Commentary

Giants fans sense tension of L.A. visit

Updated: April 11, 2011, 5:30 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Lisardo Planells knew what I was going to ask.

He had attended Sunday's game between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals decked out in Giants gear: jersey, earrings, hat, even orange-rimmed sunglasses. Said he's gone to five or 10 games all season. A real fan, not a bandwagon jumper after the team's World Series victory last season.

But as soon as I mentioned the team's upcoming three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he grew serious.

"Bryan Stow," Planells said before I had a chance to ask a question. "I was numb when I heard. I couldn't believe it."

It spoke to the sense of disbelief and outrage among Giants fans I spoke with Sunday about the brutal attack on Stow, the 42-year-old paramedic from Santa Cruz, Calif., who was beaten in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium on March 31.

Detectives in the case have said Stow was walking away from his assailants before they struck him from behind, causing head injuries so severe that he's been placed into a medically induced coma and had the left side of his skull removed to control the swelling in his brain.

[+] EnlargeGiants Fans
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)Giants fans expressed outrage over the beating of Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium.

Monday will be the first game between the two teams in San Francisco since the incident.

"There's going to be feelings for sure," Planells said. "It's going to be tense."

The Giants have pledged "World Series-level" security measures for the series. Jorge Costa, the team's senior vice president for ballpark operations, said that a security force 30 percent to 40 percent larger than at a typical home game will be mobilized to help keep the peace.

"We've done our due diligence. We've put the resources together. We've got the plan. Now it's just executing it," Costa said. "We're hoping it turns out to be a nice event, but realistically we know there will be some element of hubris, testosterone and alcohol that gets involved. That's the way it is."

Costa said senior officials from the San Francisco Police Department plan to attend Monday's game.

Sunday afternoon, after the Giants lost to the Cardinals 6-1, fans remaining in the ballpark booed loudly when Monday's game against the Dodgers was announced over the loudspeaker.

"If that's all it is, we can all live with that," Costa said. "It's the people who have to act out that other stuff, and quite frankly, we know going in there's a percentage that are like that."

Fans have reacted strongly to the story in the week and a half since the attack on Stow.

Message boards and comments section of stories about Stow have been filled with vile, racially charged and violent language.

But fans in both cities also have formed Facebook pages in support of Stow. The page "Dodger fans in support of Bryan Stow" had 3,519 fans as of Sunday evening. The Bay Area group "Our prayers are with Bryan Stow" had 27,122 fans.

On Sunday, even those who expressed anger over the incident seemed to understand the difference between the rivalry and retribution.

"What happened to Stow made me angry," said Giants fan Arturo Trujillo, who attended Sunday's game with Planells. "That really got to me. If I was at the game [Monday] and I saw a Dodger fan, I'd tell him how I felt." But in terms of violence, Trujillo said, "It doesn't have to go there. This is the national pastime. It's a just a game."

San Francisco resident Phillip Marquez said he would be worried about bringing his 7-year-old son to any of the games against the Dodgers this week.

"I think it'll be tense," he said. "I think you can almost guarantee some rivalry and some tension, for payback, unfortunately."

Marquez attended Sunday's game with his son and longtime friends Danilo Najarro and Sal Lopez. They've been going to Giants games since the mid-1970s and have been to two dozen Giants-Dodgers games over the years.

"It's always intense, but I think it was worse at Candlestick Park," Lopez said. "Candlestick is kind of rough. The worst was the game when [Dodgers second baseman] Steve Sax pointed at the fans, taunted them. People were jumping out of their seats, throwing things on the field at him. It was crazy.

"Over here at AT&T [Park, which opened in 2000], it's more people drinking cappuccino and talking on their cellphones. It's more of an amusement park."

Still, Lopez, 47, said he wouldn't bring his 7-year-old son to a Dodgers-Giants game.

"I was even thinking about that before what happened to Stow," he said. "There's just too much to watch out for."

Sunday afternoon against the Cardinals, the atmosphere inside AT&T Park was calm and cool. The place emptied within an hour after the game. Seagulls took up their usual residence on the playing field.

Anger might filter in for Monday night's game, but Sunday, there was hope that a city and its fans would rise to the occasion.

"I want to go to one of the games against the Dodgers," Lopez said while holding his young son's hand.

"I want to represent, to show my support. Maybe shake a Dodgers fan's hand, give them a high-five. Maybe that's what needs to be started to help end what's been going on."

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.