Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Riot

There's a double header I attended back in 1988 (Dodgers/Giants at Candlestick) that I simply call "The Riot." A co-worker of mine was there and he recalled his version of the story to me just last week. It was great to hear it from him, because as he recounted it to me, I realized that unlike many fishing stories, my version hadn't grown each time I've told it. As I tell the following story, please be reminded that I am not exaggerating as to what happened.

The Giants hosted a rare double header against the Dodgers in July of 1988. Rare because they usually draw well and don't need a double header. The late 80's/early 90's saw the peak of fan rowdiness and unruliness, contrary to some moralist traditionalists that claim it is still getting worse. Well this night was tops I've ever experienced.

First, there were 50,000 extremely rowdy Giants fans in attendance for this twi-night double header. It started hours before the game in the parking lot. "Beat LA" and "Dodgers suck" chants were breaking out all over the place, and it lasted all night long. The second game went extra innings, so it was a truly long night indeed. The Dodgers swept, winning both games by scoring in the late innings, which infuriated the orange and black throngs.

Beer sales must have hit an all time record. There were tens of thousands of completely drunken fans. Plastered out of their minds. Normally, alcohol sales are cut off in the 7th inning of a game. But during the double header, sales weren't halted until the 7th inning of the second game. Liquor bottles sneaked in by the fans were lying everywhere, and you could hear one drop to the concrete every few minutes. Bathroom lines were hundreds of fans deep, and once inside, a drunken party atmosphere prevailed. There were fights in the stands every inning or so. The police were out in force, by the dozens, and they were wearing full riot gear. Helmets, shields, batons and combat boots. Every few innings a fight was bad enough that the riot cops descended on the fight, jumping in head first and pummelling people with sticks and such. Fans would rise to their feet to view the fighting. Dodger fans were being physically assaulted just for being Dodger fans. It was very ugly, especially in the bleachers. Rowdiness was anticipated, as the grass area between the bleachers and the chain link left field fence (where fans would pour out to shag home runs) was barricaded off and stayed this way for the rest of the year.

A mob mentality ruled the crowd the entire evening. Drunkenness, profane chants, you name it. An especially active group of rowdies were sitting behind the Dodger dugout, heckling and screaming at Dodgers on deck and those who returned to the dugout after making outs or errors. Not only did fans throw Dodger home runs back onto the field in game one (emulating the bleacher bums at Wrigley Field), but the fans had become so drunken and unruly in game two that they were even throwing back foul balls hit by the Dodgers. "Throw it back" chants broke out upon every Dodger foul ball. It became a really foggy evening as well (this could have been Halloween) and one pop fly was lost in the fog by a Dodger outfielder as it fell for a hit.

One foul ball hit by a Dodger behind home plate was caught by a Giants fan. I usually watch fans after they catch a ball to see how they react. Well, the Dodger batter got back into the batter's box, and this fan started sprinting down the aisle toward the field. He hurled a major league fastball at the Dodger batter, missing his ear by about six inches as the ball scooted across the infield. Within seconds, the entire Dodger dugout had climbed into the stands and started kicking the crap out of this fan. Riot police again descended into the mess and body slammed this fan to the concrete before escorting him off in handcuffs. With the Dodger players in the stands, fans by the dozens were hurling their beers at the Dodgers. Showers of liquid, debris and profane abuse were raining down from everywhere. They retreated to the field, where the deluge continued. The game was stopped and it took several minutes to clean up the mess and restore order. Special announcements were made before games the rest of the year because of this incident.

All in all, it was a scary night. I could feel it in the air. Even though I was a season ticket holder - and Giants fan - sitting in the most prime of box seats, I still felt like something could happen to me at any time. If it weren't for being such a baseball fan, and having a few beers in me myself, it would have been a good thing to just make it home as quickly as possible. My co-worker felt the same. And that's the reason I call this double header "The Riot." See the box scores for game 1 here, and game 2 here.

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