Sports fans can be a passionate bunch. Giving their heart and souls to their favorite team, one can understand when they get carried away in the stands. But when that passion spills on to the actual field of play, these fans often get carried away in handcuffs.
Boston Patriots Fan
In a 1961 AFL game between the Dallas Texans (now the Kansas City Chiefs) and the Boston (now New England) Patriots at Fenway Park in Boston, Boston used a little known defensive formation to seal a win. With Boston leading 28-21, Dallas had the ball on the Patriot’s 2 yard line with 3 seconds left in the game. As Dallas lined up for the potential tying score, no one, not the 22 players on the field or the seven officials, noticed as a fan snuck on the field and became a part of the Patriot defense. Unlike modern stadiums where fans are far removed from the field, fans at Fenway Park that day were allowed to stand within inches of both end zones with only a thin rope holding them back. On the ensuing play a potential touchdown pass was deflected at the last moment by the afore mentioned fan who quick disappeared back in to the crowd. A livid Dallas team protested to no avail as none of the officials had seen the guy not wearing a Patriots uniform, or any football equipment to speak of, interfere.
Baltimore Colts Fan
Late in a 1971 game between the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Colts in Baltimore, one well-oiled fan Colts decided he wanted a souvenir. But a jersey or yearbook just wouldn’t do so during a time out he hopped out of the stands, ran on the field and snatched the game ball! Very pleased with himself judging from his intoxicated grin, he made off with his prize, for about five yards. As 40,000 people collectively winced, Colts linebacker Mike Curtis, one of the most feared defenders in the NFL at the time, separated the fan from the ball and his consciousness. When interviewed after the game and asked if he regretted hitting the unpadded fan so hard Curtis stated, “I was simply enforcing a city ordinance, he was trespassing.”
Oh the pain and suffering of the Chicago Cubs fans seemed ready to end. With one out in the top of the eighth inning in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS at Wrigley Field, with the Cubs leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 and the series 3 games to 2, the Cubs seemed poised to go to their first World Series since 1945 and win their first one since 1908, a lazy pop foul headed towards the left field stands. Life-long Cubs fan Steve Bartman leaned over the railing to snatch a souvenir ball, preventing Cubs left fielder Moises Alou from making the catch. Alou protested fan interference to the umpires but to no avail. Oh well, no big deal, just five outs for a World Series trip. But what happened next seemed to solidify the Cubs century long curse. The Marlins proceeded to score eight runs in the inning and win the game and then Game 7 the next night effectively making Steve Bartman the most hated person in Chicago history. The Governor of Illinois half seriously suggested Bartman go in to the Witness Protection Program. So devastated by his actions Bartman has not attended a Cubs game since and turned down thousands of dollars for autographs and commercials.
The Stanford University Marching Band
One of the better rivalries in college football is Stanford versus California University (Cal). In their 1982 meeting, the outcome would be decided by one of the wildest finishes in sports history. With Stanford trailing 19-17 with less than a minute left, the Cardinal under quarterback and future Hall of Famer John Elway, drove down and kicked a go ahead field goal for a 20-19 lead with only five seconds left. All they had to do was stop Cal on the ensuing kick- off and the game would be theirs. Stanford squibbed the kick to prevent a return, but what happened next has gone down in history simply as “The Play.” The Cal return team began lateraling to keep the ball alive, a plan that rarely works but this time the Bears managed to get the ball all the way to the Stanford 30 yard line when one last desperate lateral landed in the hands of Cal fullback Kevin Mohen, who also the first player to touch the ball on the kickoff. A Stanford defender had one chance to tackle him on the 15 yard line, or he would have had not the entire Stanford Marching Band been on that end of the field thinking the game had ended, preventing him from getting near Mohen. Mohen barreled in to the end zone, knocked over a trombone player and was mobbed by his teammates and fans for a stunning 25-20 Cal win. To this day Stanford has not accepted the games finish and all their record books show the 1982 game as a 20-19 Stanford win.
Disco Demolition Night
Bill Veeck has gone down in baseball history as the inventor of the crazy baseball promotion stunt. Among his unique innovations was letting a midget have a legal at bat in a major league game (he walked) and the firework shooting exploding scoreboard. In 1979, as owner of the Chicago White Sox he okayed an idea from his son Mike. With the music fad disco in its death throes, the White Sox offered any fan that came to the twi-night double header against the Detroit Tigers with a disco record a 98 cent admission. The plan was that in-between games the records would be blown up in center field under the direction of a Chicago DJ. The White Sox got their wish. Barely drawing 15,000 fans a game, as many as 90,000 showed up records in hand. Trouble started in the first game when many fans discovered that 33 rpm vinyl records closely resemble Frisbees and the game had to be stopped several times to clean up hundreds of records that had littered the field. When the first game concluded the real fun began. As the DJ signaled “fire goddess” to torch the huge pile of records it was like yelling “Charge!” as thousands of fans flooded the field. It took the better part of two hours to restore order and by that time the field was so badly damaged the second game couldn’t be played, and since it was the home teams responsibility to maintain the field the umpires had no choice but to award a 9-0 forfeit win to the Tigers.
In a 1976 game between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium two fans ran on the field with an American flag, apparently to celebrate the country’s bicentennial. When they began to lay the flag down like a picnic blanket in center field and took out a can of lighter fluid Cub’s center fielder Rick Monday opened up a can of “Oh Hell No” on the pair. Before they could light it, Monday swooped in a grabbed the flag and took it to safety as one of the now frustrated arsonists threw the lighter fluid can at him (he missed). Both were quickly arrested and Monday received a standing ovation from the Dodger crowd and players. As he came to bat in the next inning the scoreboard lit up with the message “Rick Monday, you made a great play!”
Unlike Steve Bartman whose interference made him enemy #1 in Chicago, 11 year old Jeffery Maier did the exact same thing, and was hailed as a hero. In Game 1 of the ALCS between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles at Yankees Stadium, the Orioles were leading 4-3 in the bottom of the eight when Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter hit a high fly ball towards the right field wall. Oriole right fielder Tony Torasco seemed ready to make the catch when the ball appeared to deflect in the stands for a game tying home run. Torasco screamed at umpire Rich Garcia who ruled it a home run even though replays showed Little Leaguer Jeffery Maier leaning two feet over the wall, in the field of play, as the ball hit off his glove and went in to the stands. Maier’s interference changed the game, which the Yankees would win in 10 innings 5-4 and take the series in 5 games. For his “heroic” act Maier became the toast of the town, getting front page news coverage and appearing on local talk shows. Ironically Maier would pursue a baseball career, even getting a try-out with the Yankees in 2006, but never make it to the major leagues. He currently is a consultant for a minor league team.