O's mascot sidelined by assault at game

Man, 43, is accused of pushing the Bird

May 07, 1999|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The baseball players aren't the only Orioles being beaten up this year. Even their mascot is under siege.

Baltimore police said a spectator shoved the orange-and-black bird off a 7-foot-high platform and onto the right center field warning track toward the end of Tuesday night's game at Camden Yards.

John J. Krownapple, one of three people who dress up as the Oriole bird, was recovering at his Columbia home yesterday from a sprained ankle and a bruised shoulder. A 43-year-old Philadelphia man, Louis Gregory Vitaglyano, was arrested and charged with second-degree assault and reckless endangerment.

Police said a man dressed in a red hooded sweat shirt purposely pushed the mascot with both hands and then laughed about it. "Immediately afterward, the suspect began to `high five' those around him as though this act was funny," Officer Maxwell Anderson wrote in his report.

It was the second time in five years that the human-sized bird, who entertains fans, has been assaulted. In 1994, a police officer from Long Island, N.Y., was accused of throwing a flurry of punches that crushed the bird's costumed head. The man playing the bird that night, Bromley Lowe, did not press charges.

The latest attack occurred in the middle of the ninth inning, just before the Orioles batted in a game they were losing 5-3. The struggling team, with the major leagues' third-worst record, scored twice and won the game with a grand slam an inning later.

Most fans apparently didn't notice the incident. Krownapple crawled into the cage where groundskeepers sit and leaned against a door.

"We were all laughing," said Joe Martin, 27, a member of the grounds crew. "We thought he was playing to the crowd. I asked he if was OK and he said no."

Martin said he got a bag of ice and Krownapple was driven by cart to the Oriole dressing room. He was treated at University of Maryland Medical Center.

"It's sad," said Orioles' spokesman John Maroon. "The bird provides so much enjoyment to the vast majority of our fans. When somebody assaults the bird, it detracts from the enjoyment of the game for the rest of our guests."

The bird appeared at Wednesday's and last night's games, but not Krownapple. Maroon said the injury has left the mascot trio short-handed. Three events Krownapple was scheduled to attend over the past two days, including one for the American Cancer Society, were canceled.

A day after Lowe was attacked in 1994, he made light of the incident by appearing in his bird costume wearing a white bandage around his head and one wing in a sling.

But no such antics followed Tuesday's assault. "Little kids see the bird, he's fun and cuddly," Maroon said. "They see something like this happen, I would imagine it's somewhat traumatic."

Vitaglyano, who was released on his own recognizance and has a court hearing scheduled next month, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The arresting officer, Anderson, said in his report that he was watching the bird greet fans from atop a platform over the enclosed groundskeeping seating area. He said he saw the bird lose his balance and fall after being pushed.

"Mr. Krownapple further advised that the suspect clearly and intentionally pushed him off the wall and was not trying to give him a `high five,' " the police report concludes.

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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