One of the nice things about new ballparks is the intimacy. One of the bad things about new ballparks is the intimacy.
The closer the fans are to the action, the closer baseball is going to be to ugly confrontations like the one that happened Monday in Oakland, Calif., where Texas reliever Frank Franciscothrew a plastic chair into the stands and opened up a legal nightmare. Jennifer Bueno wound up with a broken nose and heavy medical bills.
There is absolutely, positively no excuse for Francisco's actions. The truth, however, is that it's surprising there aren't more serious confrontations between fans and players.
Network Associates Coliseum is far from one of the new-look ballparks, but over the years the stands around the visiting bullpen in Oakland have developed a vile reputation.
They are known for their obscenities, for hitting players with various objects and for pouring cups of urine on visiting pitchers.
"In Milwaukee, you'd go down the line to get a ball and you would know a cup of beer was coming at you," Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "In Oakland well, it wasn't beer."
But the problem isn't Oakland's alone. In 2000, at Wrigley Field, Dodgers players got into a brawl with fans after one reached over the wall and hit catcher Chad Kreuter in the head.
A year ago, four fans jumped out of the stands at U.S. Cellular Park in Chicago, with one attacking umpire Laz Diaz. The incident occurred one year after Kansas City first-base coach Tom Gamboa was attacked during a game in the same stadium.
Fans don't always need an enticement like Disco Demolition, which ended in a riot on the field, or 10-Cent Beer Night, which forced a forfeiture in Cleveland in 1974, but they had better be aware whom they're attacking.
Some players know martial arts. Some know other self-defense techniques. And when all else fails, some can throw a chair.
_ The Rocky Mountain News
NO LONGER FORGOTTEN: Only the Yankees, it seems, could spend $88.5-million on a pitcher, and never expect him to be the ace. Such is life for Mike Mussina, who signed a six-year deal with New York in 2000. It was easy for him to slip into the background on a staff that included Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and David Wells.
With those three gone, however, the Yankees will look to Mussina, 35, to be the No. 1 in October. So he picked a bad year to come down with an arm injury. He missed six weeks with elbow stiffness.
"It's the first time in quite a while," Mussina said, "that I had to take two steps back and relax and let (the arm) take care of itself."
But just when everyone was ready to write off the Yankees, Mussina _ now 11-9 with a 4.76 ERA _ started looking like himself again. In his past three starts, he is 2-1 with a 1.09 ERA, with 25 strikeouts in 23 innings.
"He's right where we need him right now," manager Joe Torre said. "His last three or four starts, he seems to be getting stronger every time out."
STRIKEOUT SPECIALIST: Cincinnati slugger Adam Dunn is approaching the major league single-season strikeout record of 189, set by Bobby Bonds in 1970. Through Friday, Dunn had 173 strikeouts, but manager Dave Miley has no plans to sit him. It helps that Dunn was batting .266 with 42 home runs and a .395 on-base percentage.
"It's not a big deal," Dunn said. "Well, it is a big deal. But it's not like I'm hitting .200 with an on-base percentage of .300."
_ The Baltimore Sun
Best and worst power rates among players with 500 career homers:
Player HRs at-bat
Mark McGwire 583 10.61
Babe Ruth 714 11.76
Barry Bonds 699 12.96
Sammy Sosa 571 13.94
Harmon Killebrew 573 14.22
Eddie Murray 504 22.49
Mel Ott 511 18.50
Ernie Banks 512 18.40
Rafael Palmeiro 546 18.39
Ernie Banks 512 18.38