Roseboro v. Rawlings Mfg. Co., 79
Cal. Rptr. 567, 275 Cal.App.2d 43 (Cal. App. 2 Dist., 1969)
John Roseboro was the man who assumed the starting catcher’s role for the new Los Angeles Dodgers after Roy Campanella was paralyzed in a single-car accident before the start of the 1958 season. Throughout his 11 years with the Dodgers, Roseboro won three World Series rings, two Gold Glove Awards and was named to several All-Star squads. For a lot of people, however, Roseboro might be best remembered as the player that Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal attacked during an
August 22, 1965 game against the San Francisco Giants.
While at bat, Marichal was reportedly angered by one of Roseboro’s throws back to Sandy Koufax coming too close to his head (or grazing his ear) and he snapped, swinging his bat wildly at Roseboro in retaliation. Marichal reportedly struck him several times, including a blow to the head that resulted in a bloody gash. The incident can be viewed on YouTube here.
Following the attack, Marichal issued a statement, “First of all, I want to apologize for hitting Roseboro with my bat. I am sorry I did that. But he was coming toward me, with his mask in his hand, and I was afraid he was going to hit me with his mask, so I swung my bat. If he had only said something, I would not have swung. I hit him once, and I am sorry.” He was suspended for eight games by National League president Warren Giles, missing two starts, and fined $1750 (approximately $12,900 today.)
Later in the season, Roseboro filed a lawsuit against Marichal for the attack, seeking $110,000 (approximately $815,000 today) in damages - nearly twice the amount of Marichal’s $60,000 salary for the 1965 season. The case later settled for $7500 (approximately $55,000 today) and Roseboro eventually forgave Marichal publicly.
This was not the first time that Roseboro had suffered an injury on the playing field that resulted in a lawsuit, however.
What happened that made John Roseboro sue Rawlings?
Having caught the entire first game, Roseboro was behind the plate for the second game of the Sunday doubleheader on
April 29, 1962 at Dodgers Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates. A Joe Moeller pitch was fouled off by the batter, breaking a weld at the top of Roseboro’s mask. The ball entered the mask and struck Roseboro above his right eye. He was dazed following the occurrence and was taken to the hospital, where he was kept overnight for observation.
Roseboro returned to the lineup on
May 10, 1962 and was able to play the remainder of the season, although he claimed to have “bad headaches” that plagued him through 1963 or early 1964.
The mask that Roseboro was using at the time of the occurrence was a new, lighter weight mask that had been developed by the defendant Rawlings. Roseboro had used this particular mask at the end of the 1961 season, during spring training in 1962 and in all of the 20 games that Roseboro had played in 1962. He indicated that in that time, the mask had acquired some typical dents but he inspected it before each game and found no apparent defects.
The employee who was in charge of quality control for Rawling’s products inspected the mask and found that had a different “contour” and was in a different condition than it was when it left the factory. He claimed there was nothing Rawling’s could do to control the mask after it was obtained by a player and that it had “taken sufficient beating to be much less safe than when it left [Rawling’s] control.”
The employee who gave the mask to Roseboro also testified that the mask was “well used” and “pretty well beat up to stay in use” due to its flattened out appearance.
John Roseboro. Despite the testimony from the Rawlings employees, Roseboro was awarded $20,000 in damages (approximately $125,000 today) for his injuries.
The victory was short lived, however. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for a new trial on the basis that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict.
Roseboro’s claim against Rawlings was on the basis of strict liability. In order to recover under this theory, it was Roseboro’s burden to show that the subject catcher’s mask was defective at the time it was given to him.
Rawlings argued that Roseboro’s claim was based on the “simple fact that the mask broke while he was using it in the manner for which it was intended to be used, and nothing more” and that he had no proof that the mask was defective at the time it was delivered.
Who won the appeal?