- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

CHICAGO A father and son contend they were provoked before bursting onto the field at a baseball game and attacking the first-base coach of the Kansas City Royals.
Coach Tom Gamboa, however, maintains he had no exchanges with the two before they slammed him to the ground and started punching and kicking him during Thursday night's game against the Chicago White Sox.
The father, William Ligue Jr., was charged yesterday with aggravated battery, a felony. He was in custody and expected to appear in court today in a case that has raised fear among major leaguers and questions about safety at ballparks nationwide.
Ligue's 15-year-old son was charged with two juvenile counts of aggravated battery, one for attacking Gamboa and the other for hitting a White Sox security guard, an off-duty police officer. He was released to his mother. Calls to her home went unanswered.
According to a law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Ligue was at the game with two sons and several of their young cousins.
Sitting in the first row along the right-field line, the group shouted insults at Gamboa all night. The source said Ligue and his family contended there was some back and forth until Gamboa made an obscene gesture.
Around the seventh inning, Ligue called a female relative on a cell phone to ask if she was watching the game, and when she could not find the channel, he said, "Well then, just watch the news," the source said.
The Royals rushed to Gamboa's aid after he was knocked to the ground, and the 54-year-old coach escaped with a few cuts and bruises. A folded-up pocket knife was found on the ground afterward.
Gamboa said he had no idea why he was attacked in the top of the ninth inning of a game the Royals won 2-1. He said one of the fans was speaking, but he couldn't tell what he was saying.
"He was yelling something, but it was incoherent," Gamboa said.
As they were being put into police cars following their arrests, the father and son, both shirtless, contended Gamboa had made an obscene gesture.
"He got what he deserved," said Ligue, who has past convictions for burglary and domestic battery.
But Gamboa insisted he had no exchange with them before the attack.
"The only thing that's really got me upset even more than the incident itself is the charge that there was something going on between us," Gamboa said. "I have never in my professional career ever responded [to fans]. At no time, no matter how bad it got, have I ever made a hand gesture or verbally done anything to the fans."
Major league baseball said it would look into whether it needs to make changes in security at ballparks. Ligue and his son hopped a waist-high sign to get on the field, but there's no guarantee a larger wall would have kept them out.
"We're going to review all of our procedures in and around the dugouts and bullpens," said Kevin Hallinan, executive director of security for the commissioner's office. "We need to go back to the drawing board because of what appears to be happening in the late stages of games, with fans moving to those areas. We want to make sure we are addressing that problem."
White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said he couldn't discuss any possible security changes. Security guards all of whom are off-duty police officers already are positioned at both ends of each dugout and elsewhere on the field.
"Whenever something happens you're not being responsible if you don't at least re-examine what you're doing," White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said.
The White Sox began a three-game homestand with American League Central rival Minnesota last night, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said his team had no fears about coming to Comiskey Park.
"We've always had a lot of fun here," Gardenhire said. "We've never had a problem."
This was the second unusual disruption during a game this week. On Monday night, police trying to break up a fight in the stands at FedEx Field in Landover used pepper spray that drifted onto the field and sickened some players as the Philadelphia Eagles played the Washington Redskins. There were no serious injuries.
Instances of on-field attacks by fans have been rare over the years, but athletes are increasingly worried for their safety as fans get more and more brazen.
"You're not safe anywhere," Royals outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "We think we're safe at the ballpark. What happened, that tells us no matter where we are, we're not safe."
The most notorious attack came in April 1993 when tennis star Monica Seles was stabbed in the back by an obsessed fan during a match in Hamburg, Germany.
Greg Bouris, a spokesman for the Major League Baseball Players Association, said overall, security at ballparks is excellent, considering the millions of fans who attend the games every year.
"If there is a problem that is defined, we have to get together to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.
Security at ballparks tightened after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Fans are not allowed to bring in large bags, and smaller ones are searched. But like the screenings at airports, they've relaxed with time.
And with no metal detectors at ballparks, there's nothing to prevent someone from bringing in a weapon.
"It doesn't matter how much you beef up security," Royals starter Paul Byrd said. "Anybody can get by at any minute."

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