Violence in Baseball: 10 Brutal MLB Incidents Not Associated with LA Dodgers
"A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse": So ended Richard III's duel in William Shakespeare's tragedy by the same name, yet just as the play suggests, the horse can be a most tragic actor.
Indeed, spectator violence began with a horse.
Jan. 13, 532: It is a tense time in the Roman and Byzantine empires—divided along political lines and street gangs, the populace gathers at the ancient Hippodrome for a series of chariot races between four teams, the Blues, Reds, Greens and Whites, though the Blues and Greens were decidedly the Yankees and Red Sox of the sixth century.
In 531, several Blues and Greens fans were sentenced to death by hanging after committing multiple murders during a chariot race riot earlier that year.
Emperor Justinian I, an avid Blues fan, was watching the proceedings from a private palace box as spectators inside the Hippodrome began chanting "Nika"—meaning "Win!"—prior to completely abandoning the race in front of them and taking to attacking Justinian's palace.
In the end, 30,000 rioters were killed and several senators were exiled, establishing the sporting event as an opportunity and excuse for hooliganism.
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Aug. 12, 1984: On the final day of their season series, the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres combined to orchestrate one of the ugliest episodes in Major League Baseball history, while giving the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League something incredible to discuss, had it existed in 1984.
With Joe Torre and Dick Williams at their respective helms, the beanball war began with the very first pitch of the game, when Atlanta's Pascual Perez threw at and hit Padres lead-off hitter Alan Wiggins.
When Perez stepped to the plate in the bottom of the second inning, Padres starter Ed Whitson hurled a ball behind Perez's head, sparking a bench-clearing incident, but no brawl.
In the fourth, Whitson again threw high and inside to Perez, inviting the immediate ejection of both Whitson and manager Williams, but still no brawl.
In the fifth, Greg Booker—Whitson's replacement—faced Perez, and narrowly missed his beanball attempt at Perez's head, resulting in the ejection of Booker and interim manager Ozzie Virgil. Again, the action taken by the umpires sufficiently appeased the Braves, who did not clear their dugout.
In the eighth, Torre elected to send pitcher Perez to plate yet again, setting into motion a series of infamous baseball events.
Padres pitcher Craig Lefferts beaned Perez; this time, both benches immediately cleared, resulting in a 10-minute delay in which fans jumped over the railings to join in the fracas.
After order was restored, the Braves retaliated in the ninth, reliever Donnie Moore plunking Graig Nettles and inspiring yet another bench clearing incident.
By game's end, 13 players and coaches had been ejected and at least five fans were arrested for their participation in the on-field brawl, including one fan who threw a full mug of beer at Padres (and King of the Hill) slugger Kurt Bevacqua. The danger reached such heights that riot police were called in to maintain order at game's end.
NL Umpire John McSherry surmised, "It took baseball down 50 years. It was the worst thing I have ever seen in my life. It was pathetic, absolutely pathetic."
Disco Demolition Night
It has become a Comiskey Park classic.
July 12, 1979: In the waning days of the disco vs. rock war, Chicago fans were invited to bring disco records to the ballpark in exchange for a special 98-cent admission fee for Game 1 of a doubleheader featuring the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox.
White Sox owner Bill Veeck and Chicago DJ Steve Dahl had planned to destroy the thousands of records brought into the ballpark by detonating the discs in the outfield—yet with 50,000 fans turning out for the ill-fated promotion, there was a surplus of disco records, with fans turning to tossing around these records like frisbees before resorting to pelting the playing field with the remainder.
As discs turned into firecrackers and other debris, umpires and players vacated the field out of fear for their safety, but not before one fan narrowly avoided hitting Tigers outfielder Ron LeFlore with a golf ball thrown from the bleachers.
As the umpires declared the contest a forfeit, assistant league supervisor Nestor Chylak informed Sox owner Veeck that under no circumstances would the umpires allow the teams to play Game 2 of the scheduled doubleheader, a decision upheld on appeal by American League president Lee MacPhail the very next day.
Tigers Win the World Series
The Tigers have not won a World Series since 1984, and with Prince Fielder now on the squad, Detroit fans are hoping to return to and win the Fall Classic.
