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On a Wave of (Dodger Stadium) Hysteria

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On June 9, 1945 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, NY, Dodgers’ manager Leo Durocher had police officer Joseph Moore bring down a heckling fan John Christian below the stands. Christian, a Dodger fan just back from the war, loved heckling Durocher - as Durocher testified in his trial, “He had a tremendously loud voice…. He used to holler at my players. ‘Bums,’ that’s all right. But ‘thieves’ and ‘crooks’ are not.”

What happened was a confrontation between Christian and Durocher. According to Christian, Durocher and Moore assaulted him with a blunt instrument. According to Durocher, Christian fell against a wall and landed in a water trough. What did happen was Christian suffered a broken jaw, his swollen face pasted in newspapers around the borough and city, and both Durocher and Moore arrested on charges of second-degree assault that carried a five-year prison term.

In April 1946 a jury of 12 Brooklyn men took 36 minutes to render a non-guilty verdict. The “Lip” Durocher’s way of celebrating the verdict: he told reporters, “No comment.”

As much as we want to romanticize the concept of going to a baseball game - sunshine, hot dogs and children with gloves hoping to catch a foul ball - we suffer from collective amnesia when it comes to the seedy underbelly.

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And that brings us to what happened outside of Dodger Stadium on Thursday after the Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-1 on Opening Night. Two Dodger fans assaulted a Giants fan near Parking Lot 2 after the game to within an inch of his life. The 41-year old fan from Santa Cruz is in a medically-induced coma and will probably need to have part of his frontal lobe removed.

This still hasn’t deterred Giants fans from traveling from the Bay Area to show up Dodger fans, impervious to wave of hysteria surrounding this crime.

“It’s not like you’re going to the Oakland Raiders game into the Black Hole or anything,” Stephen Hill, 23, from Fremont, Calif. told me wearing his Giants’ jersey and armed with a 2010 championship towel.

Hill was with a group of four friends who made the journey down from the South Bay to attend Friday night’s game and this afternoon’s game.

“Everybody in the world was calling us and texting us on the way down here, ‘Be safe,’ or , ‘Don’t wear ,’ or , ‘Don’t wear your uniform,’” Andy Prado, 27, of San Jose, Calif. said.

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“Really? Come on,” Doug Brock, 27, from Fremont retorted.

As a fan of the visiting team, they were well prepared for the harassment about to ensue.

“What we got yesterday was pretty typical for any away fans,” Brock explained.

“I was expecting a little bit more,” Danny Mangem, 20, from Fremont said.

But even they knew not to sit in the pavilion seats.

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“We figured we’d spend a little more money and get better seats,” Brock said.

The worst experience for them was walking through the parking lot after the game.

“Obviously people have been drinking,” Prado said. “It’s something you would expect at any park.”

“We got a lot of flak from our seats to the parking lot. In that ten-minute walk we got nothing but crap. Again, that’s typical behavior.”

And showing that Dodger Stadium is not the place shenanigans go on, Hill added, “We’d do that to Dodger fans if they came to our house.”

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It’s an awful story - everyone can agree with that - but the wave of racism and hysteria has also been distasteful.

But I have to warn you this group of guys might be completely delusional. When I asked what was wrong with their team, the first response I got was from Hill: “Nothing.”

Of course beating people to the point they need to have parts of their brains removed is an abhorrent act. The Dodgers and the Los Angeles Police Department should do everything in their power to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

But we have to remember that not every person who attends a Dodgers game does this. Racial profiling, “cholo” profiling, banning alcohol sales will not fix things magically.

So for all the hysterical detractors wanting to take potshots at any opportunity, according to these Giants’ fans the Dodgers’ fans aren’t the worst.

“A’s fans are way worse in Oakland than Dodger fans are here,” Hill said. “I’m more nervous to go to Oakland than I am to come here.”

Then again, Hill also said the Giants would go 160-2. So take that for what it’s worth.