The Major League Baseball playoffs are underway and the World Series will follow. Most baseball fans will watch the games on television, but thousands will go to the ballparks to watch the games in person. The key word here is “watch,” because if you pay attention to the crowd shots on TV you'll notice many fans at the parks are more interested in their cell phones than the actual game right in front of them. 


I am amazed that some people would spend the money it takes to attend an MLB post season game and then focus on their phones. According to TicketIQ, last year's asking price for a game one ticket to the World Series was $1,863. 


This brings us to one of the main activities of game day cell phone use – taking selfies. This would seem like a pretty safe endeavor, but it turns out that may not be the case. “Each year, selfies kill about 20 times more people than shark attacks.”



In fact, “death by selfie” is working its way into medical jargon. "The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care warned that selfies are increasing leading to injuries and deaths. New research identified 259 deaths worldwide in the past six years related to selfies.” So, leaning out over a baseball park's upper deck to get that perfect selfie may be a hazard to your health. (


As for shark attacks, we would all agree that being chomped by a shark would be a painful and grisly way to die. But some deaths by selfie are equally awful. lists some of the ways people have died during the taking of a selfie. They include: Getting attacked by a bear, shooting yourself in the face, falling off cliffs and buildings, getting hit by a train, and bursting into flame.  (


Keeping your phone in your pocket at a game may keep you from taking a dangerous selfie. This will give you more time to engage in a time-honored baseball tradition – booing the umpires. Now, umpiring is no easy job. “Major league umpires work 142 games during a typical season. The umpire behind home plate makes about 140 split-second calls between a ball and a strike per game.” However, if you're upset with some of the calls made by the umps you may be partially to blame.


If you drove to the ballpark you added to air pollution, right? The Energy Institute at Haas reports there is a “causal relationship between air pollution exposure and umpire performance.” The report notes: “After controlling for all sorts of factors that could affect an umpire’s judgment (such as venue, day-of-week, temperature, humidity, wind speed, pitch break angle, pitch type, etc.), they find a significant relationship between air pollution and on-the-job error rates.” 



While cleaner air may lead to better umpiring, what about the pitchers throwing those balls and strikes? Their health is important to the games and that leads us to another baseball trend. “ To most Americans, the words 'Tommy John' means surgery. In particular, the once-revolutionary elbow surgery medical known as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction. Tommy John (himself) notes: “In 1974, I became the first person to have a damaged ligament in my elbow surgically reconstructed. It saved my pitching arm.” 


“Tommy John” surgery works like this: “Surgeons take a tendon from the patient's forearm or hamstring and graft it into the elbow to replace the torn ligament. The surgeon first drills a series of holes into the arm's ulna and humerus bones. After these holes are completed, the tendon is weaved into a figure eight pattern through the holes.” (


This surgery does save baseball careers, but there is now a downside according to Tommy John. “What does bother me is that my name is now attached to something that affects more children than pro athletes. Today, 57 percent of all Tommy John surgeries are done on kids between 15 and 19 years old. One in 7 of those kids will never fully recover. This is about more than just baseball and elbows. It’s about the way we are raising our children. And kids’ bodies are paying the price.”



Finally, if you're a Detroit Tigers fan you'll be interested to know that despite this season's results, you're not the most miserable fans in baseball. That title goes to the fans of the San Diego Padres. In fact, those poor folks are the most miserable in all of pro sports. 


ESPN has come up with “The Sports Misery Index” for four major pro sports. The index takes into account championships, playoff berths, playoff wins, heartbreaks, and comparison to rivals. (


The five most miserable franchises are: Sacramento Kings, San Diego Padres, Cleveland Browns, Florida Panthers, and Buffalo Bills. Of 123 pro teams Detroit teams were down the overall list: Detroit Lions 13, Detroit Pistons 44, Detroit Tigers 59, Detroit Red Wings 97. Specifically by the individual sport, Detroit teams were: NFL Lions 5, MLB Tigers 21, NBA Pistons 9, NHL Red Wings 23. 


While fans of the Browns, Bills, Bears, and Jets may be more miserable than fans of the Lions, that is not much consolation. I would argue that “frustration” should figure into the index. I agree with ESPN: “The Lions haven't won a playoff game since 1991, which is the only one they've won since their last NFL championship, in 1957. Detroit has the NFL record for consecutive playoff losses (nine). Win a playoff game already!”


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns at and

Tommy John Surgery