Dodger Stadium was flooded with blue Thursday night, both the Los Angeles Dodgers kind and the LAPD variety, as the team and police cracked down on the kind of hooliganism that nearly killed a San Francisco Giants fan last month.
As thousands of fans filed into the stadium, police helicopters whirled overhead and officers on motorcycles, bicycles and even horses ringed the parking lot. Just down a hill from the left-field pavilion more than four dozen black-and-white patrol cfars were lined up in an impressive formation.
"I thought it's a little bit overdoing it," Christen Castleby, clad in a Dodger jersey and white baseball pants said as she headed into the stadium.
"But we liked the horses," joked her husband," Scott.
The massive police presence was in response to the beating suffered by Bryan Stow of Santa Cruz as he left an opening day game against the San Francisco Giants.
The attack provoked a torrent of anger from fans who complained that in recent years the stadium has become a dangerous den of drunken hooliganism where fights regularly break out in the stands and anyone who dares wear a rival team's jersey, as Stow did, is subjected to profane verbal abuse and threats of violence.
Before the game Police Chief Charlie Beck promised that the first thing people would see as they existed one of the freeways surrounding the stadium would be a police officer. They would see more as they entered the parking lot, Beck said, and still more as they walked through the stadium turnstiles.
And any boorish behavior would not be tolerated.
"If you're threatening, if you're making comments that could lead to violence, you're going to get ejected," he said at a news conference behind the pavilion.
Stow, who was leaving the game with friends, was attacked from behind and kicked and beaten by two men in Dodger jerseys. Just before the beating he had sent a text message to a family member to say he feared for his safety in the raucous crowd,
No one has been arrested despite the offer of more than $150,000 in reward money from the Dodgers, Giants, Stow's employer and others, including Giants' pitching ace Tim Lincecum.
Beck and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said crime at the ballpark has decreased in recent years but that reports of drunken, abusive behavior has led many fans to believe otherwise.
"It's a shame a few knuckleheads have to ruin it for us all," said longtime Dodgers fan Mario Martinez as he waited for friends at a small park across the street from the stadium. The park, normally a popular gathering place for fans before a game was all but deserted, as police had threatened to arrest tailgaters both inside and outside the stadium property.
Several fans said they thought the show of force was unnecessary, but David Cepeda, taking his 8-year-old daughter, Brianna, to her first Dodgers game for her birthday, welcomed it.
"It's absolutely stupid that they have to do it, but if that's what it takes to keep us safe it's fine with me," he said. "The only guys it's going to bother are the troublemakers."
Police didn't immediately have a tally but reported few citations issued before the game. Inside the stadium, the crowd was spirited but orderly.
Although Beck said there won't always be such a massive police presence at Dodgers games as there was Thursday, McCourt said the team is taking measures of its own to ensure things stay calm in and outside the stadium.
The team is installing more than 40 additional lighting fixtures in the parking lot and looking into adding surveillance as well. People who appear to have had too much to drink will be approached politely by security officers and told so, he said. Rowdy fans, even season ticket holders, will be thrown out.
Meanwhile, this year's planned half-priced beer promotion for a half-dozen games has been scrapped.
McCourt said he hoped the measures "take what is a heartbreaking event and turn it into something positive."