When Life Knocks You in the Nose

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, August 11, 2007

All the talk in the baseball world this week has been about Barry Bonds's capture of the title " home run king." And rightly so.

But my celebration of "America's favorite pastime" will take place next Friday, when I observe the 50th anniversary of an event that stands unequaled in the history of Major League Baseball. It will be never replicated in my lifetime. Bonds's feat notwithstanding, my enthusiasm is reserved for next Friday, even if I'm the only one in America raising a toast.

The date was Aug. 17, 1957. Location: the City of Brotherly Love. The Philadelphia Phillies were playing the New York Giants.

Richie Ashburn, longtime Phillies center fielder and a future Hall of Famer, was in the batter's box.

Ashburn hit Phillies fan Alice Roth with foul balls twice in the same at bat.

The first foul broke her nose. Play was stopped while Roth was administered to. When the game resumed, Ashburn fouled off the first pitch -- and the ball struck Alice Roth while she was being carried out on a stretcher.

That, I submit, was one of the great moments in baseball.

The day will come when Bonds's home run record will be broken. Ashburn's feat will stand unchallenged until the end of time.

But the focus of this column is not that wacky August day in Philadelphia 50 years ago. Instead, I'm reflecting on the experience of Alice Roth.

Her rendezvous with Ashburn's foul balls represents a truth universally accepted but rarely acknowledged as we go about our daily business: We have no idea what's in store for us when we leave home in the morning.

Roth, bless her heart, was no doubt figuring on whiling away the August afternoon in a stadium box seat. She survived, thank goodness, and is enshrined in my memory as one of the most notable victims in all of victimhood.

But Roth learned -- and her experience teaches us -- that despite the focus and concentration on ourselves, some matters are beyond our control.

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