Judge orders man who pushed Oriole Bird to pay $60,000

Mascot was injured when he fell 15 feet into right field

March 25, 2000|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

As the Baltimore Oriole mascot danced down the bleachers trying to entertain fans in May, a Philadelphia man made a scene of a different sort: He pushed the Bird into right field.

The Bird bit back. On Thursday, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge ordered Louis G. Vitagliano to pay the Bird, John J. Krownapple, $60,000. The money is to cover medical expenses, lost wages and the pain and suffering endured when Krownapple fell 15 feet from the bleachers on May 4.

"It is kind of sick to attack the mascot," said Krownapple's lawyer, F. Todd Taylor. "Why don't you just take the candy out of the baby's mouth and tip over the stroller?"

Krownapple, a fifth-grade teacher at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School in western Howard County, could not be reached for comment yesterday because he is in Las Vegas, Taylor said.

The judgment came after Vitagliano did not appear in court to answer the allegations raised in the civil suit.

His ex-wife, Debbie, said yesterday that the hearing probably "slipped his mind."

"I don't think he knew he had to go to court," she said. "I keep in touch with him every day, and he never said anything about it."

Vitagliano was convicted in District Court in November of second-degree assault and reckless endangerment for pushing Krownapple. He was given a suspended sentence and community service, and was placed on probation.

Vitagliano maintained that he never meant to hurt the mascot. He said it was an accident, according to Taylor and Vitagliano's ex-wife.

Krownapple suffered injuries to his back, leg and ankle from the fall. The medical bills amounted to about $6,000, Taylor said.

Taylor said he thinks Vitagliano was playing a prank. After he pushed the Bird, the lawyer said, Vitagliano "turned around and laughed to his friends around him and said, `Ha, ha, I got him,' " Taylor said. "There are some jerks that are at the stadium, and all [Krownapple] is trying to do is entertain the fans."

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