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An ugly incident at Wrigley
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong, and everyone involved in the Wrigley Field fiasco Tuesday night was wrong. The "fan" who snatched Chad Kreuter's hat, the Dodger players who climbed into the stands, the Cubs security people who were caught asleep, the louts who threw beer, Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone for going on the field. "He's the Sheriff," cracked a fellow GM Wednesday morning. "He was there to make peace. In his Dodger jacket."
Players will be disciplined, fans arrested, Malone lectured. But Major League Baseball feels something good will come out of this -- that Wrigley and all baseball officials will give more attention to alcohol consumption at ballpark. "I believe," says Kevin Hallinan, baseball's vice president of security, "that in the end that this will help prevent a more serious situation."
Hallinan runs one of sport's finest operations and was on the phone with Wrigley security officials first thing Wednesday morning. He would not say whether or not he would recommend to Commissioner Bud Selig that if teams are judged lax in alcohol management and security that they be ordered to shut down beer sales for a prescribed number of games -- hitting owners where it hurts -- but he did reacquaint all ballpark security people of his alcohol management guidelines.
Hallinan believes in a zero tolerance program in dealing with abusive and obscene fans. "With the right security we basically know what areas of the parks are going to be problems during different points in the game," he says. "We have tried to emphasize that all sports have to be managed a lot better. We're making significant strides."
The Braves took a bold step when they instituted a fans' code of conduct for Turner Field, and made it clear that if that code -- which includes public obscenity -- is broken, the customer can be thrown out of the park. "Teams that make it clear that there are strong ramifications to bad behavior will make security easier to enforce," says Hallinan.
Places like Wrigley Field and Pac Bell Ballpark, where fans are a few feet away from visiting relief pitchers, are problems. The parks in New York, Boston and Philadelphia have histories of bleacher problems, ranging from throwing batteries to beer on players and themselves. But it can happen anywhere when too much beer is consumed. In Minnesota recently, there were barely 1,500 fans left at the end of a game, but when Mariners GM Pat Gillick sat down in front of the visiting clubhouse after the game to do a television interview, he was struck in the arm by a battery hurled out of the upper deck.
This is not only about fans, however. Kreuter can get another cap, and even if he were punched by the fan, he should have called on security to grab the offender and insist that the Dodgers and MLB press assault charges. The Dodger players should have moved onto the field under the leadership of bullpen coach Rick Dempsey. It didn't happen, as Dempsey did not lead them to the right place. As for Malone's claim that it was about the team ... everyone involved will be properly disciplined for their lack of responsibility.
But players do have legitimate concerns about the growing insanity in society. Players don't want to talk about it because it only encourages some computer/sportstalk addict to make a name of himself. Hallinan's office has worked with local officials to prepare them for people who run onto the field. Hallinan closely monitors John Rocker's security. It has helped that no matter what fans have yelled or thrown at Rocker, he hasn't reacted by sticking out his tongue or yelling back.
When the Braves played in Philadelphia, between Hallinan's office, police and stadium officials, everything was carefully monitored. Albert Belle's agent Arn Tellum has also been proactive in avoiding any incidents for his client; Tellum has worked with club officials in the four cities where they fear something could happen -- Cleveland, Boston, New York and Chicago -- to insure there is security in place by the visiting dugout when Albert comes out to the on-deck circle.
The next time some Cubs "fan" spends the afternoon getting drunk, then pours down another dozen cool ones at Wrigley, Cubs security will be better prepared. The next time some catcher loses his cap in the San Francisco or Chicago bullpens, he will think twice before turning to mob justice. Maybe teams will finally worry less about profits and more about alcohol control, even if ballparks are named for beer cans.
"We can turn something bad into something good," says Hallinan. Hopefully, everyone's listening to him, because just about everyone in Chicago was wrong.
Jack of all trades
Tellum was driving Albert and his brother Terry to the Anaheim ballpark when his car blew out a tire. "I'm like Woody Allen," says Tellum, who pulled out his cell phone and called an emergency roadside service. As Tellum was on the phone, Albert pulled the manual out of the glove compartment, read it, stepped out and got the jack.
"I was panicking that he was going to be late for BP," says Tellum. "He was out there jacking up the car. He was calm and actually thought it was funny, even though the tire was on the road side and cars were whizzing right by him."
A police car came along as Belle got the car up, and the emergency service showed up to finish his work. They then got a police escort to the park so that Albert would make it to BP on time.
Oh, yes. Albert homered in his first at-bat.
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