Oriole mascot performer seeks damages in Camden Yards fall

Man charged in incident to appear in court today

July 23, 1999|By Zerline A. Hughes | Zerline A. Hughes,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Oriole Bird is lawsuit-filing mad.

John J. Krownapple, one of the three men that work as the Oriole mascot, filed suit Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court alleging Louis G. Vitagliano of Philadelphia pushed him and caused him to fall about 10 feet from a right-field bleacher at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Krownapple, confined to a wheelchair for 40 days after the incident May 4, said he suffered a broken and severely sprained left ankle, a bruised right ankle, soft tissue damage and torn ligaments and tendons.

He has been unable to get back in costume and is seeking $200,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Vitagliano, who was visiting the area with a group of Philadelphia Electric Co. workers, will appear in criminal court in Baltimore today on charges of reckless endangerment and second-degree assault. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 15 years in jail and fined $30,000.

A woman who answered the phone at Vitagliano's home yesterday said he was not available for comment.

Krownapple, who doubles as a Howard County fifth-grade teacher, said he had made his usual rounds along the right-field wall during the ninth inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox. As he reached for high-fives, he felt two hands against his side and found himself in the air.

Police Officer Maxwell Anderson said he saw a man sitting in the front row of the bleacher section push the mascot with both hands and laugh.

"It all happened so quickly," said Krownapple, 23. "It seemed like I was in the air forever. When I hit the ground, I heard the crackling of my left ankle, and I landed on my right heel."

In 1994, a police officer from Long Island, N.Y., was accused of crushing the bird's costumed head with his fists. The man playing the bird that night, Bromley Lowe, did not press charges.

F. Todd Taylor Jr., Krownapple's lawyer, said his client is receiving workers' compensation, which pays for medical bills, and hopes to receive lost wages from both of his jobs. Vitagliano should be held financially responsible, he said.

"This is a society where people have to be responsible for their actions," said Krownapple, a former mascot for the University of Maryland Terrapins. "They have to be held accountable or things will be out of control. This guy pushed me without even thinking about me having to teach in the morning, or go to my brother's graduation. It's his civil responsibility to compensate me for what I'm going to have to put up with for the rest of my life."

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