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May 18, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

Wrigley Field

by Christina Kahrl

As everyone now knows, Tuesday night's Cubs-Dodgers game was notable for more than just Don Baylor's new formula for losing ballgames--leave the starter in to die. It also introduced America to what has been a long-term problem at Wrigley Field: lousy security and half-assed attempts by the Cubs' organization to dodge responsibility for it.

Just as much as the organization portrays its actions in the baseball world as decisive and proof of a determination to be more than lousy, it has launched a public relations campaign to pretend that it has a handle on its security and its liquor policies. You shouldn't believe it any more than you should believe Ed Lynch when he talks about his professional talent.

The Cubs have gone out of their way to pretend that they're doing something about drunkeness in the stands, especially after events last May in a game against the Rockies led to the ejection of dozens of fans for drunken rowdyism. After that embarrassment, the Cubs blubbered about how they would now allow fans to purchase only two beers at a time, and acted as if this would somehow solve the problem.

Setting aside the wisdom of anyone ordering multiple cups of Old Style at top dollar, this "policy" is not being observed either in fact or in spirit. Fans can still order more than two beers at a time, both from vendors and at the concession stands, and even if the rule were being observed, there's nothing to stop anybody from buying two beers, putting them under their seat, and ordering two more from the next vendor to come along.

Beyond a toothless liquor policy intended to avoid doing anything that might undercut beer revenues, the Cubs managed to create a security problem. Cubs "security" is best known for the lower-deck Grannies Brigade, the ubiquitous ill-tempered uniformed bluehairs who officiously pester fans for their ticket stubs when they aren't busy watching the ballgame themselves. While there have been calls in the past for better security--even uniformed Chicago policemen in the ballpark--Cubs officials have flatly denied the need for them, while lamenting that there are certain fans who would complain about all that security spoiling everybody's fun at the old ballpark.

So what did the Cubs get for a liquor policy they don't really observe and a security effort they deliberately undermine? Chad Kreuter says he was struck by the fan who took his cap; maybe he was and maybe he wasn't. Frank Robinson is supposedly reviewing this case to decide whether and how much to penalize the Dodgers.

But does anyone believe a fan would get that close to the Cubs' pen? While I think security in Wrigley Field is a joke, that isn't to suggest that there also isn't a double standard in play. Has anyone else seen what happens to fans who try to keep an opposition home run? To the battered survivors, good luck on getting bleacher thugs prosecuted in the Union's most corrupt state, and don't even bother taking it up with stadium "security."

Pretty clearly, this incident should draw a response from the commissioner's office and a heavy penalty should be handed out. But instead of focusing on the outraged Dodgers players who had to respond to fan misbehavior, the target should be the organization that has been irresponsible about providing adequate security, and that has lied about its attempts to control alcohol consumption at the ballpark.

Chris Kahrl can be reached at ckahrl@baseballprospectus.com.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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