LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — The savage beating of Bay Area Giants fan, Bryan Stow has turned a young baseball season into open season on everything that is wrong with the Los Angeles Dodgers — from the owners, to the stadium, to security, to the storied franchise itself.
For now, it’s going to mean more LAPD blue at the ballpark to join Dodger blue.
More officers will be dispatched as part of increased security announced Friday. City officials and the team said the additional officers will stand guard at the next home game on April 14.
They are hoping to avoid a repeat of the season’s first game, when two men in Dodgers attire attacked 42-year-old Stow, who was wearing rival San Francisco Giants gear in the parking lot. A week later, Stow, an emergency medical technician, is still in critical condition. Police are still looking for the assailants, despite a $150,000 reward and sketches of the suspects.
“These two individuals are not true Dodger fans. They are common criminals,” Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said at a news conference Friday, his first public comments on the beating.
The attack, however, has focused attention on security problems at the ballpark, and the intense — sometimes bitter — rivalry among Dodgers and Giants fans.
To fans concerned about their safety, McCourt said: “I hear you loudly and I hear you clearly.”
The team turned to Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck for help and hired former police Chief William Bratton and his New York security firm to plot a safe future for fans at one of the nation’s most historic ballparks.
McCourt, Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa all promised changes that will ensure a safe, family-friendly, fan-friendly environment. Many of the changes will be in place before the April 14 game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Among the changes are LAPD officers in uniform who can eject or arrest troublemakers, including season ticket holders, and enforce the ban on tailgating or drinking in the parking lots. The team will pay for the additional police, although the price hasn’t been set yet.
Eventually, there will be license plate scanners, observation towers, increased lighting and undercover operations throughout the stadium.
“There will be zero tolerance for misbehavior at Dodger games,” Beck said.
Some types of trash talk also will not be tolerated.
“If people are making comments that inherently incite violence, then you’ve got to go,” he said.
That will be good news for Erick Gustafson, 43. He said some fans were out of control. At a game last summer, he and his son were waiting in line for tickets when some fans shouted insults at his 10-year-old boy because he was wearing a St. Louis Cardinals shirt.
“He was all excited, he made some money and bought his own jersey,” Gustafson said. He didn’t want the boy to face similar taunts on the way out, so “in the sixth inning, I said ‘let’s go.’ It was just for my son’s safety.”
Radio talk show host Tom Leykis said he stopped going to Dodger games in October 2009 after two fans recognized and taunted him for eight innings with “nonstop vulgarities,” then followed him up the stairs.
He called security and two officers arrived and talked to the men, who he called “drunken stockbrokers,” but did nothing more because they professed their innocence, Leykis told The Associated Press.
“We’ve got HDTV. I don’t need this and I stopped going,” said Leykis, who offered $50,000 to the reward fund to find the men who attacked Stow, last week.
Stow was bludgeoned and kicked as he left the ballpark after the Dodgers defeated the Giants. He is still in a medically induced coma at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, and his family is accepting emailed well wishes from thousands of baseball fans.
The rivalry is more than a century old, dating back to when they were both still in New York.
The Dodgers moved into Chavez Ravine on April 10, 1962, four years after both the Dodgers and Giants moved to California from New York. Today Dodger Stadium is the third oldest park in the majors.
In the win-loss column, the Dodgers and Giants are almost even. Each team has six World Series titles. Head-to-head, the Giants have won 1,172 games and the Dodgers have won 1,152.
The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988. The Giants are reigning world champs.
On Opening Day, a plane flew over the stadium, trailing a banner that said: “Dodgers still suck … from SF champs fans.”
While losing stings, the public feud between McCourt and his wife, Jamie, over ownership of the team hasn’t helped the Dodgers or their fans’ image of the team.
“The minute you start hearing news about your favorite team beyond the sports pages, you have a problem,” said David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California Sports Business Institute.
Not everyone is afraid. Sergio Courtney, 38, of Los Angeles, said he’s been going to Dodger games since he was 5. He never felt unsafe and he doesn’t now, he said.
Plans for massive police presence are overkill, he said, recommending observation towers.
“They don’t need a whole police force, just a couple eyes in the sky,” he said.
On Friday, Stow’s picture with his two kids was shown on the main centerfield scoreboard at the Giants-Cardinals afternoon game. The crowd began cheering: “Beat L.A.!”
The Giants also recognized longtime fan Stow during a game with the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday.
The next game between the teams will be Monday night, when the Dodgers visit AT&T Park in San Francisco for a three-game series. The Giants said they always have increased security for the Dodgers series.
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)