NEW YORK -- Baseball's best leadoff hitter was accused of striking a woman early yesterday in his New York hotel room after inviting her there for drinks.
The woman's husband, Jahann Salarinartin, told police that Rickey Henderson assaulted his wife, Sandra, 23, when she refused to have sex with him. Late yesterday the couple filed a formal complaint with the police against Henderson alleging third-degree assault.
"She said she went up to his room and admits she was drinking heavily," said Lt. Robert Nardoza, a police department spokesman. "She said they had a dispute in the room and he backhanded her, causing a bruise over the left eye."
Police said the woman did not say what the argument was about and that there was no sign of a bruise on her face. According to the police, the couple said they did not want Henderson arrested. Police referred them to Manhattan Criminal Court, where they could request that a summons for harassment be issued against Henderson.
The Oakland A's star outfielder, who played for the New York Yankees for four seasons until he was traded in 1989, denied he had had anything but a conversation with the woman at the bar of the Grand Hyatt Hotel. He was in the starting lineup and played against the Yankees last night at Yankee Stadium.
"I don't know why she got so mad and went running around making up this story," Henderson said in his hotel room yesterday afternoon. "Maybe she got home late and her husband was upset she hadn't come home earlier. She was saying all night that she was married. What would I want with her?"
Henderson said that after the A's beat the Yankees, 10-8, Monday night, he joined some teammates and his tailor at the bTC hotel's Sun Garden bar. He said he was drinking and having a good time and talking to everyone when the woman, later identified as Sandra Salarinartin, offered to buy him a beer.
"She said she and her girlfriend saw me when I stole third the last time I was in town. She said they'd leaped up and down yelling, 'Rickey, steal home, steal home!' and wanted to know if I remembered them," said the man who broke Lou Brock's all-time base-stealing record of 938 bases earlier this season.
He said he was not particularly attracted to the woman and went to his room alone when the bar closed about 1:30 a.m. Sources, however, said Henderson and A's teammate Mike Gallego went to Henderson's room with Salarinartin and a friend of hers, identified only as Susan, who was with Gallego.
They said that Henderson ordered a bottle of Moet-Chandon champagne and that Salarinartin stayed after Gallego and her friend left. At that point, nobody would say what happened. Gallego yesterday denied having any part in the incident. "That story is totally false," Gallego said, though he admitted he knew the woman called Susan. "First of all I don't hang out with Rickey. . . . I was never even there in the first place." Gallego said he went straight from the team bus to his room and called his wife, went to bed and got up at 11 a.m to go out to buy toys for his kids. He said the first he heard of the incident was about 4 p.m. yesterday.
Henderson laughed off the accusations. He said the first he had heard of the woman's anger was from a hotel security guard yesterday morning. Henderson, who was wearing a "Happy Campers" T-shirt and Mizunu bicycle shorts in his room, said the guard knocked on his door and told him the police were downstairs.
"The guard asked me if I was like Tyson, and I told him, 'Naw, I'm not like that,' " Henderson said.
When told the woman's husband said he had struck her, Henderson, who has a wife and child in Hillsborough, Calif., according to the Oakland A's media guide, dismissed the accusation.
"Why would I rough up a woman?" he asked. "My mother told me that when a woman starts acting up to turn my back and walk away. She said to always act like a man."
The Athletics stood by their players.
"Rickey is absolutely adamant that nothing happened and as far as I'm concerned, the entire incident is a figment of someone's imagination," said Sandy Alderson, the Athletics' vice president for baseball operations.