Josh Pulliam, the campaign strategist tasked with guiding Supervisor David Chiu's mayoral campaign, has plenty of good stuff on his résumé. Last year, for example, he engineered Democrat Richard Pan's victory over Proposition 8 author Andy Pugno in Sacramento-area Assembly District 5, a largely Republican voting bloc. But do journalists want to talk about that? Nah. Time and again Pulliam finds himself asked about that fateful day at Chicago's Wrigley Field, when he sparked a wild, players-vs.-fans brawl with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It was May 16, 2000, and Pulliam was a 27-year-old enjoying company seats provided by the Cubs' then-ownership group, the Tribune Company (he worked for a Trib subsidiary at the time). After nine innings of none too good-natured back-and-forth with the Dodgers' bullpen, the future political ace decided he wanted a hat. A Dodgers hat. Specifically, Dodgers catcher Chad Kreuter's hat. In a move he now acknowledges to SF Weekly was “a stupid prank gone horribly wrong,” Pulliam reached onto the field, yanked the cap off Kreuter's head, and began strolling for the exit.
He wouldn't make it out untouched. Kreuter bounded into the stands, latched onto Pulliam's neck, and initiated a chaotic nine-minute brawl. In the familiar two-step that accompanies any players-in-the-crowd activities, fisticuffs and beers were thrown, followed by litigation. Pulliam never faced any legal repercussions — but fan Ronald Camacho won a $475,000 verdict against the Cubs for hauling him off without proper justification, and also pocketed a $300,000 settlement from the Dodgers. The incident even inspired an article in the Sports Lawyers Journal titled “The Brawl at Wrigley: An Analysis of Tort Liability.” The Dodgers, incidentally, won the game, 6-5.
Pulliam described himself to SF Weekly as a man who doesn't relish being quoted in the press or even emerging from the background of his campaigns. He takes about as well to questions about stealing Kreuter's hat as Juan Marichal does to inquires about that time he hit John Roseboro with a bat.
The strategist laughs at the notion of publicizing his basebrawling past for political gain. But in managing Chiu's mayoral effort, perhaps he should. After all, millions of San Francisco fans have chanted “Beat L.A.” Why shouldn't Chiu play up the fact that his people already have?