|Major Leaguers, Their Fans and Violence at the Park - Has an Invisible Line
Announcer - May 28th, 2000.
Bob Ley, Host - They may not be as violent or passionate as their overseas
soccer brethren, but baseball fans risk becoming caricatures of themselves
with their behavior.
Unidentified Fan - It's always going to be one or two people in the crowd
that are going to ruin it for everybody.
Unidentified Fan - They feel that it's their team. They feel that they
have the right to let it be known when they don't think a player's doing
well or the team in general is doing well and they want to express that
Ley - But one fan in the middle of the WrigLey Field incident says fans are
not to blame.
Ronald Comacho, Cubs Fan - Most people that go to the game are like blue
collar people. These guys are getting paid millions of dollars now. They
think they're above us.
Ley - Today on OUTSIDE THE LINES, major leaguers, their fans and violence
at the park. Has an invisible line been breached?
Announcer - OUTSIDE THE LINES is presented by 1-800-CALL-ATT. Joining us
from ESPN's studios, Bob Ley.
Ley - The baseball cap costs only $12 and the fan who grabbed it was never
caught but this story is about how and why that fan would hit Chad Kreuter
in the back of the head and take his cap and how and why Kreuter and his
Dodgers teammates crossed that barrier separating elite athletes from the
every day folks who pay their salaries.
Frank Robinson looked at four separate videotapes of this incident and this
week he handed down his second record breaking disciplinary suspensions in
less than a month. Now, if Robinson's suspensions would stand appeal, his
sentence may well determine if the Dodgers qualify for this pro season. If
the Dodgers are angry, and they are, beyond belief, then baseball is just as
The suspended Dodgers players this year alone will earn over $48 million.
A major leaguer mixing it up in the stands represents a litigation feast.
Then, of course, there's the issue of intoxicated fans in a sports industry
where the single largest TV advertiser is a beer maker, as are three of the
top 12. Beer is part of the ball park ritual. So is yelling players. But
even more sacred is that players have the field, fans their seats and never
the twain shall meet.
Espn.com's Tom Farrey reports on this newest crisis for the grand old game.
Tom Farrey, ESPN Correspondent (voice-over) - Take me out to the ball game.
Unidentified Announcer - The Dodgers going into the stands.
Farrey - Take me out to the crowd.
Unidentified Announcer - Somebody just threw some beer on somebody else and
there they go again.
Farrey - Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
Unidentified Announcer - That is a sorry picture, indeed.
Farrey - And what do you mean I can't get any more beer?
Camacho - I don't know if you have to, you know, punish the ball park on
that end. I think in this instance here you would have to look at the
Dodgers players. You would have to look at them coming up in the stands.
Farrey (on camera) - Frank Robinson agreed last week. Baseball's vice
president of on field operations handed out 19 suspensions for a total of 84
games in what is believed to be the largest punishment ever for one
incident. But the Cubs also took action. They told season ticket holders
in a letter dated Wednesday that they will cut back on the number of beer
vendors by 10 percent, reduce the volume of beer sold at last call by 50
percent and stop selling beer in the middle of the sixth inning rather than
the top of the seventh.
Howard Whitson, Reds Stadium Operations Director and Former Director of Security - Certainly the WrigLey Field incident is maybe a wake up call for
everybody in all pro sports to have a look at what they're doing and how
they are doing things.
Kevin Kahn, Rockies Senior Director of Field Operations - Any time that I
see anything like that, it makes me think about our operation and making
sure that we have our plans in place so something similar wouldn't happen
Farrey (voice-over) - Coors Field has not had a major incident between fans
and players. But like elsewhere, a game there brings together a potentially
combustible mix of testosterone, emotion and alcohol. The Rockies sell beer
until the end of the eighth inning, later than most major league teams.
Kahn - And we want them to have a good time but we also want to have
everybody be able to enjoy the game and not feel that they don't feel safe
or they don't feel that it's enjoyable to come out here.
Farrey - Violence is not an everyday threat, but enough incidents have
happened to scare players. In the past year alone, the Astros' Bill Spiers
was attacked on the field in Milwaukee and Tigers' right fielder Wendell
McGee got a beer bath in Boston. In football, fans in Denver pelted Raider
players with snowballs and in his first trip to Los Angeles since his
controversial comments about gays and minorities, the Braves' John Rocker
was met last month with this greeting.
