Robert Cotter Changed Fans Experience

In a game on July 2, 1922 a young man  whom was a frequent visitor to Phillies game was in attendance. He was well known around the ballpark and many times found a way in without a ticket. On this particular game Robert Cotter, n 11 year old kid was excited to catch a ball that came his way. It was well known that all baseball were to be returned to the field.

Cotter refused.

Because of that decision he was placed in jail by the police. as this was a time when baseballs were somewhat costly and owners were too “scrooge like” to give them away. Since the beginning of the game, fans had accepted that when they got a hold of a baseball, they were to give them back.

As stadiums were built and ball playing fields were larger and more expansive, fans became more reluctant to fork them over. Then the owners hired ushers to chase down the balls hit into the fan areas and get them back.

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The only owner who spoke out against hiring ushers was Chicago Cubs owner Charles Weeghman as he saw at as poor public relations.

What became of Robert Cotter in jail? Phillies owner William Baker and business manager William Shettsline decided to make an example of the little boy and charge him with larceny.

By the time his mother came to get him out of jail, it was closed and Cotter had to spend the night in jail. The next morning, he appeared before Judge Charles Brown for his arraignment.

Judge Brown ruled in favor of the young boy saying “Such an act on the part of a boy is merely proof that he is following his most natural impulses. It is a thing I would do myself.”

Robert Cotter

The story hit the press and the papers smeared it all over their sports section and it became a public relations nightmare for the Phillies. They decided to change their policy. Other teams followed.

In 1998, the Philadelphia Phillies named 87-year old Robert Cotter “Fan of the Century” and presented him with an autographed baseball of the entire team.