Obviously the amount of money professional baseball teams make allows them to be more charitable with their baseballs, but owners aren't known to be especially liberal with their spending. So why do we get to keep the balls without any kind of fuss from team owners or league commissioners? Simple. Reuben Berman.
According to The Dickson Baseball Dictionaryon May 16, 1921, Reuben Berman caught a foul ball at the Polo Grounds and refused to give the ball back. He was ejected from the stadium, but he sued the Giants for mental and physical distress. He won the court case as well as $100, but more importantly precedent had been set in the legal system. Some teams at the time were already letting fans keep foul balls, like the Cubs, but now that the legal system had spoken, there was no argument league owners could make to make fans give back the balls.
So the next time you catch a foul ball at a baseball game, other than making sure you give it to the nearest kid, remember Reuben Berman too.
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