November 21, 2004
Indiana Pacers player Ron Artest lays down on the scorers table during a basketball game in Detroit against the Pistons. While laying down a fan pours a beverage on Artest. What happened next was bedlam. A fight ensued between both fans and Artests’ teammates that stunned the nation. Many fans were involved in the melee and 3 Pacer players were suspended for a significant amount of time. Stephen Jackson was suspended 30 games for his involvement while Jermaine O’Neil was suspended 25. Artest, who was the most involved in the fight was suspended the remainder of the 2004 season. More importantly multiple persons, including Artest, were charged criminally for their actions.
September 14, 2004
A late season match-up between the Texas Rangers and the Oakland Athletics turned ugly when pitcher Frank Francisco threw a folding chair into the stands, striking a woman in the face, breaking her nose. Francisco was suspended the remainder of the 2004 season.
September 19, 2002
In probably the most stunning attack from a fan on an athlete occurred during a late season game between the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox. During the ninth inning of the ball game, visiting Kansas City was at the plate. First base coach for the Royals Tom Gamboa was savagely attacked by both a father and a son. Although Gamboa was understandably shaken from the incident, he luckily sustained only minor injuries. What made Gamboa so lucky was discovered after the incident when current San Francisco Giant and former Phillie, Aaron Rowand, discovered a pocket knife that fell out of one of the attackers pockets. Even more stunning than the incident itself was the penalty handed down to the attackers. Six months probation.
By now Phillies fan are well versed on the information released surrounding pitcher J.C. Romeros’ incident involving a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays. 25 year old Robert Eaton alleges that Romero grazed his chin, grabbed his throat, and shoved him back. Romero admitted to pushing the Eaton back after Eaton got face to face with Romero. Both parties involved admit to exchanging words of discontent.
The key bit of information about the circumstances surrounding the incident comes directly from Romero’s mouth. Romero admitted to pushing the fan back. One can assume from this claim that Romero had to physically reach over the wall separating the seats from the field to do so. When a fan enters the field of play the are prosecuted criminally, however, in most cases are let off with a slap on the wrist. There is however a cost to the fan which include legals fees, court costs, and any fine that may be imposed.
Both Romero and Eaton are lucky that it ended there. Romero is lucky he “pushed back” a fan who did not want to take it further physically. This incident could have been far uglier than what it was. Although Romero was verbally provoked, there was no reason Romero should have placed his hands on Eaton. The wiser choice would have been take three steps back, out of reach of the fan, and return to the dugout.
Romero’s choice to place his hands on Eaton has created a situation that a slumping team does not need. Furthermore, Romero’s choice should cost him. As much as it pains me to admit it, Romero should be suspended by Major League Baseball.
Just as a fan has no business entering the field of play, a player has no business entering the stands. Of course Romero did not actually enter the stands, he crossed a threshold that is known by both fans and players that the other side is strictly off limits. There is a reason there is a wall there. It is a boundary line. It is a Do Not Enter sign. What Romero did was break a social contract between players and fans: I’ll stay on my side, you stay on yours. When Romero pushed Eaton, he had no idea what that action could have caused. It could have turned very tragic very quickly. People could have been injured because of a momentary lapse in judgement on Romero’s part.
Bud Selig should send a clear message to all players. Perhaps not for what happened, but for what could have been. Suspending Romero would reinforce the notion that players are not to enter the stands. Romero made a poor decision and he should be held accountable for his actions just as fans are held accountable for theirs when they enter the playing field.