Once upon a time, Albert Almora, Jr. ran his way into baseball history when his sharp baserunning in Game Seven helped the Cubs win their first World Series since the Roosevelt Administration. (Theodore.) But Wednesday night Almora was inconsolable after ripping a line foul just past the Minute Maid Park protective netting.
The ball hit a pretty little girl in the field level seats.
Almora became a father for the second time only recently. This one hit too close to home for him. He stepped away from the batter’s box and collapsed into an anguished crouch. His teammate Jason Heyward and his manager Joe Maddon tried to console him. Players on both sides and even the umpires were horrified.
After asking security personnel about the girl’s condition, Almora broke to tears.
Maddon offered Almora the chance to come out of the game but the outfielder declined the offer, saying later that he might have had a harder mental struggle if he came out. After the game, which the Cubs managed to win 2-1, Almora was no less shaken.
“I’m at loss of words,” he told reporters. “Being a father, two boys . . . but God willing, I’ll be able to have a relationship with this little girl for the rest of my life. But just prayers right now, and that’s all I really can control.”
Houston radio reported Thursday morning that the little girl awoke alert and hospitalised as a precaution, and was expected to recover. Almora won’t be comforted until she recovers completely. But note his precise wording about hoping to have a relationship with the little girl. It wouldn’t exactly be unheard of, and it would speak extremely well of him to do so.
Albert Almora, Jr., meet a fellow center fielder, Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn.
Ashburn was swift in the field and a pest at the plate and on the bases who hustled his way to the Hall of Fame to which he was elected in 1995, two years before his death. He was a beloved Phillies broadcaster from his retirement as a player before 1963 until he died in what he’d announced would be his final season’s broadcasting before retiring.
But that’s not why Albert Almora, Jr. should wish he could meet Richie Ashburn. The reason is Alice Roth.
Here’s hoping a) that baseball government extends the protective netting a little further down the lines of the field level seats, as Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant among others have renewed calls to do. And, b) that the little girl and her family prove as strong and stout as Ms. Roth.
When the Phillies played the Giants on 17 August 1957, Roth, the wife of Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor Earl Roth, attended the game with her two grandsons. Ashburn lined a foul that broke her nose and knocked her unconscious. The game paused while medics tended the lady.
When play resumed, Ashburn returned to the batter’s box . . . and hit another foul that caught Ms. Roth in the knee, fracturing a bone, as the medics carried her to an ambulance.
The good news: Ms. Roth recovered fully. The better news: Under Ashburn’s instigation, the Phillies treated the lady and her family so well the kids were brought to the clubhouse and handed free tickets and autographed balls.
The best news: Ashburn didn’t let it stop at that. He struck up a genuine friendship with the Roth family for the rest of his life. And Alice Roth continued rooting for the Phillies—from the left field bleachers. She wasn’t taking any chances.
But the it-figures news: One of her grandsons visited her in the hospital after she got drilled twice, and he couldn’t resist asking: “Grandma, do you think you could go to an Eagles game and get hit in the face with a football?”