CHICAGO, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Two rambunctious fans Thursday night attacked Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa in the top of the ninth inning of the team's contest against the Chicago White Sox.
Police say a father and son ran onto the field at Comiskey Park and attacked Gamboa, who said after the game that he had no idea what provocation the men had.
The two, both shirtless and wearing blue jeans, ran dashed directly toward the Gamboa, 54, and knocked him to the ground with a series of blows.
"I was looking at the hitter in the box and it felt like a football team had hit me from behind," Gamboa said. "The next thing I knew I was on the ground trying to defend myself."
Asked if he heard either attacker say anything, Gamboa indicated one of the men was yelling at him, but he couldn't make out what he was saying.
"It just happened so fast I had no clue what he was saying," Gamboa said.
The entire Royals bench rushed to Gamboa's aid, pulling the two offenders off him.
"When I rolled over and saw there were two of them, I tried to kick one guy and the other guy smoked me on the side," Gamboa said. "Fortunately, my team got to me quickly."
Several players said they saw a closed pocket knife at the scene. Some said they saw it lying on the field. Others said it was in one of the attacker's hands as he charged Gamboa.
The assailants were handcuffed and hauled off by security to boos from the crowd.
"I was at the bottom of the pile," he said. "I saw I was bleeding and heard one of our players yell that one of them had a knife. I was stunned, checking to see if I'd been stabbed."
Fortunately, Gamboa, who spent the 1995-1999 seasons as an instructor and coach do the Chicago Cubs, suffered scratches on his forehead and was sore, but not seriously injured.
White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams visited Gamboa in the visitor's clubhouse after the game to check on his condition and apologize on behalf of the White Sox organization.
"It's disturbing, very disturbing," Williams said. "I am in shock and surprised like most of you. But we certainly feel it's pretty much an isolated incident."
While some initial reports indicated that the father and son had a verbal exchange with Gamboa during the game, the Royals denied any provocation.
Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko was one of the closest players on the field to the attack.
"By the time I saw them (the attackers) weren't saying anything," Konerko said. "They were on the ground and they were getting (beat up), and rightfully so."
"I don't think it's any indication of how Chicago fans are, but I didn't think two people like that existed on earth," said Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney. "It's just sad that two people have such low lives that they'd jump on the field and attack a first base coach for no apparent reason. To bring a knife with them on the field is just unbelievable. They should be held accountable for their crime. I think our team and Tom Gamboa should press charges to the fullest extent."
Royals closer Roberto Hernandez, who also pitched for the White Sox earlier in his career, said it's impossible to guarantee that incidents like this one won't happen again.
"Stuff like that is hard to control," he said. "Once fans start to get boisterous and have too many beers, all of a sudden it just happens. They walked off and suddenly attacked him. Those aren't true baseball fans, not even White Sox fans. They are just idiots. That's the dumbest thing I've ever seen."
Chicago police intend to charge the father with felony aggravated assault for striking Gamboa and a security guard, who is also an off-duty Chicago police officer.
One of the alleged attackers has been identified as William Ligue, 34. He is being held in jail on a charge of aggravated battery. His son was charged with the same offense, but as a juvenile.
Yankees try again to clinch AL East
DETROIT, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The New York Yankees' magic number for clinching their fifth straight American League East title is two, and a win over the Detroit Tigers coupled by a loss by the Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Friday night will give them their 11th division title.
The Yankees (95-57) had a chance to clinch at least a tie for the division title on Thursday, but they fell behind the Oakland Athletics (96-57) in the battle for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs when the were beaten by the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 3-2, in 10 innings.
Tampa Bay's victory was historic because the Devil Rays became the first 101-loss team to take a series from a first-place squad since the 1964 New York Mets. The second-place Red Sox were idle Thursday, but climbed to within nine games of the Yankees with 10 to play.
The Minnesota Twins (89-63) have already clinched their first postseason berth in 11 years by the American League Central title. It is Minnesota's sixth postseason berth but first since winning the 1991 World Series.
The AL West remained the league's best race Thursday as the A's regained sole possession of first place with a 5-3 victory over the Anaheim Angels.
Oakland can wrap up a playoff berth Friday with a win over Texas, coupled with a loss by the Seattle Mariners to the Angels.
Cards go after NL Central crown
ST. LOUIS, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The St. Louis Cardinals, who have endured a trying campaign, can clinch their third straight National League Central title Friday night if they beat the Houston Astros in the opener of a three-game series at Busch Stadium.
A three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies has given the Cardinals an 8 1/2-game lead over the Astros with 10 to play. St. Louis (89-63) also has won 13 of its last 15 games.
The division title would come in a year marked by a series of tragedies in the organization. Pitcher Darryl Kile died of a heart attack in June, just days after legendary broadcaster Jack Buck passed away after a long illness.
"I can feel it, definitely," said second baseman Fernando Vina, who had his 12th three-hit game of the season in Thursday's 12-6 win at Colorado. "We all can feel it. It's been a tough year for us with the things that have happened, so it's going to be really special. Hopefully, we can not get too happy yet, but keep going hard and when it happens, it's going to be something special."
The Cardinals have persevered by using 26 pitchers, including 14 starters, this season. Rookie Jason Simontacchi and veteran Andy Benes have been a major factor in stabilizing the rotation.
"I'm not satisfied because our first goal is to get to the playoffs," said Simontacchi. "After that, win the World Series. If I can do anything to help the team, so be it."
Just one other NL team has clinched a division crown. The Atlanta Braves secured an unprecedented 11th straight division title on Sept. 9.
