A Fan's Legacy

Long before the baseball that was the catalyst to his accidental death at Rangers Ballpark, Shannon Stone grabbed another souvenir in Arlington.

This one — a foul ball caught in 1983 off the bat of his favorite player, Buddy Bell — perished when his parents' house in Johnson County burned to the ground. On October 16, 2010, while Stone and his son Cooper attended the Rangers' victory over the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, the house of Suzann and Al Stone caught fire because of an electrical short in a garage refrigerator.

By the time Stone, a Brownwood firefighter, got the news and hurried to the house between Cleburne and Joshua, flames had engulfed the property and destroyed his cherished ball but, fortunately, spared his parents.

Rangers President Nolan Ryan announced last week the team will erect a statue honoring Shannon Stone, who died in a fall from the stands.
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Rangers President Nolan Ryan announced last week the team will erect a statue honoring Shannon Stone, who died in a fall from the stands.

"He was so sad," Stone's mother, Suzann, said last week while fighting back tears and simultaneously cheering on the Rangers' 7-3 victory over their rival Anaheim Angels. "That ball meant a lot to him. Buddy Bell was his favorite player. Just like Josh Hamilton is Cooper's favorite."

With help from Stone, off-duty firemen and their local church, the Stones' home was rebuilt. But after what happened at Rangers Ballpark on July 7, no amount of love, faith or fellowship can ever fully repair Stone's family. In an attempt to snag a ball from his 6-year-old son's baseball hero — like his father, Al, had done for him 28 years ago — Stone leaned over a railing in left field during the Rangers-A's game, caught the ball flipped toward him by Hamilton, lost his balance in the process and tumbled headfirst 20 feet to his death.

"We're a close family, and we have faith that God has a purpose for all of us in this," Suzann said. "But right now it's hard for us to find the point. Some days it's just real hard."

Losing Dad is never easy, especially when he's only 39 and in the prime of a life dedicated to serving others.

Stone grew up in Cleburne, one of the special souls who knew early on he only wanted to do two things in life: Catch fly balls and put out fires. He was one of the good ones, a boy who kept out of trouble and grew into a man who kept everyone else safe.

"He could charm the panties off a nun," joked family friend Reba Henry, who babysat Stone for Al, a police officer, and Suzann, a clerk in the county courthouse. "He had those dancing blue eyes and that crooked smile. Even before he could walk he was crawling off to check on fires."

Said Stone's mother, "If he wasn't my son I'd want him to be my friend. He will always be my hero."

The healing will be slow, and eternally incomplete. Stone's wife, Jenny, who declined an interview request, is preparing to return to her job as a diagnostician for the Brownwood Independent School District. Cooper, a lefty like his idol, Hamilton, is back to playing baseball and already tugging on his mom's sleeves to return to Rangers Ballpark. The family does plan to attend a game before the end of the season and come playoff time, I smell a perfect, inspirational first-pitch candidate.

Kids are resilient, and Stone's firemen buddies, nicknamed "Happy," "Woody," "Thug" and "Weasel," have assured the family that Cooper will never eat lunch alone at school. Nonetheless, the first-grader is in therapy to help him deal with life after watching his father fall to his death.

"I don't know if any of us will ever be able to sort it out," Suzann said.

The overwhelming support from family, firefighters, celebrities, local media and anonymous strangers is helping the Stones put one foot in front of the other. The Rangers immediately established a Shannon Stone Memorial Fund. Brownwood firefighters did the same. In Dallas, noted Rangers blogger Jamey Newberg, Dallas Morning News baseball beat writer Evan Grant and radio station KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan held fundraising events. ESPN's Erin Andrews contributed to Stone's fund, auctioning a Major League Baseball All-Star Game jersey signed by The Jonas Brothers and Joe Torre.

"The kindness and generosity have been amazing," Suzann said. "Little notes from people we don't even know in New York and Minnesota. I have crying spells quite often. I broke down in Hobby Lobby the other day buying a frame for a picture of Shannon. But we're a blessed family. All this support is lifting us back up."

Part of the family's psychological rehabilitation has been forgiveness. Both Suzann and Jenny sent handwritten notes to team President Nolan Ryan and to Hamilton, hoping to ease his conscience.

"I just wanted Josh to know that no one in our family blames him for anything," Suzann said. "And I asked him to please, please, please keep throwing balls into the stands for the boys and their dads."

