Sheffield seems unlikely to be punished by MLB

Updated: April 19, 2005, 11:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BOSTON -- Boston police are seeking misdemeanor criminal charges against two fans who were involved in a scuffle with New York Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield during the eighth inning of a Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park last Thursday.

Police on Tuesday asked a clerk magistrate to decide whether a disorderly conduct charge is warranted against the fans, according to officer John Boyle, a department spokesman.

Boyle wouldn't name the two fans, but Red Sox officials have revoked season tickets from Christopher House, a Boston man who appeared to make contact with Sheffield while he was chasing down a ball in the right field corner of Fenway Park. The team said it would reimburse House when he returns the tickets and would consider reinstating them for 2006.

The team also banned a fan who spilled beer on Sheffield from buying tickets this season. The Red Sox did not release his name.

"We selected a course of action that we thought was appropriate and enforceable," club spokesman Glenn Geffner said.

The two fans were not prohibited from attending games this year, and House "has not decided yet" whether he will go to court over the revocation, said Matt McCarthy, an attorney who works for the same firm as House's attorney, David T. Norton.

The charge is disorderly person and disturbing a public assembly.

It wasn't immediately clear if court officials at Boston Municipal Court have scheduled a date for the hearing. If a clerk magistrate decides that criminal charges are warranted, the two fans would appear before a judge.

Meanwhile, Sheffield and his agent, Rufus Williams, met for less than an hour Tuesday with Bob Watson, vice president in charge of discipline in the commissioner's office. A source told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney that all signs point to no discipline against Sheffield; an official decision could come as soon as Tuesday evening.

Williams called Boston's actions agaisnt the two fans a "good thing."

The play that led to the team's four-day investigation, which included a meeting with House on Monday, occurred Thursday night. Sheffield was running along the three-foot-high right field fence, chasing the ball that Jason Varitek hit for a triple, when House reached over it with a sweeping motion and appeared to make contact with the player.

Sheffield picked up the ball, made a shoving motion toward House, and then threw it to the infield. He then turned toward House but did not touch him. A security guard jumped over the wall and stood between House and Sheffield.

The player said he was hit in the face. House, in a statement issued through Norton, said he had "no intention" of striking Sheffield and that he does not believe he made contact with the outfielder.

"It is ridiculous for anyone to even suggest that I punched him or even attempted to," House said, describing himself as a 12-year season ticket-holder. "I was shocked and disappointed by his [Sheffield's] reaction, and I thank Red Sox security and Boston Police for quickly coming to my assistance."

Sheffield said in New York that the punishment "just proves I wasn't in the wrong, and that's what this is all about."

"Yeah, you try to represent the game the right way, but then being told you're in the wrong for reacting to something you didn't start, that's kind of disturbing," he said. "That just makes me feel like it's a hypocritical society."

Yankees manager Joe Torre and owner George Steinbrenner were pleased with Boston's actions.

"We applaud the Red Sox for decisively dealing with this matter," Steinbrenner said in a statement issued through spokesman Howard Rubenstein.

Red Sox chief operating officer Mike Dee hoped Monday's decision would be a warning to other fans. Before last Friday night's game against Tampa Bay, the team posted warning signs against interference along the wall facing the first row of seats down the right field line and into fair territory in right field.

Kevin Hallinan, baseball's security head, said the commissioner's office and the Red Sox reviewed video and interviewed those directly involved, along with witnesses, fans, security and police personnel.

Less than an hour before the punishments were announced, Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon reached into the stands and caught a fly ball near the foul pole during Boston's 12-7 win over Toronto, depriving Alex Rios of a home run.

"I didn't have any fan interference at all. They backed away. I commend those fans there," he said.

House said that as Varitek's ball headed toward his seats last Thursday, "the fans to my left leaned into the action and I did the same." He also said that "quite often, excited fans lean or reach over the wall to follow the action of the ball."

He thought that after meeting Monday with officials from the Red Sox and the commissioner's office and explaining what happened, he would be allowed to continue attending games with his family, friends, employees and business associates.

"Unfortunately, Major League Baseball and the Boston Red Sox decided otherwise," he said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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