- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

BOSTON. — If relief pitcher and Boston public enemy number one Jeff Nelson expects some help from the New York Yankees he might want to look at the past. Nelson is expected to appear in court this morning and face assault charges and the last time he was involved in a bullpen incident his team didn’t go to bat for him.

Oh, Nellie, he has gotten in trouble before — in Baltimore, of all places.

Nelson, along with Yankees outfielder Karim Garcia, may appear in a Boston courtroom this morning on charges that they assaulted Fenway Park grounds crew worker Paul Williams in the ninth inning of Saturday’s Game 3, which the Yankees won 4-3.

The game already erupted into chaos in the fourth inning when Pedro Martinez hit Garcia on the back with a pitch that was clearly intended to bean him. That led to a series of events that included the bizarre scene of Martinez throwing a charging Don Zimmer to the ground after both benches emptied. What happened in the ninth inning was out of the sight of most fans and, mostly an afterthought.

But, based on the police report filed on the incident and published in yesterday’s Boston papers, it won’t be an afterthought for long. “Jeff Nelson was observed pushing/grabbing the victim in the chest area at which time both parties fell to the ground where Jeff Nelson began punching and flaring his legs at the victim,” the report stated.

It could prove to be a difficult legal problem for Nelson and Garcia, and very embarrassing to the Yankees and Major League Baseball. And Nelson could be on his own, if past Yankees actions are any indication.

According to a lawsuit filed in 2000 by an Arlington man named Charles Robbins Jr., he and his 16-year-old daughter were at Camden Yards for a Sept.28, 1999 game between the Orioles and the Yankees when they had a conflict with Nelson and another Yankees pitcher, Allen Watson. Nelson was not named in the suit as a defendant and it was settled out of court. However, Nelson’s role in the incident was spelled out.

The suit, which also resulted in criminal charges of second degree assault and malicious destruction of property (they were later dropped), claimed Watson was angry at a sign the girl held up before the game. As a result, Watson threw a ball at the girl, knocking the sign out of her hands. According to the suit, the sign fell on the field, Nelson grabbed it, ripped it in half and threw it at the girl, hitting her with the pieces.

Now, I don’t know if prior actions are admissible in the case now facing Nelson. They haven’t covered this kind of situation in a “Law & Order” episode yet. I would say his act in Baltimore doesn’t bode well for Nelson, especially given his claims of innocence over what happened in the bullpen at Fenway Park.

“I’m not a guy who’s going to attack anyone,” Nelson said. “I’ve been in this game way too long, and I’m not going to do any of that stuff. I told you this yesterday. But the Boston media and everybody else is saying we attacked this guy. That’s wrong.”

He and Garcia may wind up more angry at the Yankees than with the media and everyone else. In the court papers the ballclub filed in response to the lawsuit in Baltimore, the Yankees went out of their way to distance themselves from Watson and Nelson, saying “because the employees’ alleged misconduct was so extreme in nature, and so far beyond the boundaries of acceptable behavior, it could not possibly be deemed to have been within the scope of employment.”

Garcia is a platoon outfielder. Nelson, with the emergence of Jose Contreras as a set- up man in the bullpen, has, for the most part, just been taking up space. However, New York manager Joe Torre brought him in last night in the eighth inning, and, despite Boston manager Grady Little’s demands that Nelson’s belt and glove be checked for foreign substances, the big right-hander managed to get Nomar Garciaparra to hit into an inning-ending double play without incident in the Red Sox’s 3-2 victory to tie the series at 2-2. I doubt Garcia and Nelson will be within the scope of employment for the Yankees next year.

Meanwhile, the investigation is still going on involving who asked Michael Bolton to sing the National Anthem before Game 4 last night.

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