This Day In History: August 17

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On August 17, 1957, Alice Roth experiences what surely is one of the worst days any spectator has had at a Major League Baseball game. After being struck by a foul ball off the bat of future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn, Roth is being treated for a broken nose when the Philadelphia Phillies' star fouls off the very next pitch, hitting her in the leg and breaking it. The incredibly unlikely incident is unique in baseball history.

Roth’s husband, Earl, was the Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor, so the couple regularly attended Phillies games. On this occasion, they were sitting in the press box behind the third-base dugout along with their grandsons to watch the home team play the New York Giants. Ashburn, an accomplished hitter who retired in 1962 with a .308 batting average, was adept at frustrating pitchers by fouling off pitches.

The unlucky Roth was taken to a nearby hospital. Perhaps to salvage their relationship with the sports editor of a local paper, the Phillies invited Earl Roth and his grandchildren into their clubhouse after the game, giving the kids free tickets and an autographed baseball. Visiting her in the hospital later that day, one of her grandchildren reportedly asked Roth, “Grandma, do you think you could go to an Eagles game and get hit in the face with a football?”

Roth appears to have taken her misfortune in stride, striking up a friendship with Ashburn after he visited her the next day. Ashburn would go down as one of Philadelphia’s most beloved sportsmen, following his brilliant on-field career with a broadcasting career that lasted until his death in 1997. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995. Roth’s son would later become the Phillies’ batboy, and Alice Roth continued to attend games.

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