Top 10 Bizarre Fatalities Caused by Balls

How many types of balls can you name? How many of said balls have killed someone?

We all know that sports can be dangerous, especially for the athletes who participate in them. You can certainly find stories of players who have passed on while playing their beloved sport, from football and boxing to racing and Olympic luge. And even people simply exercising can find themselves injured. However, what happens when the equipment they use becomes deadly?

Whether merely spectators or the result of more nefarious reasons, this list covers ten strange deaths caused by the balls used in these various activities.

10 Death by Baseball

Linda Goldbloom was enjoying the ninth inning of a baseball game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles when she was struck by a foul ball. An unidentified San Diego Padres hitter swung at a 150-kilometer-per-hour (93-mile-per-hour) pitch to send the ball over the protective netting behind home plate and into the 79-year-old woman’s head. According to a coroner’s report, Goldbloom died four days later from head trauma. An estimated 1,750 fans are struck by foul balls every season, but Goldbloom’s death was the first in nearly 50 years. While many of the injuries are serious, only two other deaths by foul balls—one in 1943 and another in 1970—have been reported.

Thanks to the “Baseball Rule,” American major league baseball teams cannot be held liable for the injuries inflicted on spectators. As long as the team offers some protected seating in the areas where foul balls are most likely to cause injuries (e.g., the netting that hangs behind home plate), it has met the standard of reasonable care. Most MLB tickets even feature a disclaimer warning that fans sitting outside the protected zone do so at their own risk.[1]

9 Death by Exercise Ball

Baba Yanyan was in her stroller on the street when something fell from an apartment building. A metal ball, one that is used for hand and wrist exercises, fell eight stories and struck the child in the head. Yanyan died hours later in the hospital.

Police were unable to identify the owner of the metal ball despite a door-to-door investigation of the apartment building’s 121 households. Without recompense for the criminal matter, the child’s family took their case to court. Families in the building were ordered to pay a “gift” to the family as compensation. Falling objects from apartment buildings is a persistent problem in China.[2]

8 Death by Cue Ball

In 1989, a 23-year-old painter was dubbed “Death Wish” because of his continuously reckless behavior. He’d smash tumblers on his face, slash his wrists with sharp objects, and swallow things like keys and glass. Local police described the man as “of good health physically but of low intellect.”

One of his favorite tricks involved swallowing and then regurgitating a pool ball. His friends had seen the stunt numerous times and paid little attention when Death Wish attempted it again after a night of heavy drinking. But this time, something went wrong.

Death Wish ran out of the pub, collapsed in the street, and turned blue. His friends were able to get their hands on the ball but could not extricate it. An ambulance team arrived and attempted to insert an airway tube, but it was too late. The pool ball obstructed the throat and prevented intubation. Fifteen minutes after swallowing the pool ball, the young man was dead.

Postmortem dissection revealed a white cue ball lodged firmly in the man’s throat. The cause of death was “suffocation secondary to an impacted foreign body in the throat.”

Every other time Death Wish performed this trick, he swallowed one of the colored pool balls, which measured 5.03 cm (2 inches) in diameter. Unfortunately, on that fateful night, the trickster swallowed the white cue ball, which at 4.75 cm (1.87 inches) is only slightly smaller in diameter but exponentially smaller in volume: the perfect size to lodge in the man’s pharynx.[3]

7 Death by Bowling Ball

More than 30 police officers combed the Fort Worth, Texas, area searching for Sida Osman. The 5-year-old boy had been playing in front of his apartment building when he disappeared. His badly beaten body was discovered in a vacant lot the next day.

Another boy, age 14, admitted to beating Sida with a bowling ball because he found the child “irritating.” Prosecutors revealed that the teen struck the boy multiple times before straddling him to deliver a final blow, much like “spiking a football.” The killer wiped his fingerprints from the ball before tossing it into a nearby yard. While Sida’s family was frantically searching for him, the teen reportedly brought friends to the scene to show off his handiwork.

Unfortunately, the murderer was not eligible to be tried as an adult. At a detention hearing, he tearfully confessed as part of a plea deal and was sentenced to 23 years in prison. The first two years…


Written by Mary Fetzer

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