What will apparently not be a part of the Stone saga is litigation. A week after the tragedy the Rangers announced new safety guidelines at the park including higher railings and posted warning signs. But Henry said the family is at peace, convinced Shannon's death was nothing more than a freak accident.

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18 comments
TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Are you people serious? I applaud the Rangers for doing this and if any of the family or friends are reading comments, the majority don't agree with these assholes. I guarantee the jackwads criticizing him don't have kids or had a father at home or that did anything for them.I guess I don't understand how it personally puts any of you out that there's a statue of a man and his son when all you probably care about when you go to a game is how hammered you're going to get and if the Rangers are losing by more than 5 runs, you're gone in the 7th inning.Great article RW, brought a tear to my eye.RIP Shannon.

Jimbojimmyjimjim
Jimbojimmyjimjim

Monument to Vapidity

A statue? Really?

If you love sports, you probably also love Jesus. These are the two biggest diversions that are preventing people from noticing that little wealth you have remaining is being systematically stolen from you by CEOs and stock traders.

So, you're erecting a statue to a moron who made his six year old fatherless in an incredibly irresponsible moment of extreme vapidity.

What the fuck. Any city that welcomes George Bush with open arms clearly ain't that bright to begin with.

Foul Ball
Foul Ball

Not sure I'd want the most idiotic moment of my life memorialized for all time. Will it be a statue of him tipping over a rail?

And if he'd been unemployed, behind on child support and a drunkard they wouldn't be doing this? What a crock this is.

TJ
TJ

Last week, a woman in Fort Worth drowned saving her 8 y/o son in the Trinity River. This guy unfortunately overeached for a ball and fell to his death. Sad yes, but a hero worthy of a statue? One person dies during an act of extreme bravery, another dies by being over zealous at a sporting event. Interesting who we choose to memorialize these days.

hammertimez
hammertimez

the ranger's hearts are in the right place, but a missing seat in left field and a plaque in it's place would be much more appropriate.

Mbo
Mbo

I commend Nolan Ryan for this deed!!! He did the right thing!

pencil
pencil

Will the Rangers be sued for emotional damages on behalf of the attending crowd like the emotional damages suit filed on behalf of the audience attending the Sugarland concert where the stage collapsed?

Don Abbott
Don Abbott

The statue is more than appropriate. With 7 billion-plus on this planet, there's no shortage of idiots who despise the thought of anything as sentimental as a Dad and his son passing the torch from one generation to the next. Long gone are the days of simple bonding and that feeling that a father HAS to take his son to the ballgame. As a society, we've lost our ability to discern what works from what doesn't.

Storm_71
Storm_71

By the way Whitt this makes up for the lack luster posts on the Sportatorium today

Storm_71
Storm_71

Very nice story Whitt. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think of the tragedy. I took my 5 year old (then 4 year old) to his first game this season. It was April 6th against the Mariners a day game. We got there early to see BP. The Mariners where taking BP and Ichiro was up. My son immediately took to him. I took him to all of the little waffle ball games in Vandergiff plaza he was having a great time. We got some nachos and after we ate them I asked what he wanted to do, this was about the 4th inning or so. He said “dad I wanna go watch the game” I got a big sports lump in my throat when he said that. We had seats right on the fence under the home run porch. Anyway I don’t remember the Ranger but someone hit a big fly to Ichiro right by us. My son screamed “ICHIRO”!!. He heard him and turned and tossed the ball to me. My son still sleeps with that ball………………………

Bastion of Truth
Bastion of Truth

did you aplogize to the family for posting the video after theyh asked the media not to?

Bubba Vaughn
Bubba Vaughn

Wish I knew who you were I find you and kick your ass.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

wow, you're so cool, it's a good thing we have people like you that are so much better than everyone to tell us what's right and wrong.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

that's really sad. The family will have a place to go to put a memorial for her with flowers and visit that area. The Stone family doesn't have that kind of access to the Ballpark. Both stories are touching and unfortunately people die during heroic acts everyday. As a dad with 3 boys, I have no problem whatsoever with this statue.

Storm_71
Storm_71

I don't know why you say that a father HAS to take his son to a ballgame. I WANTED to take my son to a ballgame. I will never forget the experience we shared.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

That's awesome about your son.I think the people that complain most about this statue are the ones that are going to feel uncomfortable in that they never shared that kind of moment with anyone.

 
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