- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

BALTIMORE — When I heard about the two fans who jumped out of the stands at Comiskey Park and attacked the Kansas City Royals' first-base coach Thursday night in Chicago, my first thought was, why the heck would anyone have a problem with the first-base coach? I mean, can you find anyone on the field more irrelevant or inconsequential to the game than the first-base coach?
I can see if someone is angry with the third-base coach for sending a runner home and getting him thrown out. I can see being angry with the manager for pulling a pitcher too late, and, of course, I can see being angry with a player, for so many reasons that there is not enough space here to list them all.
But a first-base coach? What issues could you possibly have with a first-base coach? You don't like the way he fields foul balls?
I asked Ernie Tyler the umpires attendant at Camden Yards, the most innocuous person on the field if he had ever been attacked by a fan. "One time, during a Yankee game at Memorial Stadium, a guy threw a punch at me [reaching out of the stands] and grazed my chin," Tyler said. "It was during a rain delay, and you know how those Yankees games are."
This was the Royals-White Sox, hardly a heated rivalry. But William Ligue Jr., and his 15-year-old son must have had some ax to grind to go after Royals coach Tom Gamboa. Jeff Conine suggested that it may go back to Gamboa's days as a third-base coach for the Chicago Cubs in 1998, when he sent a runner who got thrown out at home in a crucial game.
But, hey, if Chicago fans jumped out of the stands for every grievance they had against the Cubs, they'd have to put a moat around the stands at Wrigley Field.
On his way to being hauled off by police, Ligue contended they had some words with Gamboa before he and his son shared one of those father and son moments and ran on the field to attack the coach. "He got what he deserved," Ligue told the Associated Press.
In an interview on Sporting News Radio yesterday morning, Gamboa said there was no exchange. "I have never at any time verbally or physically acknowledged the people in the stands, and I encourage players to just tune them out," Gamboa said. "To respond to it in any manner lets that idiot know that he is getting to you, and common sense tells you that it will escalate. That did not happen in any way, shape or form."
Now, of course, there will be discourses and debates all over the land about the decline of civilization as we know it, about how fans are out of control and what must be done to curb fans' violence.
I know. How about pepper spray?
Not to diminish the seriousness of the attack, but it is something that has happened before and it will happen again. Sportswriters like to paint some sort of picture of an epidemic of violent fans, because, of course, like Gamboa does, most sportswriters tune the fans out as well. What the Ligue boys did is never acceptable, but it is not a sign that the apocalypse is upon us.
There have been incidents within recent memory of "When Baseball Fans Attack," such as the time when a fan charged Randy Myers in Chicago in 1995, and Myers wrestled the man to the ground. Four years later, Houston outfielder Bill Spiers was beaten up by a fan in Milwaukee.
Maybe this is just a midwestern phenomenon. It is not a new phenomenon.
More than 100 years ago, in a baseball series known as the Temple Cup between the Orioles and Cleveland Spiders, fans in Cleveland threw vegetables at the Baltimore players in Game 1, according to Floyd Conner's book, "Baseball's Most Wanted." When they came back to Baltimore to play and the Spiders beat the Orioles, fans chased the Spiders' players from the field and into the streets of the city, where they were stoned by fans.
And I'll bet no one even bothered to aim at the first-base coach.

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