Latest base-brawl taints game

MILWAUKEE - As a former player who once jumped in the stands to aid a teammate engaged in combat with a fan, Milwaukee Brewers manager Davey Lopes understood how the situation at Wrigley Field got out of hand Tuesday night.

But that doesn't mean he endorsed it.

''You don't ever want to con done that kind of thing,'' said Lopes, referring to the melee that ensued when several Los Angeles Dodgers players went in the stands in Chicago to take on unruly fans.

''What you're doing is trying to prevent your teammate from getting hurt. When the fans get out of control, that's when it be comes a mob scene.''

The altercation at Wrigley began in the bottom of ninth inning when a fan reached over the brick retaining wall and into the visiting bullpen to swipe the cap off the head of Dodgers catcher Chad Krueter. He went in the stands to try to retrieve the cap and was followed by several teammates and coaches.

In an instant, fans began tossing cups of beer on the players, and a scuffle ensued that led to the arrest of three people for disorderly conduct. When the teams played again Wednesday afternoon, there were extra security guards stationed in the bull pen area.

Commissioner Bud Selig was in New York and not available for comment, but major-league baseball vice president Sandy Alderson indicated disciplinary measures were in order for the players and coaches who entered the stands.

Lopes is well aware of the risks and liabilities that come with taking on fans in the stands. When Lopes played for the Dodgers, teammate Reggie Smith went in the stands in San Francisco to go after a fan who hurled a souvenir batting helmet that struck Smith.

Lopes jumped in to pull Smith out of the stands but later was sued by one of the fans involved.

''That's what happens when you're a celebrity, quote, unquote,'' said Lopes. ''You get sued. That's the way society is. I didn't pay a penny.

''I didn't go into the stands to fight people. There's a big difference. It's human nature for athletes to try to protect team members.

''Fans have every right to come to the ballpark and boo and whatever, but a lot of times they go over the line. That's where it becomes a problem. It takes a lot of restraint for major- league athletes not to respond.

''The commissioner's office is going to have to do what it has to do because we don't condone that type of behavior. But I can see how it could happen.''

Though called the ''Friendly Confines,'' Wrigley was the scene of another ugly incident last May when fans, upset over an umpire's call during a game against Colorado, pelted the field with baseballs, bottles, coins and cups of beer. Seventy-five people were ejected as a result of that melee.

There were no incidents between members of the Milwaukee bullpen and fans when the Brewers played a four-game series against the Cubs last week at Wrigley. But Brewers rightfielder Jeromy Burnitz said he was almost struck three times by plastic bottles full of water thrown from the bleachers behind him.

''If they would have hit me, I probably would have walked off the field,'' said Burnitz. ''There's nothing to gain and everything to lose by getting in a fight with the fans.

''What happens if you go in there and hurt somebody? It's never going to be worth it. Not to mention, what happens if you get hurt? Then the team is with out one of its players.

''(Wrigley Field) is just one of the places. To be honest with you, (County Stadium) is another place. And it's not just the away players. I hear stuff the whole game.''

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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