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MIKE DOWNEY

N.Y. Fans Playing the Fools

September 24, 1993|MIKE DOWNEY

New York has a new problem. (What? One?) Something funny is happening on the baseball field of Yankee Stadium, the house that Babe Ruth built and the house that George Steinbrenner wants to bolt.

It seems that radical new fielding and baserunning techniques are being demonstrated at the old ballyard. Unfortunately for the Yankees, they are being demonstrated by the fans.

Things not only are getting out of hand, they are getting out of seats. Fans are interfering with play, interrupting games. They are reaching over the fence to make catches, running the bases, sliding hard into home plate--in short, doing things the New York Mets can't.

It is getting so bad, on Fan Appreciation Night the following announcement will be made: "We'd appreciate you a lot more if you sat your butt down."

Even being handcuffed, busted and booked at the Fort Apache hoosegow has not discouraged these Bronx hooligans. Yankee management has tried drastic measures--beefing up security, warning fans to behave, threatening to make them listen to Conan O'Brien's sidekick. Nothing works.

A few games ago, some 15-year-old jerk ran onto the diamond. An out had to be replayed, Mike Stanley singled on his second chance, the Yankees eventually won the game and the jerk's mother told the New York Times she resented sonny being called a jerk.

Yankee fans have been coming over the side like lemmings. It looks like "The Great Escape" after Steve McQueen got out of the tunnel. Several people have pulled the same childish prank. One of them looked suspiciously like Vince Coleman.

Earlier this season, with the score tied, Don Mattingly swatted a fly toward the right-field pavilion. As the outfielder reached up, a fan reached out to make a basket catch. Now this is what I really call a homer.

Same thing happened, if you'll recall, on opening day at Dodger Stadium when Darryl Strawberry objected to a fan's clammy hands. But what that man did was refuse to get out of the home-team right fielder's way. The guy at Yankee Stadium leaned over the fence and stuck it to the visiting team.

They have an all-sports radio station in New York called WFAN, and now I know why. It's come one, come all. Pretty soon, the Knicks will use six dribblers to Chicago's five--Ewing, Smith, Oakley, Rivers, Starks and some punk from Newark who runs out on the court waving his arm, yelling, "I'm open! Hit me!" Or the Jets will have a new halfback in motion--somebody's cousin Vinny from over in Yonkers, yelling, "Yo! Boomer! T'row me da ball!"

What can the Yankees do?

Not much. They could move, as Steinbrenner prefers they do, to a better neighborhood. Unfortunately, New York's better neighborhood is Connecticut.

Here are some other possible solutions:

--Barbed wire. Nothing is quite so effective in crowd control. Of course, this could result in long delays as the Yankee ground crew scales the barbed wire in an attempt to unhook a 15-year-old Yankee fan who has snagged his Beavis and Butt-head T-shirt on the fence and is dangling there like Howdy Doody.

--Guardian Angels. Maybe if Steinbrenner hires enough of those fearless soldiers in red berets, overzealous fans will stop running onto the field and go back where they belong, spray-painting subway cars.

--Hillary Rodham Clinton. She's got this health-care thing worked out already. Give her a new gig.

--Pernell Whitaker. He could punch out any fan who dares to run onto the field. In court, of course, a federal judge would score it 115 for Whitaker, 115 for the fan.

--Pepper Spray. The newest thing in California to discourage muggers and thieves, this stuff works with Mace-like effectiveness. Those "No Pepper" signs will have to come down, though.

--Roseanne. One "Oh, say can you see?" from her will send fans streaming toward the exits, not the field.

--Vince Coleman. Any fan comes anywhere near the wall, he pulls the pin on a grenade and boom!

--Bret Saberhagen. Standing by with the Clorox, just in case.

--Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.). Concerned with athletes' human rights, he will vote that Yankee players boycott future games unless the entire population of New York agrees to act nice.

Or, if Steinbrenner really wants fans to stop being so enthusiastic, you know what he could do?

Sell the team to that guy in San Diego.

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