I Cry Foul

The foul ball ricocheted off the seats behind and bounced slightly over our heads before being swallowed up by fans diving into the row in front of us.

One of those fans was my son. After 30 years of attending Giants games, he came up with a ball, perfectly scuffed and dinged, rubbed a pale yellow brown from requisite Mississippi mud. A surprised and happy smile was on his face.

Then he generously handed it to his mama.

Hubs & Me
Sitting to my right was a pleasant and friendly British couple visiting San Francisco while celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. The man explained that toward the end of the day he decided he wanted to attend an American baseball game while they had the chance. He didn't know the Giants were about to meet their century-plus dreaded rivals in the first home-turf match up of the year. He had unknowingly chosen the biggest game of the still young season as their introduction to baseball.

The gentleman asked several questions about rules, tradition, players and positions, passing each answer along to his wife. They caught on quickly and did spot on impersonations of long-time Giants fans cheering and booing in all the right places.

I thought my husband and son, both to my left, were privy to the ongoing chit-chat. Mistake #1.

Son handed the ball to Mama as unwritten protocol suggests (hand-off hierarchy is generally an offer of the ball to the nearest small child, followed by girlfriend/wife, and last, mom, especially if a rabid fan). The Englishman looked as though his heart might stop from the thrill of being so near the major league ball. He asked if he could hold it.

It was obvious to me that though he’d been born in the land of cricket and tea he nonetheless had the baseball gene. He excitedly fondled, turned and examined the gem with a seemingly innate understanding of the sacred, spheroid symbol of the game.

He handed it back with slight hesitation.

“Do you think another will land this way?” he asked.

It occurred to me that I might have many more chances to win foul ball roulette and my son even more than I. In a fit of enthusiasm I gave the man the ball, catching only a glimpse of my son’s horrified face. Mistake #2.

I had assumed my son knew the situation next to me, understood my thinking, and given his tendency toward regular decluttering of random objects in his urban-slick flat, was completely in agreement. Mistake #3.

Wonderful British wife had apparently been peering over my shoulder as I faced her husband and saw the scene play out. She watched my son stare in disbelief when I offered the ball to her husband. She saw his aghast look when her husband lovingly clutched it. It was only when I observed her face that I had an inkling that something, probably not good, was occurring behind me. I turned to witness the face.

Could a mom feel worse?

I tried to explain. I tried to fix. I apologized profusely. I didn’t realize, I said. I didn't remember there hadn’t been a ball before this one. I assumed he would be happy the ball was going with a tourist, that he would want it to go home with someone who'd never again have a chance to catch one. That the thrill of possibility we experience each time we queue for the squeeze through the gates of our stadium was enough to sustain us, along with the knowledge we'd provided joy to someone visiting our city and our team. Mistake #4.

I thought our conversation was on the down low and sufficiently quiet and no one would be the wiser. Mistake #5.

As the sidebar continued between my son and me, and he struggled to be graceful and game with my gaffe, apparently another chat was held behind me between husband and wife.

The gentleman said, “Please, we can't accept this ball.” I think I noted a small gulp.

“In short order it will be gathering dust in a cupboard whereas with you it will be cherished. It’s a delightful gesture but we think the ball is more meaningful to you.”

Painful, I say, painful.

“No, please, sir, it’s yours. Your souvenir from tonight.”

He placed the ball in my hand.

“We insist.”

So polite. So lovely. So British.

I took the ball, turned and handed it with embarrassment to my son. He stealthily snatched it away dismayed by the entire affair.

I was still trying to explain that I’m really not an ingrate by nature, I was simply caught up in the moment and thinking he would want to do what I had done.

“I’m keeping my ball,” he said with eyebrow arched. “And in case you haven’t thought about it, TV cameras follow the foul balls. Everyone saw you. You re-gifted my ball! The commentators were probably saying, 'Look at that! That mom gave away her ball!'”

He had the gleam of payback in his eye. Mischief afoot.

The official scorekeeper says the error goes to the mom. In fact, multiple errors. A new record in baseball history books. (You know how they love stats in baseball.)

When things go foul, they fly there fast. Where was the umpire when I needed him? Game won. Face lost.


  1. Wow! What a story. I am not sure what I would have done.


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