The brew that was the catalyst for Saturday night's savage beating death of a 22-year-old Lansdale man outside Citizens Bank Park was spilled beer - suds combined with the violent tendencies of two of the three men police say pummeled and kicked David Sale until he lost consciousness.
Sale was declared dead shortly after arriving at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania following the brawl outside McFadden's, the sports bar attached to a main entrance to the stadium.
Capt. James Clark, commander of the Homicide Unit, said today that the fights began about 7 p.m. inside McFadden's when members of two groups - eight men, including Sale, celebrating a bachelor party, and a busload of fans on an outing organized by Moe's Tavern in Fishtown - began fighting after some beer was spilled.
"Someone bumped into someone and spilled a drink," Clark said during a news conference, and that led to the fights.
Two of the three men charged with murder in Sale's death, Francis Kirchner, 28, of the 1200 block of East Palmer Street, and Charles Bowers, 35, of the 6100 block of Bustleton Avenue, have prior convictions for serious assaults linked to partying and drinking.
In 2006, Kirchner and some friends broke a man's cheekbone in an unprovoked attack outside Moe's. Kirchner was ordered by the court to undergo anger-management counseling.
In 1993, Bowers stabbed a man four times after they got into an argument at a Fishtown house party. In October 1995, he was sentenced to six to 23 months in prison for his conviction of assault and possession of an instrument of crime.
On Saturday, police said, the two men, along with Jim Grove, 45, of the 800 block of East Almond Street, beat Sale to death in a parking lot near Citizens Bank Park in a continuation of a fight that started inside McFadden's.
Both groups had attended the late-afternoon game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Clark said, but did not start arguing until they all ended up inside the crowded McFadden's.
About a half-hour before Jimmy Rollins hit his grand slam in the sixth inning, Clark said, the argument between the two groups began when Sale or one of his friends bumped into someone from the Fishtown group and some beer was spilled.
An oral argument broke out, Clark said, and quickly grew to involve 30 to 40 people from both groups. The bar's security guards threw everyone out, at which point several fistfights broke out on the street and in the parking lot, Clark said.
A short distance from McFadden's, Clark said, Kirchner, Bowers, and Grove jumped Sale in a parking lot.
"All three of them were beating him. At some point went down on all fours, and they started kicking him and stomping," Clark said.
A person who witnessed the fighting called 911, Clark said, but by the time police arrived, Sale was unconscious. He suffered head trauma and was pronounced dead shortly after 8 p.m.
Bowers and Grove were arrested at the scene, but Kirchner fled. He surrendered tonight at Police Headquarters and was to be arraigned overnight.
Sale's family members released a statement through the Police Department today asking that reporters not contact them. "As you can imagine, this is a very tragic and difficult time for their family," the statement said.
Michael R. Stiles, the Phillies' senior vice president for administration and operations, released a statement today and said the team would not comment further because of the ongoing investigation.
"The Phillies want to express heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of David Sale," the statement read. "We also want to express our appreciation to the Philadelphia Police Department for their efforts in this matter. We trust in the justice system and have confidence that the persons responsible for this tragic loss of life will be held accountable."
Sale was one of seven people killed over the weekend, a death toll that Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey today called "unacceptable, to say the least."
But he acknowledged that no anti-crime plan can prevent some people from losing control.
"It comes down to behavior," Ramsey said of Sale's death. "It comes down to people with short tempers. And it just doesn't make any sense."
Ramsey said the department this year had a bill submitted in City Council that would require businesses to call 911 after breaking up a fight or ejecting a patron.
"We need to know about it when it's taking place," Ramsey said. "Then we can get officers there to see that something truly breaks up before it escalates."
Managers at McFadden's could not confirm today whether anyone there called the police after ousting the combatants.
McFadden's can be boisterous on game nights, but Police Sgt. Ray Evers said it is not viewed as a "nuisance" bar.
The bar employs a large security staff, and police officers are usually nearby at the stadium's substation and as part of stadium security.
Moe's is a small neighborhood watering hole, at 1235 E. Palmer St., with a stained-glass window, and is known as a lively spot. The bar has hosted "all-you-can-drink" nights, and patrons can often be seen socializing outside the bar, beers in hand.
Mary Kelly, 25, who lives across the street, said the bar draws rowdy crowds almost every night.
Moe's was found last year to be operating without a valid health permit. The bar's owner, Brian McCloud, failed to appear at a hearing before an administrative law judge this year, and was fined $300 and ordered to produce a current health permit.
In 2007, the bar was fined $1,250 for selling alcohol to minors, and in 2006, it was fined $350 for being noisy. McCloud could not be reached for comment today.
According to court records, about 1:30 a.m. on July 22, 2006, Kirchner, who lives across the street from Moe's, pounded Cody White, a Delaware man who Kirchner had thought was urinating against his home.
Kirchner and three or four others then kicked and beat White, knocking him to the ground. White told police that the beating stopped and he started walking away, but Kirchner ran up and hit him until he became unconscious. White woke up in a hospital with a broken right cheekbone and a half-dozen stitches to close his left eye.
According to Philadelphia court records, Kirchner is serving a four-year probationary sentence after pleading guilty to assault and reckless endangerment.
Bowers had a similar conviction stemming from a late-night party in September 1993 at a house in the 700 block of East Thompson Street, where a fight broke out involving about 30 people.
During the melee, Bowers, who then worked for an unnamed moving company, stabbed 19-year-old Joseph Mulvenna twice in an arm, once in the stomach, and once in a thigh with a butcher knife.
Mulvenna spent a week in the intensive-care unit before recovering.
Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or firstname.lastname@example.org.