here is something that you really didn't need to know
Get a Ball at the Open? Toss It Back
Tue Sep 7, 6:15 PM ET
By BEN WALKER, AP National Writer
NEW YORK - Andre Agassi took a victory swing, whacking the ball into the upper deck at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Sitting high in section 133, Melody
Rajacic wound up with the specially stamped Wilson I.
Good thing she caught the souvenir after Agassi won. Because at the U.S. Open (news - web sites) and other organized tennis tournaments, it's a rule:
Fans must throw back all foul balls.
Instead of keeping balls that fly into the seats, spectators are expected to politely return them. Sometimes the chair umpire will even hold up play
and ask for errant shots to be tossed to the ballboys and ballgirls.
Happens every time.
"I know if I was a fan, I'd want to keep the ball," defending champion Andy Roddick said. "I'd probably get in trouble for not throwing it back."
"It's like Wrigley," he said.
Last fall, Steve Bartman became the most wanted man in Chicago when he did as many folks would've done. He reached for a foul ball in a playoff game
at Wrigley Field, and the beer-swilling Bleacher Bums blamed him for costing the Cubs a trip to the World Series (news - web sites).
No chance that anyone paying $180 or so for a lower promenade box at Flushing Meadows would dare risk spilling their Evian water to lean over the
nine-foot padded wall to grab a one-buck, lemon-lime ball.
New York Yankees (news) outfielder Kenny Lofton saw it for himself last week when he came to watch Venus Williams (news - web sites).
"That's weak," Lofton said Tuesday before playing Tampa Bay. "Fans should be allowed to keep the balls. They've got more balls."
Rajacic's prize with the "US Open" stamp featured two small parallel marks, caused by racket strings. She planned to put it on display — "or maybe
e-Bay," she kidded.
"I think you should keep it," she said. "Why not?"
Sitting one row in front of her, Cathy Hamilton disagreed.
"The balls are pressurized a certain way," she said. "It would change the way the game is played."
To Agassi and other tennis types, that's the crux of it.
Six fresh balls are put are into play after nine games — the warmup period counts for two games — and they wear down quickly. Substituting a
juiced ball for a lost, dull one would alter the pace.
"It's a basic necessity because it's not like baseball where every ball is new. If a ball is newer than the next ball, it plays differently, plays
faster," Agassi said. "It would be a serious disadvantage for a returner not to know what ball's being used, whether it's a new one or an old one."
"That's why you notice most players take a few balls, choose them and then give them back, because they're basing the ball they're using on a certain
amount of even wear and tear, as well as what serve they want to hit," the two-time Open winner said.
Not that a lot of balls get lost, anyway. Total number of balls that flew into the stands through overhead smashes, odd deflections or launched lobs
in Agassi's 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win Monday over Sargis Sargsian: zero.
Earlier in the day, though, Nicolas Kiefer got upset and knocked a ball into the far reaches at Ashe during his loss to Tim Henman. It got returned,
And what if a player began spraying them on purpose, trying to gain an advantage?
"Hopefully the umpire wouldn't let someone get away with hitting the balls in the crowd," Roddick said.
The spent balls at the Open eventually end up going to good use. They're donated to youth tennis programs in the New York area.
There was a time when baseball fans were expected to return fouls, too.
Back in 1904, a rule let major league teams put employees in the seats to retrieve fouls caught by spectators, said Tim Wiles, director of research at
the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
In 1921, New York Giants (news) fan Reuben Berman caught a foul at the Polo Grounds. When he refused to give it up to an usher, Berman was ejected.
"Angry and humiliated, Berman sued the Giants for mental and physical distress and won, leading the Giants, and eventually other teams, to change
their policy of demanding foul balls be returned," Wiles said.
Noted sports fans Martina Navratilova offered a compromise.
"When you get a black mark on a baseball, they bring out a new one. Hockey pucks go into the stands. We play with the same balls," she said. "If they
keep the ball, you might end up with two balls, and then what?
"Maybe keep track of that fan and give them the ball back after you've played your seven or nine games with it," she said. "That could be a job for
somebody there. It's easy enough."