September 25, 1999
Making Milwaukee an Aberration
"So, I was sitting at my desk today, putting the final touches on the latest Transaction Analysis by Chris Kahrl, when out of the blue, I felt someone jump on my back. I was able to shake him off, and I'm OK except for a few cuts and bruises. Just another day at the office, I guess."
Absurd, right? Unless, of course, you're a mouth-breathing imbecile from South Beloit, Ill. with a penchant for jumping people from behind while they work. That was what Bill Spiers of the Houston Astros had to put up with Friday night. The "fan", whose name has been withheld (presumably until he sobers up and remembers it), leaped out of the right-field seats and attacked Spiers in bottom of the sixth inning during the game at Milwaukee County Stadium.
Spiers, who presumably wasn't cautioned about this during his on-the-job training as an outfielder this year, overcame his initial shock at the attack and was able to escape with minor injuries, notably a sore neck. He'll miss a couple of games. The idiot, who was set upon rapidly by the remaining Astros, was arrested and is still in the custody of Milwaukee police, awaiting charges.
Now, our criminal justice system doesn't have much provision for the death penalty for a relatively minor assault. But I sincerely hope the Brewers--and Spiers, if he chooses--do everything in their power to see that this clown spends at least some time in jail, and pays a hefty fine. What he did was relatively minor--demanding a piggyback ride from a right fielder probably isn't an executable offense--but it's the potential for what he could have done, the terrifying "What if?", that demands strong action by the authorities.
Baseball players--basketball players, as well--play in close proximity to large crowds with almost no safety net between them and the lunatic fringe. We laugh at the occasional streaker, or cheer the sudden appearance of Morganna on the field. How often do we think of Gunther Parche, who irreparably damaged the career of tennis star Monica Seles? How often do we think of the death threats athletes like Cal Ripken and Hank Aaron endured as they approached hallowed records?
If you're standing in center field, 50 yards from the nearest aid and with only a heavy piece of leather and a can of chewing tobacco on your person, you need to know with absolute certainty that no one is going to come up behind you and threaten your safety. Professional athletes work in front of crowds, and the only way that works is if those athletes can feel safe among those crowds. For the sake of those athletes, and those of us who enjoy watching them unemcumbered by fences or walls, I implore the Brewers, the Milwaukee authorities and major league baseball to make an example of the idiot from Illinois.