Wrigley Safety Boosted After Brawl

Wednesday, May 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) — And Wrigley Field is supposed to be ``The Friendly Confines.''

For the second year in a row, a night game at Wrigley was disrupted and delayed by unruly fans.

This time, they did more than throw litter. They threw punches at the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dodgers catcher Chad Kreuter was in the bullpen Tuesday night when a fan hit him in the back of the head and stole his cap. Kreuter gave chase, his teammates followed, and soon there were a half-dozen or so Dodgers in the stands, trading punches with fans. The rest of the team stood watching at the first-base wall, a chest-high brick barrier that separates the bullpen from the fans.

It took stadium security nine minutes — and several tries — to restore order.

``We would look at this as an incident of some fan. We do not apologize for the fan,'' Mark McGuire, the Chicago Cubs' executive vice president of business operations, said Wednesday in announcing that security in the bullpens would be increased.

``The fan should not have reached over and tried to grab a player's hat. That was wrong, and we are embarrassed by the incident that took place after that.''

Three fans were arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, and released, with a June 19 court date set. A fourth fan, who ran onto the field earlier in the game, was charged with trespassing.

Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office, made it clear that some sort of punishment is in order for the Dodgers who were involved.

In keeping with this season's crackdown on any kind of fighting between two teams, ``something involving players and fans will simply not be tolerated,'' he said.

``There really is never any excuse for going into the stands,'' Alderson said. ``It is not only not acceptable, it exposes players and other uniformed personnel to risks and liabilities. At any level, it is not a tolerable response.''

Frank Robinson, baseball's vice president of on-field operations, talked with Cubs manager Don Baylor and Dodgers manager Davey Johnson on Wednesday, and a representative from the commissioner's office was going to Wrigley to investigate.

``He just wanted to know what I saw, what happened, how many players were involved,'' Baylor said. ``I just told him I saw a lot of gray shirts in the stands. It got ugly.''

Several of the Dodgers said security wasn't adequate Tuesday night, a claim McGuire denied. There may not have been uniformed police officers, but there were plenty of off-duty police and stadium security in the area, he said.

Still, the Cubs increased security, starting with Wednesday's game. Three stadium security officials — one more than before — will sit in the bullpen. There will be one person at each end of the bullpen, and the third will sit in the middle, watching fans throughout the game.

Off-duty police officers also will be in the stands, McGuire said.

``We think we have good coverage,'' he said. ``We are going to take the coverage up a little bit.''

Wrigley, with its cozy atmosphere and ivy covered walls, has been dubbed ``The Friendly Confines.'' But despite the warm-and-fuzzy image of Cubs fans — diehard supporters who cram the ballpark no matter how bad the team, and throw opponents' home run balls back — it wasn't the first time for trouble.

A game against the Colorado Rockies last May was delayed when fans, upset over an umpire's call, pelted the field with baseballs, bottles, coins and cups of beer. Colorado center fielder Darryl Hamilton said one fan threw a Jack Daniels bottle onto the field.

Seventy-five people were ejected, and the Cubs restricted beer sales and added security.

In September 1995, a fan came out of the stands and went after Cubs reliever Randy Myers when he was on the mound, but the fan ended up getting the worst of it. Myers, the former Cincinnati Reds ``Nasty Boy'' and student of martial arts, smashed John Murray with a forearm, jumped on top of him and pinned him to the grass.

All of this, and John Rocker hasn't even made it to town yet. Rocker, who insulted gays, minorities, foreigners and others in a Sports Illustrated article in December, makes his first trip to Wrigley this season May 29.

``We will definitely have an intensified (security) program when John Rocker comes here,'' McGuire said. ``Whatever we do today will be in place, and potentially more than whatever we have today.''

Part of the problem at Wrigley is that the park was built in 1914, when fans were calmer and they came to watch the game, not sit and drink beer. Because there are no hulking slabs of concrete separating fans from the bullpen, there's little to stop someone from reaching over and touching a player — or smacking him and taking his hat.

But Tuesday night's incident was an isolated one, according to the Dodgers' Johnson. Little needs to be done at Wrigley, except adding some security officers, he said.

``It's been all right there for 150 years, I'm sure it's going to be all right again,'' Johnson said. ``You have wonderful fans here. It was just a couple bad ones that got out of hand.''