SAN FRANCISCO — Fans of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers have sustained one of the most passionate rivalries in American sports for more than a century, starting when both called New York City home and enduring through a cross-country move that placed them in California cities that – fittingly – also are rivals.
Visiting fans clad in their team’s colors could always expect ridicule, and sometimes worse, in the stands. But now, for the second time in three seasons, serious violence outside the stadium has marred the rivalry.
Two years ago, Giants fan Bryan Stow suffered permanent brain damage when he was attacked in Los Angeles. This time, Dodgers fan Jonathan Denver died after being stabbed Wednesday night in San Francisco.
The latest incident has shaken and saddened fans of both teams.
“It’s real unfortunate. It is just a game after all,” said Brian Chew, a Giants fan from San Bruno. “We have bigger purposes in life than just orange and black or blue and white.”
Police say Denver, 24, was with his older brother and two others a few blocks from the Giants’ ballpark when they exchanged words with some Giants fans.
“The back and forth, ‘Go Dodgers!’ ‘Go Giants!’” San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said. “And it deteriorated from there.”
Denver suffered a fatal stab wound and Michael Montgomery, 21, of Lodi, was arrested on suspicion of homicide. A second suspect was questioned and released.
Games between the two teams often have a playoff-like intensity. “Beat LA” is the crowd’s refrain when the Dodgers play at the Giants’ waterfront ballpark; “Giants suck” echoes around Dodger Stadium.
The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and so tensions were high when the Dodgers opened the 2011 season at home against San Francisco.
Stow, a Northern California paramedic, was among the Giants fans in attendance. While walking to the stadium parking lot after the game, he was attacked.
The most recent victim of fan violence, Denver, was born in Los Angeles County but was living in Fort Bragg, about 170 miles north of San Francisco. Olivia Massaro and Aaron Vega were among the fans at Thursday’s Giants-Dodgers game, which included a moment of silence for Denver. The residents of Sebastopol, Calif., had different rooting interests – Massaro wore a Giants cap and Vega a Dodgers jersey – but agreed the violence was senseless.
“Sports are supposed to be something that brings people together, “Massaro said.