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Original Issue


Imagine the worst kind of New York Yankee fan, on his way out of
his cave to watch his team play a postseason game at Yankee
Stadium, conducting a last-minute check of necessities. Game
ticket, lucky cap, Mattingly T-shirt, subway token and Titleist
for beaning other team's second baseman. All set. He is armed
and dangerous.

Here is a partial list of the ordnance that Yankee fans launched
at the Seattle Mariners in the first two games of an American
League Division Series last week: a softball; a shot glass; a
Walkman; a golf ball; plastic bottles; batteries; a small
fortune in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters; and torrents of
beer. And George Steinbrenner, the wanderlust-struck New York
owner, thinks the area outside Yankee Stadium is dangerous?

When the series relocated to Seattle for the weekend, Mariner
fans hung a sign proclaiming WELCOME BACK TO CIVILIZATION. Not
quite. In one lapse of decent conduct at the Kingdome, in Game
3, Seattle fans heaved a tomato, a baseball cap and a quarter,
the last of which smacked New York rightfielder Gerald Williams
in the mouth.

Elsewhere in the Division Series round, a fan in Boston dashed
onto the field and made a headfirst slide into second base. In
Los Angeles one trespassing fan turned cartwheels in the
outfield and another raced toward Dodger rightfielder Raul
Mondesi and handed him a baseball card and a pen.

The new expanded postseason has turned into garbage time, after
a regular season in which Dodger fans caused the first major
league forfeit in 16 years by lobbing baseballs, like grenades,
onto the field, and a Chicago Cub fan hopped a wall to attack
Chicago reliever Randy Myers on the mound. Take me out to the
ball game? Buy me some peanuts and a flak jacket.

"It's not just baseball," Philadelphia Phillie outfielder Andy
Van Slyke said earlier this season. "It's a problem throughout
society, a lack of respect for authority and other people. I
always thought that people who are the very best at what they do
should be admired for that. That's not true anymore."

Baseball crowds have been ugly before. As long ago as 1934, fans
in Detroit so tormented St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Joe
Medwick during the World Series that commissioner Kenesaw
Mountain Landis ordered him removed from a game in the interest
of safety. And there have been occasional ugly incidents ever
since. But what happened last week looms more as a pattern than
a broken line of incidents.

Why is it not enough anymore for a ticket buyer to be simply a
spectator? He must now be part of the action, do more than cheer
or wave a handkerchief as Minnesota fans did in the simpler
times of the 1987 World Series. Yankee fans do not use
handkerchiefs. For that matter, as evidenced by the lines at the
men's-room sinks at Yankee Stadium, they do not always use
urinals, either.

From a seat in the field-level auxiliary press box for Games 1
and 2, I watched Yankee fans throw garbage at each other,
attempt to tear down a press-box TV that obstructed their view
and repeatedly shout obscenities at Seattle leftfielder Vince
Coleman. It was one of the better-behaved areas of the stadium.
This, I thought, even before the first pitch, is no place for
women and children. Mercifully, few could be found. Yankee
pitcher David Cone, who toiled across town in the days when the
Mets filled Shea Stadium, had never seen anything like it. "This
crowd had a dangerous edge," he said.

They are the new Bronx Bombers, and one of their carpet bombings
in Game 1 covered the outfield with so much trash (above) that a
maintenance crew had to haul out a large garbage can to collect
the mess. Three fans ran onto the field in New York, including
one who slapped hands with Yankee catcher Jim Leyritz as he
circled the bases after his Game 2-winning homer.

Even during batting practice before Game 1, according to Mariner
pitcher Bill Risley, "the fans were throwing all sorts of stuff
at us--nickels, dimes and pennies--and a couple of the guys got
sick of it and decided to go in [to the clubhouse]." Risley
remained in the outfield but concerned himself so much with what
was flying out of the stands that he did not see the line drive
that struck his left ear, knocking him unconscious.

So dangerous was the visitors' bullpen, which is located in
front of the leftfield bleachers at Yankee Stadium, that Mariner
coach Matt Sinatro refused to stand near the bullpen telephone
because he would be in the fans' line of fire. "We couldn't
communicate with the bullpen," said Seattle manager Lou
Piniella. "They were scared to answer the phone."

At the worst, someone gets hurt. At the least, the Grand Game is
dragged down another level. What's next? Moats? Electrified
fences? Not yet, though beefed-up and more visible security is
appropriate. Does anybody believe the damage done by an
expanding legion of louts will subside without something being
done? It is not a small issue, not with the integrity of the
game and the welfare of its players at stake.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO [Maintenance crew cleaning outfield at Yankee Stadium]