The Dodgers play their first home game of the new baseball season today against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hardly anyone remembers that last year’s home opener ended with a win over the Giants.
What endures is the nightmare after the game: the near-fatal beating of a fan that had come to L.A. to take in some baseball with friends.
Bryan Stow had traveled from San Francisco to go to the game with his friends. He was a huge Giants fan, decked out in a black-and-orange jersey in a sea of Dodger blue. The game was over, and they were on their way to their car when someone attacked Stow from behind.
“It was a running, huge, sweeping punch,” friend Cory Maciel told NBC. “The first thing to hit the ground was the back of his head.”
The sound, he said, was horrifying.
“I watched his head bounce off the asphalt. And I heard it - just the crack of bone hitting asphalt.”
Stow was a paramedic for the city of Santa Cruz at the time. The beating left him unable to walk, barely able to talk, and severely brain damaged.
A spokesman for the family said Stow, 43, is in a brain rehabilitation facility – and that doctors are doubtful there’ll be much improvement in his health. Dave Stow, his father, spoke with NBC.
“Daily, it breaks your heart to think about it.”
The Stow family has filed a $50 million civil lawsuit against the Dodgers, claiming the team knew about the danger of violent fans and failed to provide adequate security.
“I think it’s very hard to prove,” Loyola Law School Professor Dan Schecter said of the lawsuit.
“It’s not like you’ve got an apartment complex where the landlord knows that there have been repeated attacks,” he said. “Here, there had been very few attacks, as I understand it, of this nature on other fans.”
The Stows’ attorney, Tom Girardi, said Dodgers owner Frank McCourt scaled back security at the stadium in the years preceding the attack - and was well aware of violent fans.
Girardi, one of the best civil litigators in the country, said McCourt was unwilling to give Stow “one penny.” He believes the new ownership of Guggenheim Baseball Partners and Magic Johnson, who’ll take over in the coming days, may be more willing to negotiate a settlement.
“I think that there’s a good chance that new ownership would say, ‘Gee, something wrong was done here and we got to take care of the Stow family,’” he said.
Any settlement would be paid from the team’s insurance policies. But Girardi said that even after he gives up control, Frank McCourt could be on the hook for punitive damages.
In the criminal case, Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood of Rialto face mayhem charges for allegedly beating Stow – after police initially arrested the wrong man last summer. A preliminary hearing is set for next month.
Last year, shortly after the beating, Bryan Stow’s cousin John stood before reporters and delivered a message as the Dodgers and L.A.P.D. promised better security.
“I ask for one last thing on behalf of Bryan: that we all enjoy a safe and competitive and exciting year of baseball.”
It’s the beginning of another year now - another year Bryan Stow cannot speak for himself.
The San Francisco Giants asked him to throw the ceremonial first pitch in their home opener Friday. But Stow can’t do that. He’ll watch on T.V. from his rehab bed as his 13-year-old son Tyler throws the ball instead.
Its something Stow will likely never do with his son again – throw a ball and play catch.