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For Those of You Scoring at Home . . .

April 21, 1996|MIKE DOWNEY

Now that two Burbank baseball lovers have been banned from Dodger Stadium for two years, I think we can finally kiss goodbye the myth that fans here are laid-back types who arrive late and leave early.

Sorry, Philadelphia. Sorry, New York.

Our fans can out-nasty the worst of yours, whether it means causing a forfeit by throwing souvenir baseballs at the visiting team or being convicted in court of committing lewd conduct in the grandstand. Yes, the crime wave continues, here in the city of Heidi and Zsa Zsa and Hugh Grant and Lyle and Erik and O.J.

Thank you, studio audience, thank you. Well, our guests on today's "Mike" brought new meaning to Fan Appreciation Night during a baseball game at Dodger Stadium, where their idea of a seventh-inning stretch differed from most other spectators'. Please give a warm hello to Melvin Michael Hoffman and Regina Anne Chatien!

Applause, applause.

Let me bring our audience up to date. Melvin, 53, and Regina, 43, were in attendance last Aug. 29 at a game between the Dodgers and the visiting New York Mets. Whether they were root-root-rooting for the home team or not, I honestly cannot say.

Anyhow, it appears that Melvin and Regina were seated in the relative vicinity of a Simi Valley man and woman who had brought along their four children, ages 8 to 14.

When this gentleman's wife stood to take her traditional seventh-inning stretch, she noticed something other than Brett Butler running out to his position in center field and Mike Piazza buckling his shinguards behind home plate.

She noticed Melvin and Regina, who apparently were doing something in the middle of the seventh inning that has never been confused with stretching.

The woman told her husband, who happened to be an off-duty cop.

The husband told an usher, who had been on the job for fewer than two weeks.

The usher took a look, reacted with something along the traditional baseball lines of "Holy cow!" then told his supervisor.

The supervisor took a look, then told stadium security.

The security people took a look, then took Melvin and Regina to the cops, who took 'em and booked 'em.

For it's one-two-three strikes you're out at the olllll-dddd ball-llll ga-aaaaame!

Well, after an off-season in which several trades were discussed but not made, Melvin and Regina had their day in court last week.

(And, may I add, there was an appalling lack of coverage by Court-TV and the local news networks, not one of whom preempted those damn soap operas! Where are this city's priorities?)

The trial lasted four days. You know how these court cases drag on and on and on.

Finally, on Friday, a jury of eight men and four women returned from three hours of deliberation to find against Melvin and Regina, who were ordered to serve 120 hours of community service--here in a community that needs all the servicing it can get--and to purchase 100 tickets to future Dodger games for charity.

I would like to point out at this juncture that if every criminal in L.A. County were sentenced to buy 100 tickets to Dodger baseball, our season attendance would top that damn Colorado's year after year after year.

Furthermore, faster than you can say "No more Nomo," the defendants were put on two years' summary probation and instructed to steer clear of Dodger Stadium during this period, or until a higher authority or the Big Dodger in the Sky approves their return.

The verdict: "You'll never watch baseball in this town again!"

Or, for a while, anyway.

I think this proves to the world that Los Angeles is indeed tough on crime, and that guilty parties do not always get off. Keep in mind that this conviction came in spite of the fact that, at no time, was either defendant asked to try on Butler's or Piazza's glove.

When fans misbehaved similarly at a baseball game in Toronto's SkyDome a few years ago, they were seen through the window of a hotel that is part of the stadium. That's the difference between Canadian couples and California couples. Our fans love the great outdoors.

My only hope is that, after paying their debt to society, Melvin and Regina return to Dodger Stadium to enjoy more of our national pastime.

They should consider themselves lucky. Had it been Vince Coleman who caught them . . . well, I hate to even think about it.

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