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Two Men Charged with Assaulting Baseball Coach During Game - 2002-09-20

Police in Chicago are charging a man and his son with aggravated assault after the pair attacked a Kansas City Royals baseball coach during a game with the Chicago White Sox. The coach was not seriously hurt, but the incident has some people worried about players' security.

Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa says he has no idea why the two men attacked him. It was the top of the ninth inning when the 34 year old man and his 15 year old son charged from the grandstand, knocked Gamboa down and began punching him.

"When I rolled over and saw that there were two of them, I tried to kick one guy to try to keep him abreast. Then, the other guy kind of smoked [hit] me on the side. Fortunately, by that time our team was on the field to protect me," Mr. Gamboa said.

Gamboa suffered minor cuts on his forehead, and received a standing ovation from the Comiskey Park crowd as he left the field. The coach's two assailants were jeered as they were led away in handcuffs.

The men say they charged Gamboa after a verbal exchange with the coach. Gamboa says he had not said a word to the two. Regardless of why the incident occurred, White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said the organization is sorry.

"It is reprehensible. We apologize. It is terrible it has happened. Fortunately, it does not seem that he is too seriously injured, so that is good news," he said.

This is just the latest in a series of violent incidents between baseball players and spectators in recent years. Among them: three years ago, a fan attacked a Houston Astros ballplayer during a game in Milwaukee, leaving the player with a bloody nose. In 1995, a man charged at a Chicago Cubs pitcher after the pitcher had given up a home run. The player was not injured.

White Sox officials say they will review what happened Thursday night and determine whether any changes need to be made to ballpark security or alcohol sales policies. But, White Sox player Jose Valentin says he does not see a need for major changes.

"It can happen in any park in baseball. How many people go to a park, kind of drink and do crazy stuff?" Mr. Valentin said.

The spectators involved in Thursday's attack live in the Chicago suburbs. They have separate court appearances scheduled during the next few days.