Commish unsure alcohol factor in Fenway incident
NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday night he has no plans to mandate sport-wide alcohol consumption guidelines in the wake of the latest instance of player-fan confrontation.
Selig, speaking at a panel discussion hosted by the Association of the Bar of New York City, said he was not certain that alcohol contributed to the confrontation last week between New York Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield and a fan at Boston's Fenway Park.
"It's the intensity of the rivalry," said Selig. "Alcohol routinely gets blamed, but I think it has more to do with people's behavior that took the intensity of the rivalry to levels that they shouldn't have and got carried away."
Last Thursday, Sheffield claimed he was hit by a fan as he went to field a ball along the right-field fence during the eighth inning at Fenway. Before throwing the ball back to the infield, Sheffield took a swipe at the fan.
On Tuesday, Boston police filed applications for misdemeanor charges against that fan, Christopher House, who claims he never hit Sheffield, as well as against another fan who spilled a beer on Sheffield. Sheffield has not been fined or suspended by the league and has not pressed charges. House had his 2005 season tickets revoked by the Red Sox for the incident.
Although it was unclear what role alcohol played in the Fenway incident, opinions on the matter flowed freely afterwards.
"That's why they need to stop selling beer in the third inning," Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon told reporters. "I'm sure the beer companies won't like that, but I could care less. Matter of fact, you can take it all out. Drink Pepsi."
Said former Yankees coach and current New York Mets manager Willie Randolph: "Alcohol is part of what's going on."
Also participating in the panel discussion were NBA commissioner David Stern and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
On Feb. 20, a day after the three-month anniversary of the brawl that involved fans and players from the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, the NBA implemented a new alcohol policy, which restricts teams from selling alcohol in serving sizes larger than 24 oz. and mandates that patrons can purchase only two beverages at a time. No drinks can be served once the fourth quarter tips off.
While baseball does not have a uniform alcohol policy, some teams recently have adopted more conservative measures. Some stop selling alcoholic beverages as early as the end of the sixth inning. The Pittsburgh Pirates recently decided to halt sales at the end of the seventh inning instead of the eighth. The Minnesota Twins changed their maximum one-time beer purchase from four cups to two.
"I think the clubs are very sensitive to this," Selig said. "But sometimes people think that it's alcohol and it really isn't. There are ballparks I walk into and I can feel the tension of that rivalry in the first inning."
Three Major League Baseball teams have beer companies sponsoring their stadiums, including the Colorado Rockies' Coors Field, the St. Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium and Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers -- a team Selig owned for 35 years before selling it this offseason.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org.