Mickey Morandini, Phillies 2nd Baseman, Played for 2 seasons for Cubs('98-'99) - You just never know what these people are thinking when they run
on the field. You know, 99 percent of the time it's they're going to the
Griffiths and the Sosas or the McGwires and they just want to shake his hand
or give him a high five or something like that. But, you know, that one
Farrey - The 1993 image of Monica Seles getting stabbed by a fan in Germany
Jeff Brantley, Phillies Reliever - I think when you look around and you see
some of the things that happened in the tennis world, you know, somebody
gets stabbed, you know, those kind of things, yeah, you worry about it.
Farrey - Some fans also feel threatened by today's occasionally belligerent
Sigfredo Pacheco, Cubs Fan - It really does hurt because you do have a lot
of inconsiderate people that do go to the games and that stuff happens, you
know? Like for instance my son, this is his first game and I've been a Cub
fan all my life and I'm actually taking him to a Sox game, to Sox park.
Farrey (on camera) - On Friday for the first time, the New York Yankees
stopped selling beer in their bleachers, home to some of baseball's rowdiest
fans. The club figures it will lose about a half million dollars a year in
revenue because of the new policy. But baseball's oldest teams aren't the
only ones wrestling with these issues.
(voice-over) - Today's new stadiums have three times as many places to buy
beer and other concessions as old ball parks yet they have similar access to
David Murphy, Architect - It's an interesting dilemma because the whole
premise of these new facilities is to make it more intimate, the game, the
experience of the fans a more intimate experience and we purposely try to
get the fans as close to the action as we can.
Farrey - Just like at Wrigley, where the incident started with a fan
reaching into the bullpen and stealing a hat from Dodgers catcher Chad
Camacho - So many Dodgers players came up into the stands and there was a
scuffle a few rows up from where I was sitting and then all of a sudden they
were piling and Dodgers were piling up into the stands there where I was
seated and Mr. Kreuter and I exchanged a few words and all of a sudden his
hands were around my neck and then I was getting beaten, kicked and punched
by several other Dodgers players.
Farrey - Camacho is now suing the Dodgers and Cubs for $50,000. He says he
was not the fan who started the incident and was not drunk, although he
can't say the same for other fans.
Camacho - I'm sure they were. You know, it's a Cubs game.
Curt Schilling, Phillies Pitcher - I'm surprised that more stuff has not
happened in baseball because the fans and the players are so close at all
times. Even off the field, leaving your, the clubhouse to go to your car
there's a lot of situations where you're in close contact with fans and in
this day and age it's surprising that more hasn't happened.
Camacho - Some of the players probably have a lot less respect for the
fans. You know, most people that go to the game are like blue collar
people. These guys are getting paid millions of dollars now. They think
they're above us.
Morandini - It's a security problem. I mean if you have four, five or six
security guards right there along the bullpens there, there's not going to
be any problems because they'll eliminate it right away.
Farrey (on camera) - The Cubs are now beefing up security at Wrigley. But
their most aggressive measure may be cutting off alcohol sales in the sixth
inning. After all, at many ball parks, the seventh inning stretch is the
seventh inning dash to the beer line.
For OUTSIDE THE LINES, I'm Tom Farrey.
Ley - And when we continue, I'll be talking live with baseball's head of
security, a pitcher who spends his time in the bullpen close to fans, and a
reporter who has seen it all.
Unidentified Announcer - Hey, Lou Pinella is getting upset with a fan
behind the dugout. Lou wants to get a piece of that guy. Holy smokes.
Unidentified Announcer - There's some fans that have been all over Pinella
and all over Jesse Barfield.
Ley - Ball park security, players and fans our topic this morning. Joining
us from Rockland County, New York State, Kevin Hallinan, the major league
baseball senior vice president of security and facility management, from
Denver, in Colorado, the Rockies' relief pitcher Mike Myers, a six year
veteran, and from Boston, ESPN's Peter Gammons.
Kevin, if I can begin with you, Tom Farrey's report talked about the role
of alcohol in major league ball parks in some of these incidents. How large
a factor do you believe alcohol is in fan disruptions and fan misbehavior?
