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Fan Violence Isn't Seen as Common

Disputes that result in serious injuries are the exception rather than the rule when rival supporters get together.

September 21, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

By and large, fan violence like the fatal shooting of a Southland man Friday at Dodger Stadium happens infrequently at sporting events in the United States.

Attacks by fans against players, umpires and coaches, such as the two incidents in the last two years at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, also are rare. But they tend to gain more attention because they occur in view of everyone in the stadium and are recorded by television, radio and print reporters.

However, there have been plenty of cases in which fans have attacked other fans as disputes over team allegiances have escalated, including a few that happened out of the sight of witnesses.

Last year, after the Angels' victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the World Series, a Garden Grove man was stabbed to death during a postgame tailgate party in the Edison Field parking lot.

Police said they did not know what prompted the stabbing, saying "it could have been anything -- a fan dispute, an argument over a girl, a drunken brawl, or gang related."

Fan violence has diminished locally since the Rams relocated from Anaheim to St. Louis and the Raiders moved from the Coliseum to Oakland after the 1994 season.

Ram-Raider games, whether at Anaheim or the Coliseum, were often the scene of fights among roving bands of young men fueled by alcohol.

At a 1994 game between the teams at Anaheim, police reported 26 fights, 20 arrests and 55 ejections, four times the normal number of arrests and five times the number of ejections for an average Ram game.

One of the worst recent incidents of fan-on-fan violence in the Southland occurred during a 1990 game at the Coliseum, when a fan of the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers was beaten into a coma by a Raider fan.

In response, stadium officials increased police officers at Raider games to 200 and curbed the sale of beer late in games in an attempt to thwart unruly behavior.

Fans of the Raiders and San Diego Chargers also have gone over the line. In 1996, a Raider fan bit off part of a Charger fan's ear in a San Diego bar. In 1999, a Charger fan was stabbed by a Raider fan during a game at San Diego, an incident that was caught on videotape.

At Chicago, Major League Baseball beefed up security for the All-Star game this summer after the attacks by White Sox fans against Kansas City Royal coach Tom Gamboa in September 2002 and umpire Laz Diaz in April.

Chicago also was the site of one of the most memorable incidents of fan unruliness in U.S. sports history, with about 7,000 pouring onto the field at Comiskey Park during a Disco Demolition Night promotion between games of a doubleheader in 1979.

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