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1 of 1 DOCUMENT Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania) April 27, 1995, Thursday, SOONER EDITION

Pirates give fans chance to spill venom


BYLINE: Bob Smizik SECTION: SPORTS, Pg. D1 LENGTH: 679 words

They came, it seemed, with no malice in their heart and with no apparent desire to vent their frustration on the men who had taken the game of baseball from them. The expected outpouring of anger by the fans toward the players at the first baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium since Aug. 11 just wasn't there as the Pirates and Montreal Expos began play last night. There was mostly polite applause when the players were introduced before the game. Only union honcho Jay Bell was booed, and then only mildly. Bell turned those boos to cheers with a home run in the fourth inning. These fans, by all indication, were here to celebrate the return of baseball, not to bear a grudge. Until, that is, the Pirates gave them something to boo. And then all those angry feelings, and more, poured out. It was a play that might have been expected from replacement players. But there were real major-leaguers tossing the ball around in such a manner that three runs scored on a ball that was hit no more than 50 feet in the fifth inning and led to a 6-2 Montreal victory. The Pirates' ineptitude was enough to shake the crowd of 34,841 out of its good behavior and turn it into baseball's equivalent of an unruly mob. They did lots more than boo. Fans in the upper deck in the outfield hurled foot-long plastic tubes onto the field. The tubes, with a Pirates flag inside, had been passed out before the game as a souvenir of opening night. Thousands were thrown back, and the game was delayed 17 minutes while the field was cleared. Throwing objects on to the playing field is a no-no of significant proportions. But in these circumstances -- with this play and the strike in mind -- the gesture was somewhat apropos. It was certain to make the ESPN SportsCenter highlights. Some might mark it down as an embarrassing moment for Pittsburgh. Actually, since the plastic tubes were basically harmless, it was a gesture worthy of the moment. It went something like this: After the Expos had taken a 2-1 lead earlier in the inning, they had Mike

Page 2 Pirates give fans chance to spill venom Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania) April 27, 1995, Thursday,

Lansing on third and Cliff Floyd on first with Roberto Kelly at bat. Kelly hit a slow bouncer to Jeff King, who earlier had made the defensive play of the game on a hard smash down the third-base line. King charged the ball, fielded it cleanly but threw wild past first baseman Rich Aude. As the ball rolled toward right field in foul territory, Lansing scored and Floyd raced first to second and then on to third. By the time right fielder Orlando Merced retrieved the ball, Floyd was attempting to score. The play was close, but not close enough. Floyd had the throw beat. But as the throw skipped past catcher Mark Parent it hit Floyd in the face and caromed toward the Pirates' dugout. By now, Kelly, who had hit the ball, was on his way to third. Just before the ball was going to go into the dugout, Parent dove, grabbed it and turned to throw to home. He had a clear shot at Kelly, but pitcher Jon Lieber, who was covering home, was too far from the plate. The throw was in time, but Lieber was in no position to make the tag. The Expos led, 5-1. With the offense the Pirates present this season, that's a mighty obstacle to overcome, and one they were not up to last night. Manager Jim Leyland said the comedy of errors didn't bother him. ''That's one of those things. Physical errors are part of the game.'' Leyland, however, would not comment on the tube throwing and grew angry when the subject was broached a second time. Bell looked at the bright side of the fan reaction. ''We have good fans here in Pittsburgh. I understand their frustration. We drew over 2 million a couple of years ago. We had 34,000 here tonight. Maybe 2,000 threw things on the field. That means 32,000 didn't do anything.'' It's too early to fully gauge the fans' reaction to the players. For sure, the crowd will be down significantly this afternoon when the teams play again. But that always happens. Based on early returns, it looks like the expected backlash against the players might have been overrated. LOAD-DATE: April 28, 1995 LANGUAGE: ENGLISH Copyright 1995 P.G. Publishing Co.