The number of home runs being hit in major league baseball this season has gotten a lot of attention, but there might be another side to this lively ball debate: the beanball.

In the wake of the Chicago Cubs' Andre Dawson being hit in the mouth with a pitch by San Diego's Eric Show Tuesday in Chicago, National League President A. Bartlett Giamatti said yesterday that the upsurge in home runs is at least partially responsible for an increase in batters being hit by pitches.

"Part of the reason we're seeing the increase is because of a whole set of environmental factors having to do with allegations about a lively ball," said Giamatti during an interview on Chicago radio station WGN-AM. "And it's bringing to the fore a kind of activity that we haven't had to this degree before."

Dawson, who needed 24 stitches in his mouth and missed yesterday's game, was unavailable for comment. After chasing Show, he was among five Cubs players who were ejected Tuesday along with Manager Gene Michaels and a coach during the tension-filled game.

Also, the Kansas City Royals and Indians have waged a three-night battle in Cleveland that started Monday when Sammy Stewart of the Indians broke Jamie Quirk's hand with a pitch. On Tuesday, Willie Wilson of the Royals provoked a brawl by tackling pitcher Ken Schrom after a close pitch. Last night, Danny Jackson of the Royals threw his first pitch of the game behind Brett Butler's head, setting off a series of skirmishes that interrupted the game 16 minutes.

It could be because of home runs, but I don't know," San Diego pitcher Ed Whitson said. "But with a lot of pitchers, sometimes the ball just gets away from them. We're not gods. But I do know you're seeing a hell of a lot more of it this year."

So far this season there have been eight bench-clearing brawls in the National League -- six since June 13 -- and six in the American League.

Of those 14 incidents, 10 started with a brushback pitch or beanball, and the batter charging the mound.

"Charging the mound seems to be becoming the vogue," said Phyllis Merhige, an American League spokeswoman. "Charging the mound seems to be the thing to do these days."

Michael said the number of recent brawls might be a result of more potent baseballs and the pitchers' resulting frustration. Dawson hit a home run to left field his first time up -- his fourth homer in nine at-bats -- before he was hit in the third inning Tuesday.

"I think the baseball is more lively," Michael said. "There are going to be more home runs, but I don't think managers really want to see {fighting}. Maybe a team has to swarm a pitcher -- I don't know. But something has to be done to save the hitter from getting hurt."

The umpires warned Show, who was removed from the game because of a hurt foot, then warned both teams about throwing at batters. Cubs pitchers Greg Maddux and Scott Sanderson, along with Michael and coach Johnny Oates, were thrown out later in the game when San Diego batters were hit by pitches.

"Umpires can't do more than it says in the rules, and that's exactly what we did," said John Kibler, whose crew worked Tuesday's game at Wrigley Field. "I think we should be given perhaps something else we can do, but we would have to sit down with the league officials and see what opens up. Maybe they will."

Giamatti issued a reminder to all pitchers that they face automatic ejection for deliberately throwing at batters. On May 1, he ordered that any player who charges the mound should be ejected. That directive came 12 days after umpire Doug Harvey ejected no one after a brawl in which the Cubs' Shawon Dunston charged Expos pitcher Andy McGaffigan.

Giamatti said yesterday that he would not comment specifically on Tuesday's episode because he had not yet seen a tape, but added, "But I think that the general situation is not a good one. I think I'll be having something to say about this to the clubs, then, ultimately, to the media."

Kibler, for one, said Show was not entirely to blame. "It just happens to everyone once in a while," he said. "I don't think Show meant to hit him in the face, but I think he meant to brush him back. I think the brushback pitch has to be there. You can't let hitters just swing and swing."

Maddux, ejected after hitting Benito Santiago in the fourth inning, agreed. "Shoot, I'm trying to win the game," he said. "I pitched Santiago inside during his first at-bat. So what else am I supposed to do? Start pitching away from him? Geez, give me a break."

Giamatti emphasized the distinction between the brushback and the beanball. "When you have all the allegations about lively balls and the number of home runs," he said, "you have a certain number of pitchers believing they've got to brush people back and own the plate. I understand that, but the margin between a pitch that is a brushback and a pitch that hits somebody is slight."