Controversy continues to swirl around Sheffieldgate, which began at Fenway last Thursday as Yankee Gary Sheffield ran along the 3-foot high right-field fence chasing a hit by Boston’s Jason Varitek. Red Sox season ticket holder Christopher House reached over the fence with a sweeping motion and appeared to make contact with the player. Sheffield picked up the ball, made a shoving motion toward House, then threw the ball 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, who said the fan hit him in the face.
Bob Watson, baseball’s vice president in charge of discipline, announced today that Sheffield will not be punished for the incident. “We do not condone any interaction between fans and players whether initiated by either fans or players,” commissioner Bud Selig wrote in a statement.
I assume he means during the game.
“I am pleased that Gary Sheffield showed restraint in not overreacting to the improper and clearly aggressive action of the fan in question,” quoth the commish.
“I also commend the Boston Red Sox for their swift and decisive actions regarding the involved fans,” Selig said. “We want all of our fans to be able to enjoy the games completely, but such enjoyment does not involve interacting physically with the players. Physical contact between player and fan in any fashion will not be tolerated.”
Red Sox officials have revoked House’s season tickets and also banned a second fan, who spilled beer on Sheffield, from buying tickets this season. Boston police asked a clerk magistrate to decide whether a disorderly conduct charge is warranted against the fans, according to a department spokesman.
It could have been much worse and the notoriously hot-headed Sheffield is due at least some credit for not losing his shit and taking out the entire row of fans under the circumstances. Following the Pistons-Pacers player-fan brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills last November, MLB got smart and in spring training held meetings stressing the importance of avoiding confrontations with fans. Sheffield said this meeting helped him stay under control in the situation.