Truth is stranger than fiction in America’s favorite pastime

May 31, 2010



From the annals of truth is stranger than fiction come three recent instances from America’s favourite pastime – baseball.

Firstly, Philadelphia police deemed it sufficiently reasonable to deploy a conducted-energy weapon (TASER) on a 17 year old Steve Consalvi who – in keeping with the time honoured tradition of goofballs – ran onto the Philadelphia Phillies field.

This would not have happened in Canada. Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport after he was tasered five times by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (an autopsy was unable to determine if he died from excessive force or excited delirium) in circumstances which involved minimal threat to public harm not dissimilar to that at the Phillies ballpark. Mr. Dziekanski’s death initiated a public inquiry headed by Thomas R. Braidwood, QC, a lawsuit against the police officers, an out-of-court settlement between the RCMP and Dziekanski’s mother Zofia Cisowski. and restricting the use of TASERs such that they can only be fired in situations where a subject is causing bodily harm or will imminently cause bodily harm.

The Philadelphia Police Commissioner defended the actions of his officer. The police department’s internal affairs unit is investigating.

The intentions of those who wish to disturb a game are not always innocent however. A father and son (one of whom was carrying a pocket knife) stormed onto the field and assaulted MLB Kansas City Royals first-base coach Tom Gamboa in September 2002. The most notorious attack of an athlete by a fan occurred during a tennis match in Hamburg, Germany when Monica Seles was stabbed in the back by an obsessed fan.

Hence, what is reasonable use of force under these circumstances has about the same certainty as a low outside pitch on a 3-2 count and is very difficult to judge from the outside.

Next comes news that an amateur baseball player in Hamilton, ON has launched a $1.25 million lawsuit over a line drive that hit him in the head during a slow-pitch game because he was blinded by the sun. In allowing the case to go to trial, Mr. Justice James R.H. Turnbull of the Ontario Superior Court held that ‘the existing conditions were arguably dangerous’ in the absence of a sun screen. It is interesting that a judge would presuppose that an occupier’s duty of care owed to a baseball player extends to preventing a player from losing a ball in the sun and consequently being struck by it. Further, it supposes that the duty of the occupier – steel giant Dofasco in this case – outweighs the player’s assumption of those risks ordinarily inherent to the game. Reading into his ruling, the judge basically said that there is a legal duty to protect or warn players about those open and obvious risks which frequently occur during a baseball game. Into this untenable category Turnbull J lumps being blinded by the sun while trying to catch a baseball. In this light, the prospect of the plaintiff recovering damages appears exceptionally remote.

Lastly, 21 year old Matthew Clemmens pled guilty on 25 May to charges of simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment for his conduct when he vomited on a spectator and his 11 year old daughter in the stands during a Philadelphia Phillies game on April 14. The spectator was an off-duty police captain.–man-pleads-guilty-to-vomiting-on-girl-and-her-dad-at-baseball-game

This couldn’t possibly have been made up.

, , , , ,

Follow us:

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.


  1. ‘Pukemon’ baseball fan jailed over vomit attack on off-duty police officer « The Sports Law Canary - August 3, 2010

    […] The Canary reported on 31 May 2010 about the strange case of Matthew Clemmens who pled guilty to charges of simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment for his conduct when he vomited on an off-duty police captain and his 11 year old daughter in the stands during a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game on April 14. Matthew Clemmens mugshot […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: