The Ross News

Studies in ethical fandom: Is it ever appropriate to leave a major-league baseball game early?

“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

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By Bobby Ross Jr.

So you want to be a true major-league baseball fan.

With my friend Steve Holladay and his son, Griffin, at a Texas Rangers game this week.
With my friend Steve Holladay and his son, Griffin, at a Texas Rangers game this week.

Understanding the unwritten rules for supporting your team will help.

For instance, a new fan might ask: “Is it ever appropriate to leave a game early?”

The quick, easy answer, of course, would be: “No!”

But at some point, you may find yourself in a real-life game situation that prompts you to inquire — even as play continues on the field — “Should I stay or should I go?”

Let’s circle the bases with some hypothetical examples:

1. A foul ball strikes you and breaks your nose.

2. A tornado swirls over the ballpark.

3. A fellow fan throws a pizza that smacks you in the head. (Hat tip to my Facebook friend Brian Humek for the above video.)

4. Your pregnant wife goes into labor.

For each hypothetical situation, the specific response will depend on the exact circumstances.

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To decide whether to stay or — heaven forbid — go, let’s consider questions that might be asked in each of the above examples:

1. The nose pain may be severe, but don’t let that be the deciding factor. If the bleeding is limited, take an ibuprofen tablet and ask the ballpark attendant for an ice pack. Don’t even consider leaving for any injury less severe than a skull fracture.

2. Unless the twister wipes out your section of the stands — specifically, your seat with you in it — don’t go anywhere. Worrying about the severe weather won’t help anything. Your car, your home and your belongings will still be where you left them when the game is over. (Hopefully.)

3. Is the pizza deep dish or stuffed crust? Seriously, this one is a no-brainer. Wipe the sauce off your face and enjoy the game, no matter how embarrassed you may be. And wave at the offending fan as security escorts him out of the ballpark.

4. This one hinges on whether the pregnant wife is at the game. If she’s with you, remind her that after nine months of pregnancy, she surely can wait nine innings before delivering the child. Encourage her to ignore the contractions and focus on the game. But if she’s elsewhere, urge her to call a relative or friend or dial 911. Assure her that you will be thinking of her between innings and will leave the ballpark as soon as the game is over.

Note to all women (including the one who lives with me): Surely you can understand that I am joking. In the above scenario, I absolutely would head straight to the hospital, unless there was a doctor available in the stands or it was a crucial game with postseason implications.

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Random confession: My dad, my 17-year-old son Keaton and I left Wednesday afternoon’s Angels-Rangers game in the sixth inning.

Why? Los Angeles was shellacking Texas, 10-1, and we were sweaty and sunburned — with Keaton and me facing a four-hour drive home to Oklahoma.

Personally, I almost always stick around until the final pitch.  But I make rare exceptions in blowouts. When a game reaches the point that the manager starts benching starters, then I figure I can head to the exit and still be considered a true fan.

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I asked friends on Facebook to weigh in on when, if ever, it’s OK to leave a major-league game early.

Some of their responses:

“I leave after the seventh-inning stretch in pointless games. … If the game is close at all, I’m in.” — Tim Spivey

“Never, ever, ever.” — Collin Packer

“I did not know that leaving early was a sin! If you’re in the bleachers at Wrigley, I’d say it’s OK to leave when the people around you order their fourth or fifth round.” — Summer Stevens Heil

“The only time I remember leaving in recent history is about four years ago when my wife was pregnant, and it was 100 degrees. She was a trooper and made it to the seventh inning, but we had to go. So, in answer to your question, the only acceptable time to leave a game, for me, is to protect your wife and unborn child. How’s that?” — Kyle Parker

“If it is a 1 p.m. start in Houston, it is OK to leave just before rush hour.” — David Duncan

“I never leave early. I may get up and walk around the park and enjoy what they have to offer, but I stay to the end.” — Tracy Moore

“If your 16-month-old has been screaming since the middle of the first inning, then it’s OK to leave early.” — Shane Coffman

“Sometimes I’m in a location where I can either catch part of a game or none at all. I’d rather get some of the game experience rather than bypass it entirely. If it’s ‘my team,’ I’m less likely to leave early, but I don’t feel badly if I do.” — John Fletcher

“Why leave early? That’s when Ziggy comes in to pitch. 🙂 ” — Lisa Ziegler (mother of Brad Ziegler, relief pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks)

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In case you missed them, check out these recent posts:

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Your turn: Have you ever left a major-league game early? If so, why? Tweet me @bobbyross.

See a map of all the major-league stadiums at

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