Dodger Stadium atmosphere problem goes national, gets a response

Opening Day 2011 at Dodger Stadium by Ted SoquiOn tonight's ESPN [not Fox] broadcast of the Dodgers and Giants game, the announcers filled in those baseball fans who didn't already know that a Giants fan was jumped and beaten after Thursday's opening game. What the national audience may not appreciate is how much the stadium's rowdy atmosphere has become an issue here in Los Angeles.

Friday on "Airtalk" (it was the 26th anniversary of Larry Mantle's show on KPCC), Larry opened the show by telling listeners he turned down tickets to the Dodgers opener because of his concerns about the surliness of the crowd atmosphere when the Giants come to town. I know others who won't go to Dodger Stadium any more, citing the tone of the crowd, and it's not really limited to Giants games or opening day — though the rowdiness of some fans does seem worse at those games. I also don't think it's mostly a race or ethnicity backlash, though in L.A. that's too often a part of what's going on when somebody complains about a menacing "them." It's about feeling safe with your kids at a ballgame.

Referring to the parking lot beating that left a paramedic father of two in serious condition, Mantle asked: "What should Dodger management do about it? What should we as a city do about it? This has to do with our civic identify -- how we present ourselves to the world."

Times columnist T.J. Simers hit the issue hard today. With Simers you never know whether he's faking up a controversy to get a column out of it, as in his encounters with players. We've all learned by now to assume he's at least exaggerating for effect. But when you have a main columnist in the biggest local paper writing that "minding your own business at a Dodgers game no longer guarantees you won't end the night in a medically induced coma," the controversy has legs. Clearly, the Dodgers' response to the incident — that it was regrettable and serious, but not sufficient to force a big public action to reassure fans — was not going to cut it.

So here's what happened today. The Dodgers and the Giants — plus Mayor Villaraigosa and police chief Charlie Beck and their San Francisco counterparts — issued a joint statement deploring the incident. "Root hard for your teams, and do so with civility and common decency," they urged. I have to suspect the Dodgers will be taking some more concrete steps to make their fans feel safer, even if they cost the McCourts some money. As the LAT's game story said, the actual attendance at Saturday's game was nowhere near as large as the 40,000 the Dodgers announced.

The entire statement released by the teams is after the jump.

Photo of opening day by Ted Soqui

The following statement was issued today by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, SFPD Interim Chief Jeff Godown, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, San Francisco Giants Managing Partner Bill Neukom and Los Angeles Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt in regard to the assault that occurred after Thursday’s Opening Day game at Dodger Stadium:

“This attack is unconscionable behavior that will not be tolerated in either of our ballparks or in either of our cities. Once apprehended, the attackers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Public safety is the top priority for all of us and even one act of random violence is unacceptable.

Baseball is a family sport that has unified our country after times of crisis and tragedy. This senseless act of violence has no place in our society and certainly not in our national pastime.

The Giant/Dodger rivalry is one of the most storied in all of sports, dating back to when the teams played across town in New York City before their moves to California. This is a great rivalry between teams competing on the field of play. That’s where it must stay.

We call on our respective citizens to stand together in honor of that rivalry as you have done throughout the years. Root hard for your teams, and do so with civility and common decency.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim Bryan Stow and his family. The best thing that we as a community of baseball fans can do to support Bryan and his family is to rise above this outrageous act and exercise good sportsmanship and mutual respect for each other.”

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