los Angeles County coroner's report obtained by ESPN's "Outside the Lines" and details her daughter revealed to OTL in December.

Linda Goldbloom, a mother of three and grandmother of seven, died on Aug. 29. The coroner's report states the cause as "acute intracranial hemorrhage due to history of blunt force trauma" and states that the injury occurred when she was struck in the head with a baseball during the Aug. 25 game at Dodger Stadium.

Television coverage of the Padres-Dodgers game that night did not follow the flight of the ball or show where it ended up. No media outlet has reported what happened, but Goldbloom's family didn't keep it a secret and included this sentence in e-mail notifications on the day she died:

The accident happened in the top of the ninth inning, with San Diego's Franmil Reyes the batter, Goldbloom's daughter, Jana Brody, told OTL. He fouled back a 93 mph pitch from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The ball was hit a little to the first-base side of home plate, it sailed into the Loge Level -- just over the area protected by netting -- and it struck Goldbloom's head as she sat in section 106, row C, seat 5.

"Ushers came down and asked if she was all right, and she said no, then EMT came and rushed her to the hospital -- she threw up in the ambulance," Brody said.

Goldbloom, a longtime Dodger fan, was celebrating her recent 79th birthday and 59th wedding anniversary with her husband, Erwin, brother-in-law Michael and sister-in-law Eve.

Brody was 100 miles away and celebrating her own wedding anniversary when she got the news that her mother was going to have emergency brain surgery after midnight at L.A County-USC Medical Center.

For three days, Goldbloom was unresponsive, Brody said, except when a nurse saw her move one finger one time upon being asked if her name was Linda. Her eyes never opened at the hospital, and a ventilator kept her breathing.

On the night of Aug. 28, Goldbloom's whole family and a rabbi gathered around her to share memories and say goodbye before abiding by her wish that she not be kept alive by machines if doctors deemed it impossible to restore her quality of life.

After Goldbloom died the next morning, the Dodgers made no public comments about her death or what caused it. When OTL contacted the team Monday, more than five months later, a spokesman provided this statement:

"Mr. and Mrs. Goldbloom were great Dodgers fans who regularly attended games. We were deeply saddened by this tragic accident and the passing of Mrs. Goldbloom. The matter has been resolved between the Dodgers and the Goldbloom family. We cannot comment further on this matter."

Brody told OTL on Monday that she and her family would not comment on any agreement with the Dodgers or possible legal action, but she said she hopes to have a fund established in her mother's memory to assist victims of such accidents and their families.

In Major League Baseball's 150-year history, there were two previous reported instances of fans dying after being struck in the stands by balls that left the field of play, including one nearly half a century ago on a foul at Dodger Stadium:

  • Clarence Stagemyer, 32, died one day after he was hit in the head by a thrown ball on Sept. 29, 1943, at Griffith Stadium in Washington. Senators third-baseman Sherry Robertson fielded a grounder hit by Cleveland's Ken Keltner and threw it over the head of first baseman Mickey Vernon, and the ball struck Stagemyer in the first row of the stands.
  • Alan Fish, 14, died four days after he was hit in the head by a foul ball on May 16, 1970, at Dodger Stadium. L.A.'s Manny Mota was batting against San Francisco's Gaylord Perry when he hit a liner down the first-base line, near the dugout, that struck Fish two rows from the field.

The fatal injury to Goldbloom came during the first season in which all 30 major league teams had protective netting extending from behind home plate to at least the far ends of both dugouts to safeguard especially vulnerable sections of stadiums' lower bowls. MLB didn't mandate such extensions but had issued recommendations.

Several teams that hadn't already announced plans for increased netting in 2018, including the Dodgers, did so after a young girl, seated on her grandfather's lap behind the third-base dugout, suffered life-threatening injuries from a foul line drive that left the bat at 105 mph and hit her in the face on Sept. 20, 2017, at Yankee Stadium.

After the Yankees and other teams installed more extensive netting for last season, Geoff Jacobson, the father of the recovering toddler, told ESPN, "Sadly, it often takes great tragedy and suffering to cause change." He said he hoped his daughter would eventually write a college application essay about "how she was the last person to be seriously hurt at a baseball game."

"My heart goes out to the whole family," Jacobson said after OTL told him what happened to Goldbloom. "It's so unnecessary that this had to happen. ... It's just tragic that another family is going through this and lost a loved one."

MLB has historically relied on the century-old "Baseball Rule" to deter and defend against claims of injuries in the crowd from the impact of baseballs and thrown or broken bats. It says on the back of tickets that fans assume the risks incidental to games when they enter ballparks, and courts of law have generally held that as long as teams provide warnings and install netting in the areas of greatest danger, MLB has lived up to its responsibility.

As MLB teams have put in the netting extensions, some fans who've endured serious injuries in ballpark episodes over the years have said it's not enough and that spring training, minor league and college parks are not keeping pace and are even more dangerous.

Brody said she hopes her mother's death will spark serious consideration of further increases in protection, perhaps using Japan's more extensively netted stadiums as examples, especially in an era of bigger and stronger players, higher velocity and launch-angle projectiles, and more and more distractions for people attending games.

"I just hope MLB takes a serious look in the mirror and continues to evaluate and improve fan safety," Jacobson said. "It was always questionable whether the nets were extended far enough or high enough, and every stadium has different degrees of protections."

He suggested that the nets go all the way to the foul pole, as in Japanese ballparks. "Why did they stop where they stopped?" he said. "It seems arbitrary."

"I'd love to see the netting extended vertically, and we know it doesn't block the view," Brody said. "Raise it a little higher -- what's the hurt in that?"

Unlike some modern fans, whose smartphones can be dangerous diversions when the ball is in play, Goldbloom had only a flip phone that she wasn't using then and hardly ever took out, Brody said. The ball ricocheted off her mother's head and struck her uncle in the stomach, but he wasn't injured.

Her parents, Brody said, had the same seats for about 10 games each of the past 10 years under partial season-ticket plans, and in the preceding decade, they attended about the same number of games in a different set of seats.

Erwin Goldbloom turned down his chance at Dodgers postseason tickets and didn't renew for 2019 but will consider attending single games in seating that is "somewhere safe" -- meaning where there's netting -- Brody said.

Linda Goldbloom, described by Brody as a "true fan," was buried about 10 miles from Dodger Stadium.

"My mom went to the game and never came home," Brody said. "People need to be aware, and we'd really like them to be protected in the future."

Nicole Noren of the ESPN Enterprise Unit contributed to this report.