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Friday, April 15, 2005
Red Sox, MLB look into incident at Fenway

Associated Press

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox promised more signs and more security on Friday to remind fans not to interfere with play, hoping to avoid another scuffle like the one between New York Yankees star Gary Sheffield and a fan in the right-field corner at Fenway Park.

Gary Sheffield
The confrontation in right field overshadowed Thursday's game.

The confrontation came in Boston's 8-5 win over New York on Thursday night while Sheffield was fielding Jason Varitek's two-run triple in front of the 3-foot high barrier. The fan reached over the wall, and Sheffield said he was hit in the face.

Sheffield shoved the fan before throwing the ball back to the infield. He then moved toward the fan before a security guard got between them. The fan was ejected from the ballpark but not arrested.

Major league baseball officials said they were investigating, and a decision on whether to discipline Sheffield was not expected immediately. Mike Dee, the chief operating officer for the Red Sox, said they are looking into the behavior of the fan.

"We are not treating it lightly," Dee said. "We are proud of the response by Red Sox security and Boston police. Their actions were quick and decisive. We respect the restraint and composure shown by Gary Sheffield. Together, they helped ensure that the incident did not escalate."

Before their night game at Baltimore, the Yankees said Sheffield would not comment until MLB and the Red Sox completed their investigations. But he later said that team management had advised him "not to say anything else."

"Everything happened so fast," Sheffield said. "You have to look at the tape and pass your own judgment. I can't stand here and try to convince you one way or the other."

Asked whether he would have done anything differently, he said: "I don't think so, I doubt it."

Sheffield also met with baseball security chief Kevin Hallinan before the game.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, through spokesman Howard Rubenstein, declined to comment except to say: "It's in the commissioner's hands."

Dee said the team will remind fans that those who attempt to interfere with a ball in play will be ejected "and, possibly, subject to other penalties" that could include criminal charges or the revocation of season tickets. Signs were already added in the right-field corner with a similar warning.

"It's one of the neat things about Fenway Park, to be that close to the action. But at the same time, things like that can happen," Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon said. "There's nothing wrong with screaming and making chaos out there to put a little more pressure on an opposing player. Just don't interfere with it."

The commissioner's office told The Associated Press that Bob Watson, baseball's head of discipline, was reviewing tapes of the play and Hallinan was expected to talk to Red Sox officials. In spring training, Hallinan told players not to go into the stands -- a clear reference to the NBA melee that involved Indiana's Ron Artest and other Pacers in their November game against Detroit.

"Whatever happens, you can't go into the stands," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "The fans who threw the beer at Ron Artest were wrong, but you can't do it. I think that's what was going through Sheff's head, because he looked [angry]."

Sheffield said that in the heat of the moment, he thought about Artest. "That's the first thing that came to mind," he said after Thursday's game.

A source familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity said the fan was Christopher House. The answering machine at a phone number listed for a Christopher House in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood said it was full and could not accept messages.

The testy rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox appeared to soften on Monday, when the visitors applauded as Boston received its World Series rings. Now the teams will have more than a month to cool down. They next play each other on May 27 at New York, with the Yankees' next visit Boston on July 14, right after the All-Star break.

Although Fenway's left field gets most of the attention because of its 37-foot Green Monster, outfielders know right field is a bigger challenge. The short wall there, with its angles and curves, makes for unpredictable bounces and brings the fans right on top of the players.

"It's probably the toughest right field in the major leagues," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar, who occasionally plays there.

Varitek's liner rolled into the corner and, as Sheffield went to field it, House made a sweeping motion with his arm. Sheffield said he was hit in the mouth.

"It ain't nothing you're going to feel the next day," he said Friday. "It wasn't that hard enough punch to knock you out or anything."

Dee commended Steven Chin, the 23-year-old security staffer who was seen on video putting himself between Sheffield and the fan.

Red Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg said the team is also looking into the actions of the fan who was holding a beer that spilled during the scuffle. He said he didn't have that person's name and doesn't know if the beer was deliberately thrown at Sheffield or it spilled after he was pushed by other fans.

This was the latest scuffle between fans and baseball players.

Last September, the Texas Rangers fought with fans in Oakland. Texas reliever Frank Francisco was arrested after throwing a chair into the stands, breaking a woman's nose.

On Sept. 28, Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley was ejected after slamming down a plastic bottle in the front row of the right-field seats after a fan threw it onto the field. He was suspended for the final five games of the regular season.

"The fans have to be made aware that somebody could get hurt. When they throw something, when they interefere. It's just a frightening thing," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "They certainly have to be made aware that their place is in the stands and let the games play."