FRAMINGHAM (11/11/2003) - We take full responsibility. No sooner do we run an interview with Major League Baseball CSO Kevin Hallinan, than an on-field-and-bullpen melee breaks out at Boston's historic Fenway Park during the American League Championship Series (ALCS). Once described by writer John Updike (in an excess of sentimentality) as a "lyric little bandbox," Fenway's greensward was more like a great big mosh pit on Saturday, Oct. 11, when Red Sox and Yankee players tangled in a series of testosterone-fueled sideshows. It fell to ballpark security, Hallinan's office, Boston police and the umpiring crew to sort out the mess.
In the midst of an intense security incident, sometimes what you don't do can be as decisively important as what you do. For example, despite considerable provocation from players like Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez and left fielder Manny Ramirez, and New York outfielder Karim Garcia, no players were ejected. Nor was Yankee bench coach (and one-time Sox manager) Don Zimmer bounced after taking a run at Martinez during the fourth-inning fracas (this ill-advised move left the 72-year-old Zimmer sprawled on the ground when Martinez flung him aside).
Somehow, the passions on the field were kept from spilling over into the crowd. Boston police reported very few arrests. The decision to shut off beer sales at Fenway's concessions after the fourth inning made a whole lot of sense and without question contributed to keeping the peace among fans in the stands. By the ninth inning, when pitchers in the Yankee bullpen allegedly assaulted an exuberantly partisan member of the Red Sox groundskeeping crew, the fans had come out way ahead of the players on the behavioral balance sheet.
Hallinan says he talked to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig before the ALCS got under way, "and we agreed that this year we were having two World Series-type events," given the magnitude and intensity of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
Were there particular scenarios that Hallinan and Red Sox security people discussed as triggers for specified responses? "It's more a sense of the moment," he says. "You obviously know what factors will give you some concern. Boston's a college town. It's packed with young people who are sometimes looking to become part of the event. The availability of alcohol can be a factor in that." Ultimately, Hallinan says, "It's our job to make sure the fans don't get involved with the events on the field."
Subsequent reviews of the security team's performance in game three broke along party lines, with Yankees executives crying foul and the Red Sox expressing satisfaction. Major League Baseball was on the side of the home team, praising the umps, the Fenway security force and the Boston police for offering the right responses under considerable duress.
Like Yankee starting pitcher Roger Clemens--known occasionally to be a hothead--the forces of law and order kept their cool. Clemens controlled his temper, stuck to pitching and picked up the win. For their part, the security folks--abetted by their on-field counterparts, the umpires--demonstrated the value of less as more. In a situation where ejections (which, if you went by the book, were clearly warranted) would have jacked up the crowd, that temptation was wisely resisted.
Which prompts me to ask for your feedback on the value of restraint. What situations have you faced in your job that you believe turned out better because you backed away from a hard-line response? Is it always clear which approach is best? And how do you decide? Let me know at email@example.com.