Sixteen Dodger players and three coaches are suspended by the commissioner’s office for going into the stands during the Wrigley Field scuffle with fans on May 16. The suspensions totaling 60 games for players and 24 games for coaches is the harshest penalty ever handed down by major league baseball.
As the Cubs attempted a ninth-inning comeback against the Dodgers, a fan near the Los Angeles bullpen felt the (likely alcohol-fueled) need to reach over the wall and hit catcher Chad Kreuter in the back of the head, then steal his hat.
Kreuter and other members of the Dodgers bullpen squad charged into the stands to fight the fan as a near riot began.
The harshest suspension – eight games – was reserved for Kreuter, along with coaches Glenn Hoffman, Rick Dempsey and John Shelby. All 19 were also fined. The Dodgers, as you might expect, thought the punishments were too harsh, as did the players’ union. The actions, while severe, were justified, some said.
”The penalties are just intolerable,” Gene Orza, a players union official, told The New York Times. ”What would have happened to these players if they didn’t do anything? What would their reputations within the sport have been? I don’t know a manager or general manager who wouldn’t have fired them.”
Said LA outfielder Gary Sheffield, according to The Los Angeles Times: “I’ve never seen anything like that in my 12 years in the game. The first thing you think about is the safety of your teammates. You don’t know what they (fans) might do to you.”
“There has to be better security measures down there,” Dodgers GM Kevin Malone told the LA Times. “There has to be better protection for the players because there was no one down there to police those fans. “It just kept going on and there was no security there. Our players were at risk, and they were just protecting themselves. That was just self-protection.”
Three fans involved in the fight were arrested. The Dodgers later settled a lawsuit with one fan who said Kreuter choked him while other player hit him. In 2003, a Cook County jury awarded $475,000 to the same fan after it found the Cubs and two employees guilty on civil charges of malicious prosecution and false imprisonment, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Meanwhile, Josh Pulliam, the fan who started the whole thing by taking Kreuter’s hat, never faced any legal penalties. Years later, he called the incident “a stupid prank gone horribly wrong.”