Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Fan attacks umpire at Royals-White Sox game

By Rick Gano
The Associated Press

A crowd of players, coaches, umpires and club security officials surround a fan who attacked umpire Laz Diaz.
(AP photo)
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CHICAGO - Kansas City Royals coach Tom Gamboa had no qualms about coming back to the ballpark where he was pummeled last year.

"Lightning doesn't strike twice," he said before Tuesday night's game against the Chicago White Sox.

It did. And this time it got an umpire.

Laz Diaz was attacked by a fan who came out of the stands in an eerie reminder of what happened near the same spot last season at Comiskey Park.

"I'm physically OK," Diaz said after the Royals won 8-5. "I think you should talk to the other guy and see how he's feeling."

Immediately after Carlos Lee flied out to end Chicago's eighth inning, a man ran on the field and tried to tackle Diaz, wrapping his arms around the first base umpire's legs.

Security and players rushed to the aid of the 40-year-old Diaz, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. The fan was quickly taken away and Diaz finished the game.

Chicago Police spokeswoman Officer Alice Casanova said the man, whom she did not identify, was being taken to a police station. Police will determine if he will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony based upon Diaz's injuries, she said.

"When I looked over, there was one of the fans from the stands and I just got him off me," Diaz said. "I just turned around and got him off me. The good hand-to-hand combat they taught me worked."

Chicago police officers walk an unidentified man who attacked first base umpire Laz Diaz to a waiting police car. Diaz, a former Marine Corps reservist, was uninjured in the attack.
(AP photo)
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Several Royals players could be seen kicking and stomping the fan while he was pinned down. When attacker was put into a police car, his head was wrapped with a white bandage, soaked with blood by the right temple.

It was the first appearance by the Royals in Chicago since Gamboa, then Kansas City's first base coach, was attacked by a father and son who came out of the stands last Sept. 19.

Diaz was standing about 100 feet from where Gamboa was knocked down - in the ballpark that will get national attention when it hosts the All-Star game on July 15.

"We spoke about it in the locker room, this is where Tom Gamboa got attacked. We thought nothing was going to happen, but it was full moon out there," Diaz said.

Gamboa is now the Royals' bullpen coach. He said he thought security was tighter for his team's return.

"Oh yeah, the assistant to major league security was at the game tonight. He told me before the game that they had beefed up the security, but the fans will always outnumber the security force, so there is only so much they can do," Gamboa said.

"I think people just have too much to drink," he added.

A night earlier in San Juan, Puerto Rico, two fans ran on the field and unfurled an antiwar banner as security was slow to react. Baseball spoke with local police Tuesday.

Minnesota first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said White Sox fans should be penalized.

"I think they should take the All-Star game away from them, honestly. You can't be having first-base coaches and umpires getting attacked. That's ridiculous," he said after the Twins beat Detroit 6-4.

Kevin Hallinan, baseball's security head, was in San Francisco when he learned of the attack.

"I'm on a 6 a.m. flight tomorrow morning to Chicago, and I'm going to be meeting with all concerned," he said. "I spoke with Diaz and he did say he thought security got out there in a hurry."

Tuesday night's game in Chicago had been delayed three times when fans ran onto the field before being tackled by security guards. All three of those fans were charged with trespassing, the White Sox said.

Two of the men are 25 years old and the third is 20, Casanova said without identifying them. She said she expects the men to be charged with a misdemeanor.

"It's sad that it happened, and happened when it did," White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. "It's unfortunate that it seems to happen when Kansas City comes to town."

In a statement, the White Sox said: "The behavior of four people attending tonight's game was reprehensible and will not be tolerated. They will be prosecuted to the fullest extend the law allows. The actions of four idiots in no way reflects Sox fans or the fans of Chicago."

The 55-year-old Gamboa was injured when he was attacked at Comiskey Park, renamed U.S. Cellular Field before the start of the season. He still has a minor hearing loss in his right ear.

The boy, 15 at the time, was sentenced to five years of probation and also ordered to undergo mandatory counseling and perform 30 hours of community service.

He was arrested along with his father, William Ligue Jr., who initially pleaded innocent to charges of aggravated battery and mob action. The case is still pending.

Kansas City won the game when Mike Sweeney hit a two-run homer and Brandon Berger hit a two-run single in the ninth. The Royals raised their record to 11-1.

Albie Lopez (2-0) won and Billy Koch (1-1) lost after blowing the save.

The benches emptied in the first inning when Miguel Asencio hit Chicago's Frank Thomas with a pitch for the second time this season. No punches were thrown.

Thomas homered in the eighth to give the White Sox a 5-4 lead.

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