- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

BALTIMORE Mike Hargrove was witness to "10-Cent Beer Night" in Cleveland. Rick Dempsey was involved in a brawl in the Wrigley Field stands between fans and members of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen.
But neither of these longtime baseball men has ever experienced anything like Thursday night's frightening scene at Chicago's Comiskey Park, where two fans ran onto the field and attacked Kansas City Royals first-base coach Tom Gamboa.
"Never. Never," said Dempsey, who coaches first base for the Baltimore Orioles. "God, it was shocking."
A sense of shock and anger could be found around Camden Yards last night, where the Orioles and Boston Red Sox opened a three-game weekend series.
"The deal last night, that's spooky," Hargrove said. "Because they went out there with the idea of hurting one person. I don't think anything excuses behavior like that."
Hargrove knows a thing or two about unruly fan behavior. As a rookie first baseman with the Texas Rangers, he had a first-hand account of the famed "10-Cent Beer Night" fiasco at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on June 4, 1974. The poorly conceived promotion resulted in an on-field riot that had players and coaches fearing for their safety.
"There were a lot of people on the field," Hargrove recalled yesterday, "and none of them was very friendly.
Dempsey was bullpen coach with the Dodgers when players and fans wound up brawling in the first few rows of the Wrigley Field stands two seasons ago. Dempsey hopped the brick fence, he said, in an attempt to break up the fight and to protect innocent fans from getting hurt (though he ultimately was issued the longest suspension and largest fine of anyone involved in the incident)
He cautions that players have to have thick skins when it comes to fan abuse, both verbal and physical.
"I've been slapped on the back of the head three or four times. I've had my hat stolen three times," Dempsey said. "Sure, it makes you mad, and you know you could get the guy if you wanted to, but there's no sense in going up there."
Baseball players and coaches alike have become accustomed to occasional field appearances by fans. But those escapades almost always involve inebriated individuals who are only seeking attention, spend a few seconds running around the bases and are quickly apprehended.
Players don't typically have reason to worry about their own vulnerability.
"Usually they come out just to be on the field and say, 'Hey, I did it,'" Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston said. "I've never seen a fan attack. That was so strange."
Officials at Camden Yards will be on the lookout for possible offenders, but director of ballpark operations Roger Haydon expressed confidence in the security system already in place.
"We have uniformed Baltimore City officers instead of using a security service, which we feel makes a huge difference," Haydon said. "We also work very hard with our events staff to watch out for people.
"You never know. If someone wants to beat the system, they might do it, but if somebody does something stupid, we prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. You're going to spend at least 20 to 24 hours in a Baltimore City lockup. And that's quite an experience."
Hargrove said he never spent much time worrying about the possibility of a fan attack until last September, when in the wake of the terrorist attacks a fan ran onto the field at Boston's Fenway Park. Hargrove's initial reaction: What if the fan had some sort of terrorist notion?
Thursday's incident will cause more than a few players and coaches to change the way they think about fans on the field.
"If a fan jumped out on the field and was running toward me," Hargrove said, "I would probably be more inclined to protect myself now than I would in the past."


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