Kevin Hallinan, MLB Senior Vice President of Security and Facility Management - Well, Bob, I think it obviously is certainly a factor but I
think probably as important should be, the point should be made that
baseball works every day. We have alcohol management programs in all of our
stadiums and we do, in fact, have some fans that will abuse alcohol and
obviously it's our job very early on to deal with those people.
Ley - There are variations in club policies. For example, the Mets will
sell four beers at a time to a fan, other clubs only two. Do you think
there should be consistently a consistency across-the-board in the majors?
Hallinan - Well, I think we looked at that back in 1987 when we first got
involved with the Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management program and we
felt that each one of the clubs, obviously, could make good choices as to
what they need to do in their specific parks.
Ley - Peter, there's a lot of money at stake when we're talking beer and
major league baseball. Do you think baseball is prepared to come down as
hard on the issue of beer and alcohol as it has in the person of Frank
Robinson coming down on the Dodgers players?
Peter Gammons, ESPN Baseball Analyst - Well, I hope it will be and I
actually think it will. I mean I have great respect for Kevin and his
office. I think that it's probably the best area, the best run area of the
game and I think Bud Selig's administration has made a statement here that
they are going to try to take care of this and this, after all, is the one
of the three major sports where you can still afford to bring kids.
Kids are a major part of their business. Alcohol is important but I think
what we have to see is when there is another incident in a ball park for
Selig to come down and say all right, we're now going to ban you from
selling beer for five or seven games. Once you start taking money out of
owners' pockets, you'll see a lot of security.
Ley - If that happens. Mike, let me ask you, you've sat at WrigLey.
You've had your back to the fans in that bull pen. What's it like?
Mike Myers, Colorado Rockies Relief Pitcher - Down by where we sit I think
everything is pretty good. Usually you get a good group of fans. Every
once in a while you get somebody rowdy and will get on you a little bit but
you try and have fun with that person. But then when you go to warm up and
you're by the mound part of the bullpen, the fans get all over you and it
gets a little ridiculous and there could be a security problem there.
Ley - Did the Dodgers act atypically, where if somebody reached over and
bopped you on the head, took that Rockies cap, would your teammates have
done the same thing?
Myers - I think my teammates might have done the same thing. I know if
you're down, sitting down in the bullpen and all of a sudden somebody whacks
you in the back of the head, whether they're trying to get your hat, get
your attention, and if it's unexpected, you're going to react. It's just
human nature to do that.
Now, to go up in the stands five or six rows up probably wasn't
appropriate. But if you get whacked in the back of the head no matter what
situation you're in, you're going to be very self-defensive about it.
Ley - Kevin, you were 25 years on the job as a New York City policeman so
you know about people and situations certainly professionally. What was
your view of the Dodgers going into the stands?
Hallinan - Well, as Mike said it was obviously a spontaneous reaction. But
I think what we in baseball in my end of the business have to go out and
look at this as really an opportunity to go out and do a much better job in
the bullpen area. I have just come back, I've been in 10 ball parks in the
last two weeks and I've talked with the security people, the players who are
out there and I can tell you that obviously this has gotten our attention
and I think that the players will be happy with our response.
Ley - Well, so many of these new parks want to be intimate. Tom referenced
that in his story. Does your security office talk to teams that are
designing new ball parks -- so many are going up and have gone up -- to talk
about security issues, specifically how close the fans are?
Hallinan - Yes, we have and obviously we support our clubs in trying to
create this behind-the-scenes, back stage look and we obviously want our
players to be comfortable with it. I mean our players' safety and security,
as well as our fans', is our first concern. So we do work with them and we
think in the new stadiums that we have created situations that have allowed
for that with the safety and security that goes with it.
Ley - Mike, you've been at Pac Bell this year, a brand new stadium. It's
the showcase right on the bay. Is that almost too close for comfort?
Myers - I think the bullpen was forgotten there and it's just a little hole
there. When I was warming up there to go into the game I had a couple
things thrown at me that, you know, I'm glad they didn't hit me because I
may have reacted a different way other than just letting it go. So I think
right there where I was warming up I could have reached out and shook a
fan's hand and I think if a couple of guys were throwing things at me came
at me, it would be a little tough.
