The tradition at major league parks is that fans can keep the baseballs that land in the stands. Unfortunately, the desire to catch a foul ball can lead to fans tripping on the steps or jostling one another to get the ball, sometimes requiring police assistance to sort things out.
The same and worse used to occur at college and pro football games. Although the expectation was that fans tossed the ball back into the field -as they do when basketballs go into the stands- football fans did not always follow the policy.
Such was the case in 1956 during the second to last season before the Canadian Football League started. The Big Four (Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto) stadiums had problems during field goal and extra point (convert) attempts with teenagers coming out of the stands, catching the booted balls, and running from the stadiums before the coppers could nab them. Besides the safety issue, teams lost four to seven balls per game at $25 apiece.
A partial solution came by turning around the extra point process. Rather than kicking from the 10-yard line toward the end zone, the offense lined up ten yards into the end zone and kicked toward the field of play.
Of course, the long-term solution came by raising nets behind the goal posts in kicking situations, but the first net did not arrive until 1959, as best as I can tell.
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