Atlanta lost the NL Championship Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks in five games last season and is trying to return to the World Series for the first time since 1999, when it was swept by the New York Yankees.
Arizona's number to clinch the NL West title is three entering Friday's game at Colorado.
The best race in the NL is for the wild card, where San Francisco holds a one-game lead over Los Angeles. The Giants play at Milwaukee Friday and Los Angeles visits San Diego.
Mets official says drugs not a team problem
NEW YORK, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- New York Mets General Manager Steve Phillips has denied a newspaper report that there is widespread drug use in the organization and that the team would warn star prospects in advance of random testing.
New York Newsday reported Friday that at least seven Mets smoked marijuana this season and that Manager Bobby Valentine acknowledged that he worried about drug use on his team as far back as spring training.
"We have no indication that there is widespread drug use at any level of our organization," Phillips said in a statement released by the team. "The Newsday report is based solely on anonymous sources. We urge these sources to come to us with proof of their accusations so that we can investigate them."
One unnamed source said that star prospects are sometimes warned in advance about drug tests or are let off the hook after failing tests. While major league players are not subject to random testing as stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement, minor leaguers are tested, although results are not released to the public.
"The charge that we warn star prospects in advance of random testing is ridiculous, since we feel that drug use of any kind impairs a player's performance," Phillips said.
Two minor leaguers -- outfielder Rob Stratton and pitcher Erik Hiljus -- were identified as players who failed drug tests.
Newsday reported that former Mets reliever Mark Corey, who was traded to the Colorado Rockies in July, used marijuana before having a seizure outside a hotel near Shea Stadium in June.
Outfielder Tony Tarasco, also traded earlier this summer, was identified as having used marijuana with Corey.
The Newsday article included a picture of Mets reliever Grant Roberts smoking from a bong as a minor leaguer in 1999.
The newspaper added that marijuana was mailed to Shea Stadium inside a jar of peanut butter to avoid detection. It added that Ecstasy also was a "drug of choice" among Mets minor leaguers.
Phillips stressed that the Mets have had a comprehensive drug testing program in place in their minor league system since 1984.
"We recognize drug use is a problem in our society," Phillips said. "Unfortunately, as everyone knows, random testing is not done in the major leagues. We are committed to doing everything we can to let our players, on both the minor league and major league levels, know of the danger to their careers of using drugs."
Newsday reported that, following Corey's seizure, Valentine met with the team to discuss the "foolishness" of drug use.
The newspaper report comes as the Mets are playing out the string in a hugely disappointing season. Considered a postseason contender in April, the Mets are 73-79 and have been eliminated from the playoffs.
Kidney ailments fells Georgia Tech DL
ATLANTA, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Georgia Tech defensive end Greg Gathers, the school's all-time sacks leader, is expected to miss the remainder of the 2002 season with a kidney ailment.
The senior is being treated for minimal change disease, a disorder that has limited his strength, conditioning and stamina.
Coach Chan Gailey said Gathers will apply for a medical hardship with the hopes of returning next season. Had Gathers played in Saturday's game against Brigham Young, he would have been ineligible for hardship consideration.
"He was at a crossroads in terms of having to make a decision in order to be able to apply for the medical hardship," Gailey said. "I think everybody could see that he was trying, but as he continued to play, he was getting weaker, not stronger. He was trying to fight through it, but it was just too much."
Gathers, a Louisiana native, is a two-time all-ACC selection and a second-team all-American who is Tech's career sacks leader (31) and tackles for loss (57).
Gailey said Gathers' position at defensive end likely will be filled by either fellow senior Fred Wright or freshman Eric Henderson.
France puts U.S. in deep Davis Cup hole
PARIS, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Americans lost both their singles matches to defending champion France on Friday and are on the brink of elimination from the Davis Cup semifinals.
lost to Sebastien Grosjean, 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (7-9), 7-5.
Roddick, 20, is considered the United States' best prospect after Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi retire. A two-time winner on the ATP tour in 2002 has been particularly tough in Davis Cup action, going 7-0 before Friday.
Sampras and Agassi, who squared off in the final of the U.S. Open two weeks ago, did not make themselves available for Davis Cup.
Clement defeated Roddick for the second time in as many meetings and improved to 6-5 lifetime in Davis Cup.
Blake suffered his first Davis Cup loss in six singles matches and his second to Grosjean at Roland Garros this year. He also lost their match in the second round of the French Open in May.
The United States owns the record for the most Davis Cup titles with 31, but has not won the event since 1995, and now looks to the doubles pair of Todd Martin and Mardy Fish to keep the team alive. The pair takes on Fabrice Santoro and Michael Llodra in Saturday's doubles.
Grosjean, considered doubtful for the competition after sustaining a back injury in practice last week, put France closer to advancing to its third final in the last four years.
Europe shines at Solheim Cup
Europe claimed three of the four foursome matches to take a 3-1 lead into the afternoon four-ball session, and needs just 11 more points to retain the Cup it won in Scotland two years ago.
The U.S. team salvaged a point when Beth Daniel and Wendy Ward posted a 1-up win over Iben Tinning of Denmark and Raquel Carriedo of Spain.
Europe is looking to win on American soil for the first time, having lost in 1990, '94, and '98. The Europeans improved to 2-4 in the international event with a 14 1/2-11 1/2 victory two years ago.
The Americans know all about foreign invasions.
Of the 26 LPGA Tour events this season, only six have been won by Americans, and they've heard about it all year. Sorenstam has eight titles by herself to go along with a pair of victories by her teammates.