Before they do, however, they might want to recall what happened the last time the team won it all.
Oct. 14, 1984: With a three games to one advantage over San Diego, the Tigers were looking to clinch the World Series in Game 5 at old Tiger Stadium. Clinging to a 5-4 lead, Detroit's Kirk Gibson put on a preview of his 1988 walk-off homer in Game One of that year's World Series, hitting a three-run shot to all but guarantee Detroit the baseball championship.
By the time the final out had been recorded, the party was underway in Detroit, though several Tigers fans had already resorted to looting, prying Tiger Stadium signage, seats and infield turf from the ballpark.
In the parking lot, a few hooligans had taken to setting fires to cars, trash cans—whatever would burn. Detroit's finest brought in their police horses as a standoff ensued, delinquents hurling glass bottles at the officers before overturning and setting a police cruiser on fire.
The damage was extensive and many participants were arrested for their actions, yet by morning, the Tigers had still won their first World Series since 1968.
10-Cent Beer Night
It is no secret that many a riot has been caused by alcohol—which makes the following promotion all the more illogical.
June 4, 1974: The first eight innings of Ten Cent Beer Night had gone off with many a hitch—emboldened by discounted courage juice, a woman ran onto the field and flashed the crowd, a streaker sprinted into second base, a father and son duo intruded upon the outfield and mooned the bleacher crowd and upper deck fans chanted in support of violence after Cleveland Indians batter Leron Lee lined a comebacker directly into the stomach of Texas Rangers pitcher Ferguson Jenkins.
As the Rangers were pelted with food, debris, spit and—what else—beer, Cleveland gradually attempted a comeback during a game in which the Rangers had taken an early 5-1 lead. By the ninth inning, the Indians had tied the game at five runs apiece.
As an umpteenth fan ran onto the field and attempted to steal Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs' ballcap, Burroughs tripped while trying to prevent the assault, sparking a bench-clearing incident from the Rangers, who quickly ran out to protect their fallen outfielder.
As the Rangers fought to protect themselves, hundreds of intoxicated fans dashed onto the field armed with knives, chains, steel folding chairs and empty beer bottles—Indians reliever Tom Hilgendorf was hit in the head by one of those chairs.
Third base umpire and crew chief Nestor Chylak—who later decided to forfeit Game 2 of Disco Demolition Night in Chicago—declared a forfeit and named Texas the winner.
Chylak had also been struck with a stadium seat and a thrown rock, resulting in lacerations to the head and hand. Chylak described the fans as, "uncontrollable beasts ... I've never seen anything like it, except in a zoo."
Phillies Fan Killed over Spilled Drink / World Series Riot
July 2009: Three suspects were charged in the death of a man after an incident at Citizens Bank Park's McFadden's Restaurant Saloon. After two groups were ejected from the saloon for fighting, the violence spilled out onto an adjacent parking lot, resulting in fatal injuries to 22-year-old David Sale.
In October of 2011, those three suspects pled guilty to manslaughter and conspiracy, admitting that the feud between them and the deceased began as a dispute over a spilled beer.
Oct. 28, 2008: The Philadelphia Phillies have just wrapped up a World Series win over the New York Yankees, sparking massive riots in the streets of downtown Philadelphia.
With several vehicles flipped, multiple fires set and thousands of dollars worth of damage, the phenomenon of rioting after a national championship win is apparently not limited to the World Series—after a 2009 NLCS victory, dangerous projectiles sailed through the air as a wayward fan climbed a traffic pole, damaging the pole's traffic signal.
Yankees Fan Kills Red Sox Fan
May 2008: Yankees fan Ivonne Hernandez rammed into a group of Red Sox fans outside a New Hampshire bar, killing Red Sox fan Matthew Beaudoin in the process. Hernandez and Beaudoin had gotten into a rivalry-induced argument: Hernandez claimed self-defense, though she admitted taunting Beaudoin with a comment concerning Word Series titles.
In claiming self-defense and denying trying to scare or hit Beadoin, Hernandez contradicted a report she gave to police on the day of the incident.
In 2009, a jury found Hernandez guilty of second-degree murder for the rivalry-related death and a judge sentenced Hernandez to 20-40 years behind bars.
