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2 Yankees Accused of Attack on Worker

October 12, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — Yankee pitcher Jeff Nelson and outfielder Karim Garcia are under investigation by Major League officials and Boston police after a fight in the Yankee bullpen sent a Red Sox employee to a hospital with what a team official called "an attack" that left "cleat marks" on his body.

Police spokesman Mariellen Burns told Associated Press that assault charges against the players could be filed following an investigation.

The incident occurred in the ninth inning of Saturday's American League championship series game. Tempers escalated after Nelson took exception to Paul Williams, a Red Sox grounds crew member stationed in the visiting bullpen, waving a rally towel and cheering for the Sox.

Before police could separate Williams from what Steinberg said were at least two players, Garcia jumped over the right-field fence and into the bullpen. Garcia sustained a sprained left hand -- when he jumped over the fence, he said, not as part of any fight -- and had to leave the game.

"The Red Sox are terribly concerned and distressed about the attack on our employee," spokesman Charles Steinberg said.

Yankee President Randy Levine faulted the Red Sox for inadequate security.

"Someone from the Red Sox organization should be on the phone right now apologizing to [owner] George Steinbrenner and [Manager] Joe Torre and every player in here," Levine said. "It's pathetic.... It outrages me."

Sandy Alderson, baseball's executive vice president, said the incident would be investigated but said he could not identify any security breakdowns, because no fan or other intruder jumped into the bullpen.

In a tense game, a 4-3 New York victory in which benches cleared several times, the Red Sox turned a double play to end the top of the ninth inning. Williams pumped his fist twice and waved his towel, Steinberg said.

"If that was in poor taste or judgment, it didn't warrant the attack," Steinberg said.

Nelson said Williams instigated the fracas.

Said Nelson: "I asked him, 'If you want to cheer for them, why don't you go over in their bullpen?' He jumped up and got in my face and took a swing at me and got tackled."

Nelson's teammates appeared to wrestle Williams to the ground.

Two Boston police officers are stationed in the bullpen, Steinberg said. The officers broke up the fight and submitted incident reports, he said.

Williams sustained "cleat marks" on his arm and back and was kicked in the mouth, Steinberg said. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Boston reliever Todd Jones, in the adjacent bullpen, said he hustled over for a look.

"I thought it was a fan and I said, all right, let's watch them beat up a fan," Jones said. "Once I saw it was a grounds crew guy, I thought it was pretty classless."

Added Boston reliever Scott Williamson: "That's a disgrace. You've got kids out there. For that to happen, it's very upsetting. If you're having a bad day, don't take it out on the groundskeeper."

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