Fan’s fall to his death shakes up players

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was actually asked by a reporter after Saturday night’s game, a 3-1 victory over the Braves, if the game should have continued after a man in the stands at Turner Field fell from the 401 level to the 220 level not far from where some family members of Yankees players were located.

The mother of Yankees catcher Brian McCann was at the game to watch her son play at Turner Field for the first time in two years and near the area when the man fell approximately 50 feet onto the concrete.

“My mom was right in the mix,” McCann said. “All our families are up there so you’re just praying for the best. It’s so unfortunate.”

By the time the question was posed to Girardi, who was diplomatic in his response, it had become known that the man had died. His fall occurred during the top of the seventh inning at the time Alex Rodriguez was announced as a pinch hitter for Luis Severino, the Yankees’ starting pitcher.

The man was later identified as Greg “Ace’ Murrey, 60, from suburban Alpharetta, Ga., and a Braves season ticket holder. A moment of silence to his memory was observed before Sunday’s game with players from both teams lined up respectfully in front of their dugouts.

With all due respect to the deceased, why should the game have been stopped? It was a terrible tragedy, no doubt, but the man was attended to quickly by medical personnel in the ballpark and hurried off by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Unfortunately, people get hurt in the stands pretty much on a daily basis in Major League Baseball what with foul balls zinging into the stands throughout the game. No ballgame would ever get completed if it was stopped every time a fan got hurt.

Obviously, this was far more serious that most injuries, but no one could know for sure at the time whether Murrey would survive the fall, so why criticize the teams for continuing play?

I recall covering a game at the old Yankees Stadium in the early 1990s when suddenly a body zoomed down in front of us in the pressbox from a deck above us. Bill Pennington of the New York Times was sitting next to me and said, “Did you just see what I saw?”

We leaned over the railing and saw a man in his early 20s bouncing on the protective screen that covered the seating area behind the plate. Without that, this guy would have been a goner, just like the man in Atlanta.

Major League Baseball is looking into the possibility of placing more protective screens in ballparks to help protect fans from baseballs hit into the stands. Saturday night’s incident at Atlanta was of a different sort, however. An investigation into Murrey’s fall is ongoing.

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