O's know Nelson can be combative

ALCS bullpen incident follows O's brawl, run-in with fan at Camden Yards

Baseball Playoffs

October 14, 2003|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

New York Yankees pitcher Jeff Nelson has earned a reputation as a loose cannon with Orioles fans because of his role in incidents in 1998 and 1999.

Nelson, who was involved in an altercation with a Fenway Park groundskeeper during Saturday's American League Championship Series game against the Boston Red Sox, continues a very public history of outbursts, several involving the Orioles and their fans.

In 1998, he was fined $500 and suspended two games for his role in an ugly free-for-all between the Yankees and Orioles, a flap that New York owner George Steinbrenner called "the worst brawl I've seen in 25 years."

In the May 19 brawl, Nelson followed a retreating Armando Benitez after the Orioles reliever had beaned Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez.

During Game 4 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Nelson engaged in a verbal confrontation with a Fenway Park security supervisor outside the Yankees' dugout, and needed to be restrained by teammates and coaches.

In that same year, the Catonsville High School alumnus was one of two Yankees involved in a confrontation with fans at Oriole Park on Sept. 28.

The other was Allen Watson, who threw at a "Yankees Suck" sign held by then-16-year-old Cheryl Robbins of Arlington, Va., knocking the sign out of her hands and onto the field. Nelson picked up the sign, ripped it up and threw it at her, the teen's family said.

Watson was charged with criminal assault, but the charges were later dropped.

Robbins' father, Charles, sued the Yankees, Watson and Nelson in 2000, and settled out of court.

Nelson, whose history of impulsive behavior includes the verbal, returned to New York by way of mouth this summer, traded after criticizing his former team, the then first-place Seattle Mariners. He complained Seattle had failed to make any trades of note as the non-waiver trade deadline approached, then ridiculed the Mariners for trading him to another American League team.

In the incident Saturday, the grounds crew member, Paul Williams, was sent to a Boston-area hospital for treatment of injuries that included cleat marks on his arms and back.

Red Sox officials called it an attack, but Nelson maintained that he had done nothing wrong. "I've been in this league for 12 years," he said in earlier reports. "I'm not going to go up and attack anybody or provoke anybody. That's ridiculous."

In the ninth inning of Saturday's game, Nelson apparently took issue with the cheering of Willams - which consisted of a simple fist-pump or several innings of cheering, depending on the account - and asked him to stop or go elsewhere. It is not clear whether Nelson attacked Williams or Williams became confrontational and instigated the fight.

Yankees right fielder Karim Garcia jumped the low wall between the outfield and the bullpen, contributing to the fracas.

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