But, you know, all the new ball parks want the fan intimacy and the fans
closer to the players, closer to the action. So I think, you know, there's
got to be a give and take there somehow. Getting the bullpen maybe a couple
more feet away from the fans so that way they can't just reach out and touch
us. But, you know, that ball park is beautiful and it's a nice park. They
did a good job.
Ley - And it's right on top of the players, as well. We'll be back in just
a second. We will have more with Kevin Hallinan, Mike Myers of the Rockies
and Peter Gammons in just a moment as we consider fans and players and major
Unidentified Announcer - That guy in the blue shirt, the first guy that
started throwing things and yelling at Jamie Burke (ph), that guy right
there really almost caused a riot.
Ley - We are back now with Kevin Hallinan, Mike Myers of the Rockies and
Gentlemen, I'm going to play a piece of tape for you from Jeff Brantley of
the Phillies describing at the ball park the by-play between fans and
Brantley - I think that you have to have some type of player and fan
interaction. I think that's part of what goes on with the ball game. But I
think the incident there was there just wasn't enough security in that area.
And in Chicago, the bullpen is right beside the fans. You know, you're
very accessible. I mean they can say things, do things, touch you. You
know, that's a little bit too close for comfort.
Ley - Mike, I saw you nodding in agreement. You had talked about this
earlier. If I pay my 12, 15 bucks, what should I be able to yell at you and
you be able to take as a professional?
Myers - I think that if you come to the game as a fan and you want to get
all over the opposition, that's 100 percent OK with me. Just don't bring in
the wives, the mothers, the girlfriends. Don't get too personal with it.
Come out, have a good time and if a player gets back on you and gives you a
hard time, that's what makes the game fun between the fan and the players.
Players love doing that, as well.
Don't yell and say a whole lot of cuss words because you may have a couple
of five, 7-year-olds around and you don't want to be teaching people the
wrong thing and you want to show respect for the other fans that just came
to see the game as well. But any time there's fan/player interaction and it
gets -- where you can get on each other and go back and forth, I think
overall that would be a great situation. A volatile person.
Ley - Well, Peter, let me ask you -- thanks, Mike. I want to ask Peter
quickly, have you seen a coarsening, though, Peter, at the ball park in
recent years of some of the things that are coming out of the stands?
Gammons - Oh, I don't think there's any question. I think it's gotten
worse. I think over the last 20 years it's gotten worse and worse. It used
to be that it was basically, you know, Boston and New York and Philadelphia
were the three places where you had to worry about it. But what I think
we've really seen a great deal of is the increase in public obscenity and I
do not understand the fans' right to public obscenity.
And I think in ball parks like Kansas City and Comiskey Park in Chicago,
where they're really protecting it and Atlanta where they're drawing up a
fans code of conduct, I think it's really important. I just don't think in
a business which is supposed to be children oriented that you need to have
as much obscenity. I realize it's somewhat of a talk show, Howard Stern
mentality, but at the same time it's really out of place and it's uncalled
Ley - Kevin, are there specific things that your office, that baseball has
suggested the clubs should be in codes of conduct, what you should tell fans
how you should behave at the ball park?
Hallinan - Well, yeah, Bob. We've looked at what the Atlanta Braves are
doing, this code of conduct for fans and we think it's having great success
in Atlanta and we actually are going to have -- our operations answer
community meeting this year is going to be dedicated to crowd management and
to customer service.
I think Peter makes a good point. Obviously, profanity has found its way
into the ball park and I think we have to obviously set up some rules, codes
of conduct for our fans. I think we're looking to create a family
environment and obviously that would contribute to it.
Ley - Earlier, Kurt Schilling said in Tom's piece that he's surprised more
stuff, more incidents have not occurred. Are you, do you share that
Hallinan - Well, hopefully we're doing a better job in working with our
players. I know I meet with them each year in spring training and we have a
great interaction from there throughout the season. And I try to hear from
them talking with our local security people as to what their concerns are
for both them and their families. And I think that interaction obviously
with our club stadium operation directors has contributed to preventing some
of this stuff. But obviously we're not throwing a perfect game.
Ley - Mike, inside your Rockies clubhouse, has anything said, been said
officially to you as a member of the team or have there just been
conversations among players about what happened at WrigLey and how to react?