October 2010: Red Sox fan Monte Freire was stabbed by Yankees fan John Mayor at a Connecticut restaurant, leading police to declare a baseball-related argument as the primary motive for the attack. Mayor was arrested and charged with first-degree assault, interfering with an officer, tampering with evidence and possession of a controlled substance.
Freire was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, improving after four emergency surgeries that saved his life.
October 2003: In Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS, Yankees pitcher Jeff Nelson and outfielder Karim Garcia beat up a Fenway Park grounds crew employee for waving his Red Sox rally towel inside the Yankees bullpen. Nelson and Garcia were ordered to perform 50 hours of community service and attend anger management counseling. This was also the game that featured Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez's takedown of 73-year-old Yankees coach Don Zimmer.
Red Sox Fan Beats, Kicks Yankees Fan
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March 2008: A group of Red Sox fans beat a Yankees fan outside a bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts because he was wearing a Yankees cap. The Red Sox mob allegedly confronted the Yankees fan inside the bar and when he decided to leave without engaging the group, the Boston fans allegedly followed him outside and into a parking lot, where they beat and kicked him, requiring hospitalization for head injuries.
Mets Fan Kills Mother
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July 2007: Michael Anthony had just witnessed the New York Mets lose another game and decided he had had enough. Losing his temper, Anthony banged on the walls of his Queens home, punched his father in the face and threw him to the ground.
That's when his mother Maria Fischman tried to intervene, but by then, Anthony was in the midst of a sports-induced rampage. He stabbed Fischman once in the head with a knife before striking her several times with a 20-pound barbell, resulting in her death.
Giants Fan Killed by Giants Fan
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Team affiliation may be a catalyst for some incidents, but in the end, hooliganism can strike at any time.
May 2008: As the Giants hosted Philadelphia on a brisk Friday night, 18-year-old Anthony Giraudo and 18-year-old Taylor Buckley came to blows during an argument over a female friend in Seals Plaza, just outside AT&T Park's center fielder area.
After Giraudo was knocked out following a punch from behind, Buckley was arrested for aggravated assault and released after posting bail. When Giraudo succumbed to his injuries the following day, Buckley was charged with murder, ultimately pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Sept. 2004: Giants fan Timothy Griffith was stabbed to death in a parking lot just outside AT&T Park after brushing up against the driver's side mirror of someone else's car. Three individuals exited that vehicle and initiated a fight with Griffith's group. In addition to Griffith's slaying, a second person was beaten unconscious and suffered a broken hand and bruised ribs.
After police released a series of composite sketches of the assailants, Rafael Cuevas was sentenced to 16 years-to-life in prison for second-degree murder. Cuevas had claimed self-defense.
Cubs Fans Beat Chicago Man to Death
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In the end, a fine line separates fandom and pandemonium.
Sept. 2008: Robert Ulmer was beaten and killed by two Cubs fans following a 5-4, division-clinching win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ulmer and a relative had been inside the Apartment Lounge bar when the relative engaged in a fight with the two Cubs fans. As Ulmer and his relative exited the bar, the Cubs fans followed, resulting in an all-out brawl in which Ulmer was pinned down, punched and kicked.
According to Ulmer's family, he was not a Cubs fan and Ulmer's common-law wife described the killing as an "unprovoked random act of violence."
Line Between Fandom and Pandemonium
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And this is where it all begins and ends. Fans cheer for their teams and might even heckle the opposition, but fans generally do not cross that line that separates sporting behavior and boorish, criminal unsporting conduct. When large numbers of fans do decide to riot, there is generally a perfectly clear explanation and reason.
When a person is killed in connection with a sporting event, the death is no less spectacular than an ordinary bar-fight, mugging or retaliation. Though the color of one's jersey may provide the spark and the alcohol may provide the nerve, assailants come in all forms—sport fans and athletically disinclined individuals alike.
When a small group of individuals are involved in a fight—perhaps a four-on-two skirmish—the question isn't whether a team's fanbase is corrupt, for six persons do not a market make; the question is why the isolated case of violence occurred in the first place—rioting after the Phillies World Series clincher is much more obvious than a single stabbing in a Phillies ballpark restaurant.
Quite often, it does indeed take two to tango.