Threat on Alomar is sad reflection


TORONTO -- Toronto detective Reg Pitts laid the evidence on the table. The box of baseball cards. The gold necklace with the No. 12 charm. The six .22 caliber bullets. And the Smith & Wesson revolver.

Tricia Miller was a Roberto Alomar fan.

She also was his potential murderer.

"This woman came to Toronto for the sole purpose of murdering Mr. Alomar, then killing herself with the revolver," Pitts told reporters last night at the downtown Toronto police station where Miller was under arrest.

Metal detectors, that's where we're heading. Metal detectors at every gate, and it will be entirely justified, because no athlete -- indeed, no public figure -- is safe anymore.

Monica Seles, Nancy Kerrigan and now Roberto Alomar. Miller, 31, didn't come close to killing Alomar yesterday. But the canvas bag she was carrying at the SkyDome Hotel contained a gun that was cocked and fully loaded.

Miller, a factory worker from Port Hope, Ont., 60 miles northeast of Toronto, was charged with five criminal acts, including possession of a dangerous weapon, possession of stolen property and threatening death.

It happened in Toronto -- staid, sophisticated Toronto -- but it could happen in any city, any stadium, anytime. Such is life for superstar athletes in this twisted culture. Obsessive fans are as prominent as fame and fortune.

Who's next? That's the question stadium and arena managers must ask themselves this morning. It's a chilling question, a horrifying question, but after this incident, it can not be ignored.

These people aren't just affecting games -- the Orioles rallied from a five-run deficit yesterday after Alomar was removed in the ninth inning to speak with police.

They're affecting -- and threatening -- lives.

For two years, Cal Ripken has stayed apart from the Orioles in certain cities, registering at different hotels under assumed names to protect himself from the fans and collectors who follow him.

Seles has missed more than two years of tennis. Kerrigan nearly was knocked out of the Olympics. Alomar, 27, did not suffer any physical wounds, but what will become of him now?

He said this was his third death threat in the past year. He's an All-Star second baseman, and a free agent after the season. "That could be the end of me in Toronto," he said.

Alomar and the Blue Jays flew to California last night to begin a 15-game road trip. The Orioles returned home to Baltimore, giddy over their most dramatic victory of the season, and not even knowing what happened.

Pitts said Miller arrived at the hotel Friday, seeking to develop a relationship with Alomar. When hotel security discovered her at 2 p.m. yesterday, she was in a depressed state, and requested medical assistance. Pitts said she then handed the security officers the bag with the gun.

The Orioles-Blue Jays game started at 1:35. Alomar lives in the hotel during the season. Seventy of its rooms have windows overlooking the SkyDome field. Miller had tickets to the game, but it is not known whether she was staying in a room with a view of the field.

Alomar told police he had met Miller informally last year, the same way he meets thousands of fans. Pitts said that she reached Alomar by phone once over the weekend, and left her box of baseball cards and necklace at his door.

The box was white and aluminum, with a large Blue Jays logo on top. Inside were dozens of cards preserved in the plastic casings favored by collectors. Pitts said there was also a letter to Alomar, in which she expressed her frustration that she and Alomar were not romantically involved.

Pitts said Alomar was Miller's only target, but the contents of the box included a John Olerud button and photograph, as well as cards of many Blue Jays and other baseball stars, including the Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro in a Texas uniform.

Why did Miller focus on Alomar? At first, Pitts said, "Why not? He's a good player." Later, noting Alomar's matinee-idol features, Pitts added, "He's cute as a button."

Looks often come into this -- Seles' attacker was obsessed with Steffi Graf; Kerrigan's attackers believed she had a competitive advantage because of looks over Tonya Harding. But athletes are threatened for other reasons as well.

Remember the racially motivated death threats Hank Aaron received while chasing Babe Ruth's home-run record? Would anyone be surprised if another black athlete in a similar position encountered the same problem?

The scary truth is, just about anyone can walk into a stadium with a weapon -- be it the knife that struck Seles, the baton that felled Kerrigan or the gun that could have killed Alomar.

Metal detectors, that's where we're heading, metal detectors at every turn. That's what they do at the Olympics. And that's what they did at the Super Bowl during the Persian Gulf War.

An infringement on privacy? Sorry, we've lost that privilege. An insult to civilized society? Sorry, there's no such thing anymore. This is the world we live in. Either we recognize it soon, or something terrible is going to happen.

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