Myers - Enough has been said specifically to us, what has been done and
what has gone on. We just heard through the media the suspensions that have
happened and we know not to react in certain situations now and Kevin's done
a great job. He came in and talked to us at spring training. He gave a us
a great briefing on what to do. And I think everybody in our clubhouse
knows the code of conduct that's expected.
Ley - You talked about things that are yelled at you, Mike, and one of the
fans who was in the middle of the fracas at WrigLey brought up the issue of
money. I mean you obviously hear what people yell at you. How much is
money a part of it?
Myers - I think money has a great deal of it because everybody looks at the
ball players as we're all silver spoons. We make, everybody makes the $10
million to $15 million. And I've heard a lot of instances where guys have
tried to get, you know, $10,000 or $15,000 out of it for ridiculous lawsuits
here and there and getting slander thrown at them. And I think it plays a
big part of it because they look at us as having the deep pockets.
Ley - Peter, Frank Robinson, did he overreach with this decision, 19
Gammons - I think he overreached a little bit. I mean I think it's, I
think that the Dodgers who came up and wandered down the line, you know, I
don't think that, you know, they should have been punished the way they
were. I think there was a little bit of an overreaction. I think, though,
what's -- what he and Bud Selig and Sandy Alderson are trying to do is make
a statement that baseball has certain traditions but, you know, vigilante
traditions, for instance, everybody running to the mound of a batter charges
the pitcher or, you know, you get one teammate whacked by a fan then 15
people have to go into the crowd, I think they're saying that these old
traditions are going to have to be gotten rid of.
And I applaud them but at the same time to a team like the Dodgers, you
know, I think they could have punished the guys, just the players that went
into the stands and not everyone else who sort of milled there because I
think it's going to really hurt a team that has a very good chance in the
Ley - Kevin, quickly, is part of the prevention teams aggressively
prosecuting people and making this public?
Hallinan - Oh, yeah, no question about it. I can give you an example. The
Phillies have just upped their fine for fans coming onto the field for 25,
up to $2,500 and time in prison. I think we've got to be very aggressive.
We've got to protect these players and fans and let those rowdies know that
just, it's zero tolerance.
Ley - Mike, in the few seconds left to us, are you at any point looking
over the back of your shoulder now after what happened at WrigLey?
Myers - I think I'll be looking over the back of my shoulder at ball parks
that we go to that are fans are close by and I'll try and, any time I hear
something I'll try and get a good relationship with them rather than have it
get out into a big brawl or type thing.
Ley - Gentlemen, thanks very much. Thanks this morning to Kevin Hallinan,
Mike Myers of the Rockies and Peter Gammons as we've considered fans, major
league baseball and security.
We'll take a look into our e-mail in box as we continue in just a moment.
Ley - Indiana University is investigating the latest allegation against
head coach Bob Knight that has come to light. Last Sunday we examined
Knight's one last chance and among our guests, Northwestern head coach Kevin
Kevin O' Neill, Head Basketball Coach, Northwestern University - you're
going to see media people, other people put him in a situation where come
on, Bob, let's see how much you can take. Let's see what this zero
tolerance thing is all about. Bob is three things, though. He's a proud
guy, he's competitive and don't forget he's an intelligent guy that I think
will do what it takes to get the job done.
Ley - And these reactions. "Reporters who intentionally badger sports
figures are repulsive. It may be hard for you to publicly address this
unprofessional behavior by peers, but your ratings will certainly tell all
that this sort of thing is troubling to most fans," a viewer from Georgia
writing about Vince Lombardi.
"Tom Landry, Bear Bryant, more recently Mike Ditka. Why should we hold
coaches like these, who have exploded in the same manner as Knight, in such
high regard and punish Bob Knight, who has committed the same crimes as
these other great coaches?"
This reaction - "While I do not condone what Knight has done, in a society
where we let drug users continue to play after third, fourth and in the case
of Steve Howell, seventh violations of rules, media and fans want to exile
Knight to the farthest reaches of the earth. Will Bob Knight make it with
these guidelines? No one knows. But shouldn't we give him the opportunity
to try? We have for others."
And a viewer in New York speculating about the problems Knight will likely
face during away games. "No doubt that at some point situations similar to
what the Dodgers found at WrigLey will present themselves tonight. These
times will certainly test his mettle. Even if he serves these attacks, how
long can one's patience last?"
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