On Philly fandom and the not-from-Philly fan who threw the bottle

Our sports fans have a terrible reputation, but not all of them are from Philly. Here’s a look at some of the most notable fan incidents and where the culprits are from.

Police identified the Phillies fan — a term used loosely in this situation — who threw a bottle at slugger Ryan Howard as Sidney Smith, 21 year old from Wilmington, Del.

Perspective being what it is in the world, hurling a bottle at a ball player who didn’t even know it was tossed his way until his teammates told him is far from a “lock him up and throw away the key” offense. But keeping the line between fans and athletes at any level is vital for the safety of all involved.

Throwing a bottle onto the field at anyone, let alone a player on the team you supposedly root for, is justification for arrest and banishment from Citizens Bank Ballpark forever.

This incident was, of course, only the latest in a long line of boorish behavior that has given Philly fans the reputation around the world we surely deserve. Yet as another member of the Philly fan group gets called out as a local menace and national embarrassment, a few of us at Billy Penn who live in the City of Philadelphia (Ed note: Not the author) noticed that, once again, a person giving Philly fans a bad name was not actually from Philly.

This sentiment goes back years. The Vet had a court in the basement which was put in after an incident in 1997 in which a fan fired a flare gun at an Eagles game. That fan, Robert Sellers, was from Toms River, NJ. Retired Justice on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Seamus P. McCaffery told Billy Penn last fall they kept stats on those who came through the Vet court and “the overwhelming majority — maybe 95 percent — weren’t from Philadelphia.”

Those of us who live in the ‘burbs, however, make the case that this is a semantic argument on two fronts.

First, being a fan of the Philly sports teams and living in the area connects fans in the Delaware Valley to one another. We are all, if we root for the local teams, Philly fans, even if some of us have to cross a bridge to get to the stadiums.

Second, the three most infamous fan incidents in Philly history are, in no particular order: Booing and throwing snowballs at Santa Claus, a South Philly kid named Frank Olivo who filled in for the real Santa who got stuck in, yep, New Jersey; cheering when Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending injury on the horrific Vet turf — and throwing snowballs at the Cowboys; and another throwing incident, when a fan tossed batteries at  J.D. Drew.

The Drew incident is what hangs over the city’s recent history the most, but it’s been impossible to point the finger at one culprit, even after all these years. There were actually eight arrests the week of Drew’s first games in Philly back in August, 1999, but nobody knew who threw the batteries.

And yet, with those incidents, it’s hard to disassociate Philly fans from the city given all of these events happened in Philly, at the games. And thus, even though the bottle thrower is from Delaware, he is still a Philly fan. Sort of.

Here is a look at some other notable incidents of fan behavior in Philly history, and where those knuckle-dragging morons were from.

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Free Republic

By far the worst incident in Philly fandom came in 2009, when three men beat another man to death over an argument that stemmed from a spilled beer. From a 2011 Inquirer story on the sentencing:

The defendants, who had been bused to the ballpark from Moe’s Tavern, a Fishtown bar, had been charged with murder in the death of David W. Sale Jr., 22, of Lansdale, but accepted a plea bargain after a mistrial. Tuesday, to the anger of Sale’s family, they received terms ranging from two to 18 years.

One of those defendants was Francis Kirchner of Fishtown, identified as the man who struck the fatal blow with a kick that killed Sale. Charles Bowers of Oxford Circle was also seen hitting Sale, while James Groves of Kensington was seen holding him down. Kirchner was given nine to 18 years, Bowers five to 10 and Groves two to four.

We spend so much time fending off insults about snowballs and batteries, and nobody seems to bring up — or even remember — the time a guy was beaten to death in the parking lot. Narratives…

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PPD

And speaking of which, it’s hard to forget Matthew Clemmens, the guy from Cherry Hill, N.J. who vomited all over an off-duty police officer and his family at a Phillies game in 2010.

“It was the most vile, disgusting thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been a cop for 20 years,” Easton Police Capt. Michael Vangelo told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Vangelo said Clemmens also struck him in the head several times. Vangelo said he complained to security about cursing and spitting by Clemmens and a friend. When the friend was escorted out of the park, Vangelo said, Clemmens “leaned over and put two fingers down his throat” and then “started vomiting on us.”

Clemmens developed a bacterial infection in his blood and died in 2014, at age 25.

Speaking of off-duty police, how about the the Winter Classic fight outside of Geno’s Steaks when Dennis Veteri of Glassboro, N.J. was recorded beating Rangers fan Neal Auricchio, and Iraq War vet and off-duty police officer.  (NSFW video:)

And speaking of hockey fights, what about that time the St. Louis Blues got in a fight that spilled into the stands back in 1972? There were four men charged in that incident, though per reports, all four were part of the Blues organization.

So what about the time a fan fell through the penalty box glass and fought Tie Domi?

That was Chris Falcone of Havertown, Pa., who has since been reunited with Domi recently by Angelo Cataldi of WIP, telling the story of how they made up after the fight.

“But how did we solve it? We solved it like two street guys,” Domi explained. “No lawyers, no nothing. We shook on it. You came with your family to two playoff games in Toronto. I put you up here, everything is good now. I’m really glad it all worked out and people really have to know the truth on what happened. You’re a great guy and a family guy and I’m happy everything is behind us.”

Speaking of Cataldi, he is responsible for creating the Dirty 30, the group of Eagles fans who went up to the NFL Draft to boo Donovan McNabb. The most notable figure of that group at the time was Shaun Young, the guy who painted his face and wore shoulder pads and is in something called the Professional Football Ultimate Fan Association. Young actually apologized to McNabb some months after the booing incident, but his face is synonymous with that moment, and the reputation it gave to Eagles fans. Young hails from Springfield, Pa.

Of course, not all the bad Phillies fans are awful and dangerous. Some are just stupid. Like Steve Consalvi from Boyertown, Pa., who thought in 2010 it would be fun to run onto the field during a game. He even called his dad before doing it, which was nice.

Then Consavli got tased, which was less nice.

And speaking of nice, Susan Finkelstein was just trying to be… nice? … when she was arrested in 2009 for offering to trade sex for Phillies World Series tickets. From the New York Post:

Susan Finkelstein, 43, was nabbed after allegedly soliciting an undercover Bensalem, Pa., cop who answered her innuendo-laced craigslist ad seeking the coveted ducats.

The married Finkelstein posted her ad — with a subject line that read, “DESPERATE BLONDE NEEDS WS TIX (Philadelphia)” — on Monday in the “tickets for sale/wanted” section.

Describing herself as a “Diehard Phillies fan” and “gorgeous tall buxom blonde,” Finkelstein said she was “in desperate need” of two tickets to see the Phillies play the Yankees at Citizens Bank Park.

Then came the zinger: “Price negotiable — I’m the creative type! Maybe we can help each other!”

Finkelstein, of West Philadelphia, was eventually cleared of a prostitution charge, but was found guilty of a third-degree misdemeanor that was eventually thrown out of court a year later.

This goes to show that from serious to ridiculous, Philly fans know how to stay in the news — even if they aren’t all actually from Philly.

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