A longtime Mets fan gave new meaning to the words “die-hard” after he was blasted in the face with a T-shirt cannon in Citi Field, knocking him unconscious and nearly blinding him, according to a new lawsuit.
Alex Swanson, 54, says the 100% cotton missile smacked him square in the eye, knocking him off his feet and leaving his retina dangling by a thread at a Mets shutout against San Francisco over the summer, according to the suit filed Friday in Queens Supreme Court.
“It could have killed me,” he said. “It’s a hazard.”
It was a near perfect day on June 5 when he got to the stadium with his four sons, outfitted head to toe in fan gear.
The Smithtown, L.I., father of three said he and his boys were so conspicuous that a reporter with SportsNet New York interviewed them on their way into the stadium.
Everything seemed to be going their way. The Miracle Mets were up 6-0 at the seventh inning stretch as the T-shirt shooters made their way to where the Swansons were sitting on the Pepsi Porch.
Swanson walked down to the rail, hoping to add another shirt to his collection when the guy operating the T-shirt cannon seemed to be having trouble with his shooter.
The man lowered the muzzle to deal with the issue — and discharged the tightly wrapped jersey into Swanson’s face from 20 feet away.
Related: Mets icon Daniel 'Rusty' Staub through his career
Mets icon Daniel 'Rusty' Staub through his career
Mets icon Daniel 'Rusty' Staub through his career
Rusty Staub of the Colt 45's smiles in uniform.
(Original Caption) New York, N.Y.: Head and shoulders portrait of New York Mets' Daniel 'Rusty' Staub at Shea Stadium, wearing his uniform.
(Original Caption) Apache Junction, Arizona: Dave Philly, who at 41 years old is the oldest player with the Colt 45's, gives a batting tip to Houston's youngest, 17 year old Rusty Staub.
Maury Wills, Rusty Staub and Don Shaw. April 09, 1969. (Photo by William Jacobellis/New York Post/Photo Archives, LLC via Getty Images)
FLUSHING, NY - UNDATED: Rusty Staub of the New York Mets pauses for the camera at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York circa 1970's. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
FLUSHING, NY - UNDATED: Rusty Staub of the New York Mets heads for first base against the Cincinnati Reds and runs for first at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York circa 1972. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Rusty Staub. June 05, 1972. (Photo by William N. Jacobellis/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
American professional baseball player Rusty Staub poses for a picture, late 1970s. Staub wears an open shirt with the collar over the lapel of his jacket. Staub played Major League baseball from 1963 to 1985. (Photo by Tim Boxer/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - CIRCA 1979: Rusty Staub #6 of the Montreal Expos bats against the Philadelphia Phillies during an Major League Baseball game circa 1979 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Staub played for the Expos from 1969-71 and 1979. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
New York Mets baseball team member, Rusty Staub, in 1981.
CIRCA 1985: Rusty Staub of the New York Mets poses for a photo, circa 1985. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
Winners of the rib-eating contest at Rusty Staub's rib emporium -- eating 36 ribs in three minutes are New York Mets Howard Johnson (left) & New York Jets Rocky Klever (right). Rusty Staub holds up the winners' hands. January 27, 1986. (Photo by Nury Hernandez/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - MARCH 14: Rusty Staub attends Irish America Magazine American Heroes Benefit on March 14, 2002 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Arthur Tannenbaum, Mr. Met and Rusty Staub during Everybody Wins! Third Annual Gala at Waldor Astoria Starlight Roof in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by J. Countess/WireImage for Loving & Company)
Rusty Staub at The 6th Annual Major League Baseball Players Alumni Dinner, ath the Hilton New York, on November 18, 2005 (Photo by E. Dougherty/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 28: Former New York Mets players Rusty Staub waves to the fans at home plate after the game against the Florida Marlins to commemorate the last regular season baseball game ever played in Shea Stadium on September 28, 2008 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets plan to start next season at their new stadium Citi Field after playing in Shea for over 44 years. (Photo by: Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 11: Board member Daniel J. 'Rusty' Staub speaks during the 27th Annual Gala Of The New York Police And Fire Widows' And Children's Benefit at Park Avenue Armory on October 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 01: Former New York Mets player Rusty Staub throws out the first pitch to Catcher Anthony Recker #20 of the New York Mets before the game against the San Diego Padres on Opening Day at Citi Field on April 1, 2013 in New York City. Mets beat the Padres, 11-2. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 24: Rusty Staub attends The 2013 New York Police and Fire Widows' And Children's Benefit Fund at The Waldorf=Astoria on October 24, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 12: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Former New York Met Rusty Staub with thrd base coach Tim Teufel #18 after throwing the ceremonial first pitch before game three of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field on October 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Dodgers 13-7. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Rusty Staub attends the 13th Annual Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation Celebrity Gala at Cipriani Downtown on November 12, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 24: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York for the Roman Catholic Church(C) and Rusty Staub (2nd from L), speak to the media before helping hand out food for Thanksgiving meals to those in need at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Community Center on November 24, 2015 in the Harlem neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of New York City. Approximately 700 meals were distributed. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05: Rusty Staub attends the 31st Annual Answer The Call Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on October 5, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
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The doting dad said he was knocked off his feet and fell backwards, hitting his head and blacking out.
“The guy who shot the gun scampered away,” Swanson said.
When he came to, he was surrounded by his sons and Mets support staff. He was taken to the nurses station, but refused to go to the hospital because he could still see, despite his eye being badly swollen.
A CAT scan the next day found he’s suffered a concussion and severe eye trauma that he still deals with to this day, said his lawyer Dustin Levine of Ancona & Levine in Mineola. His retina was nearly completely severed, left hanging by a thread, the suit claims.
“I still have floaters — little black specks — over my cornea,” Swanson said. “The doctor says the retina could detach at any moment.”
“It’s like someone is shining a flashlight in the corner of my eye," he added.
He said the Mets back office reached out to him and offered him free tickets, but that’s not good enough for Swanson.
“First and foremost they should stop using that gun,” he said. “It bothers me because it could have hit a little kid. I don’t know why they use them anymore.”
The Mets did not respond to multiple messages left for comment.
A 2016 study of the dangers T-shirt cannons conducted by West Point Military Academy found they do indeed have the power to injure.
“The folded T-shirts achieved kinetic energies fifteen times larger than that of a paintball gun, nine times larger than that of a pellet gun and nearly half that of a 9mm handgun,” according to the authors.
This past April, a woman sued the Houston Astros for $1 million after she claims her hand was injured by a T-shirt cannon.