The Toronto Sun Pursues the Beer Tosser, and its Own Tail
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The Toronto Sun Pursues the Beer Tosser, and its Own Tail

The paper's manhunt for the "loon ball" beer-can thrower at Tuesday's Jays game takes an unexpected twist.

Fans watched the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Baltimore Orioles in Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday night. Photo by Greg's Southern Ontario from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Fans watched the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Baltimore Orioles in Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday night. Photo by Greg’s Southern Ontario from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

The Blue Jays’ extra-inning victory over Baltimore in Tuesday night’s wild-card game was a glorious moment for the city, but an incident in the seventh inning of the game nearly ruined everything and brought the wrong kind of attention to Toronto.

A fan in the left-field stands at Rogers Centre attempted to disrupt play by tossing a beer can on the field towards Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim as he got under a two-out fly ball.

Oriole outfielders yelled up towards the fans in the stands as manager Buck Showalter came out to make sure his players were alright, before arguing for the umpires (and by extension, Rogers Centre security) to take action.

Unfortunately, police and game security were unable to immediately identify the beer can thrower, who was able to leave the stadium without being apprehended. His escape set off a firestorm in the city that threatened to eclipse the team’s victory on the field.

Mayor John Tory went on Newstalk 1010 the following morning, and said he hoped the suspect would be held to account for inflicting embarrassment on the city. He didn’t mince words:

“I don’t know where they find these people. It’s like the people who drew on the Toronto sign on Nuit Blanche …  some loon balls have to ruin it and same with the loon ball that would throw a can of beer out of the stands. But look, it is one in 50,000 and everybody else had a good time and hopefully people know who that was and have singled them out for special attention.”

Enter Toronto Sun and columnist Joe “Night Scrawler” Warmington. Scrawler had expressed his disgust with the actions of this fan on Twitter the morning after the incident, and was tasked by the Sun the next day to follow this story, no matter where it would lead. On Wednesday afternoon he delivered a column with the headline “Time for beer can thrower from Jays game to surrender to cops,” in which he urged the suspect to come forward:

“‘Turn yourself in. We have photos.’

Just like that, in six words tweeted out by the Toronto Police on Wednesday, the manhunt is on.

And so is the heat on whoever it was who threw the beer can at a Baltimore Orioles player on Tuesday night.

The gig is up. Handcuffs and court dates await.

It’s time to do the right thing.

“The dragnet is underway. Chief Mark Saunders himself is following the progress of the investigation.

The writing is on the wall for whoever did this.

When Toronto Police have your picture, it’s just a matter of time.”

In addition, the Sun intensified their contribution to the manhunt by announcing they were offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible.

Toronto Sun editor Jonathan Kingstone promotes the bounty.

James Wallace, the vice-president of editorial for Sun newspapers, confirmed the bounty: “We’d be very interested in talking to anyone who can identify the ‘loon ball,’ as our Mayor suggests, who chucked a beer can onto the ball field and gave our city a nasty black eye.”

Jim Richards at Newstalk 1010 sweetened the pot by setting up a GoFundMe to raise additional reward money for anyone who could ID the person responsible for bringing such shame to our city and its reputation (currently the page has raised 41 per cent of its goal of $1,010).

But in a hilarious film noir twist reminiscent of the Kevin Costner 80s thriller No Way Out, it turned out the Sun‘s manhunt was leading to… itself!

On Wednesday evening, Toronto Police tweeted a photo of the suspect, asking for the public’s assistance in identifying him. Several news outlets have reported since that the man pictured is Ken Pagan, a former Sun Media employee who works as a copy editor for the Sun‘s parent company Postmedia.

Police apparently reached Pagan, who made arrangements to turn himself in the following day to answer their questions.

On Wednesday night at 10:13 p.m., Warmington’s new column on the manhunt, “Alleged Blue Jays-Orioles beer tosser ID’d,” was posted on the Sun‘s website.

In it, he admits Pagan’s connection to the Sun/Postmedia newspaper chain, adding he is “an award-winning journalist and passionate baseball player and fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of the game.” Warmington is careful to point out that Pagan’s meeting with the police is not necessarily an admission of culpability, interpreting from Pagan’s brief, lawyer-approved remarks to Scrawler that the police may even have it wrong:

“‘I was drinking out of a cup,’ Pagan told Postmedia, and suggested Twitter photos that show him after the can was tossed clearly indicate he had a cup in his hand. ‘I’d love to tell you what happened and my story … but I can’t say anything.'”

Pagan said he was badly rattled by the ‘firestorm’ and ‘finger-pointing’ that raged following the game.

‘I have no idea what is happening,” he said, but in passing, added it would be nice if the $1,000 Sun reward went to the Jays Care Foundation charity.

‘I would like to see that happen,’ he said.

Those who know Pagan were ‘shocked’ by the allegations. He’s known as an ‘easy-going’ and responsible editor by those who work with him, and as an athlete who loves baseball and ‘respects the rules of the game.'”

Can Man
This morning’s front page of the Sun interestingly features their former employee, though the headline does not make explicit his connection to the newspaper. (British readers of the paper may be amused by the headline’s reference to the “accused tosser.”) And who knows?

As this is a developing story, it may turn out this is indeed a case of mistaken identity, with Pagan the latest victim of social media’s power to stoke the flames of a mob mentality. Even if this does come to nothing, hopefully the Sun and the Post have discovered (the hard way) that offering a bounty for ID’ing someone who embarrassed the city can potentially lead to even more karmic embarrassment for a news organization.

In the meantime, the hapless Night Scrawler presses on, his normally unshakeable faith in the police seemingly challenged in this particular circumstance, reminding everyone that in our criminal justice system people are innocent until proven guilty.

But the spectre of his Twitter request earlier this week for computer help and his legacy of printed typos have made him vulnerable for continued mockery in the Twittersphere, as this fine example of online ownage demonstrates.