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It's On to Tale of Tape

Commissioner's Office Investigating Fight in Stands Between Dodgers and Wrigley Fans

May 18, 2000|JASON REID and ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

CHICAGO — Focusing on the Dodgers' conduct, the commissioner's office is investigating Tuesday's bizarre ninth-inning altercation between the Dodgers and fans in the Wrigley Field stands that delayed the team's 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs and resulted in three arrests.

Commissioner Bud Selig assigned Frank Robinson and Kevin Hallinan, members of his executive staff, to lead the investigation into the melee that erupted in the bottom of the ninth when a fan seated behind the uncovered visitors' bullpen allegedly struck backup catcher Chad Kreuter on his head and took his cap. Kreuter entered the stands along the right-field line and his teammates and coaches followed, triggering fights that delayed play for nine minutes.

Three fans were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Chicago police identified the men as James Maness, 31, of Chicago; Ronald Camacho, 32, of Chicago; and Charles Carlin, 20, of Des Plaines, Ill. They were each released on $75 bail or bond, and are scheduled to appear June 19 in Cook County Circuit Court.

The Cubs increased security for Wednesday afternoon's game, positioning three staff members in the bullpen and hiring off-duty police officers to work in the stands. No incidents were reported during the Dodgers' 8-6 victory before 30,235.

Mark McGuire, the Cubs' executive vice president of business operations, led the team's brief investigation. McGuire, who reviewed videotapes and interviewed stadium personnel, said the Cubs were unable to confirm the Dodgers' version of events.

"We were not able to determine that [Kreuter was hit]," McGuire said. "I think that our witnesses indicated that somebody took the cap. It does not sound like somebody went down to hit [Kreuter] and then take the cap, but really just went down to take the cap."

The Dodgers are being criticized for pursuing the fan who allegedly hit Kreuter.

"I can't foresee any circumstances when it would be appropriate for any uniformed player or coach to go into the stands, whether there was a failure of security or not," said Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of major league baseball operations. "Frank Robinson will take a hard look at the incident and make a decision in the next few days.

"But to the extent that we will no longer tolerate confrontations between teams, we will certainly not tolerate confrontations between teams and fans. It's a problem for major league baseball and the players involved, to the extent that they are facing all sorts of physical risks and civil liability."

Said another high-ranking baseball official: "It's one thing to get angry, but why would you go into the stands? Come on, it's the ninth inning. Get the game over and get out of there."

Cub Manager Don Baylor also intimated the Dodgers crossed a line.

"Fans do not belong on the field, and players do not belong in the stands," said Baylor, who helped restore order Tuesday. "I imagine if your family member is sitting there, a fan is harassing her and a fight breaks out [that would be the only reason]. Other than that, I really don't see there is a reason to go into the stands."

"There was a lot of togetherness over there," the Cubs' Mark Grace said with a sarcastic tone before Wednesday's game, according to the Chicago Tribune. "It was a lot of team unity for the Dodgers.

"It was just a bad situation. You don't want to go into the stands. If the fan comes on the field, he's free game. Go ahead and pummel him. If you go in there, innocent people are going to get hurt."

This isn't the first time visiting teams have encountered problems with fans at Wrigley Field.

A game against the Colorado Rockies last May was delayed in the eighth inning when fans, upset over an umpire's call, threw baseballs, bottles, coins and cups of beer. Seventy-five people were ejected from that game, but there were no arrests. The Cubs restricted beer sales and added security after the incident.

"Wrigley Field is a special place, there's a great atmosphere here and we always enjoy coming here, but [Tuesday] night was just a very unfortunate situation," Dodger General Manager Kevin Malone said. "We're not happy about what happened, but it's a normal reaction, when you get hit on your head, to try and protect yourself. It was just self-protection."

Malone then took things a step further than the official charges, which were for disorderly conduct.

"Let's get to the real issue--it's public intoxication. Period. If they [the fans] weren't drunk, this wouldn't have happened. It's not a Cubs problem, it's not a Wrigley Field problem, it's an industrywide problem."

Said Alderson: "We have asked the Cubs to review their security program, and there may be an issue of alcohol management that needs to be addressed. From an on-field point of view, we need to determine how this happened and how we can better deal with it on a long-term basis."

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