Fan interferes as Sheffield tries to field 2-run triple

BOSTON (AP) -- Gary Sheffield kept his cool just as another

confrontation between Fenway Park fans and the New York Yankees was

heating up.

Sheffield was fielding Jason Varitek's two-run triple along the

low right-field fence in the eighth inning of Boston's 8-5 victory

Thursday night when a fan swung a short uppercut in his direction,

appearing to graze the side of the slugger's face with his right


"Something hit me in the mouth. It felt like a hand,"

Sheffield said. "I thought my lip was busted."

After Sheffield picked up the ball, he shoved the fan before

throwing the ball back to the infield as two runs scored. Another

fan's beer also sprayed in Sheffield's direction.

"I tried to get his hand out of my face so I could continue on

with the play," he said. "To get punched in the mouth, you don't

expect that in a baseball game."

Sheffield then whirled around with a cocked fist, shouting in

the face of the first man -- but restrained himself and did not

throw a punch. A security official quickly jumped over the

three-foot wall to separate the two.

"It could have been worse if I didn't hold my composure,"

Sheffield said. "I almost snapped, but I thought about the


The fan was ejected from the ballpark but not arrested.

"I guess there's always one idiot in the stands," New York

captain Derek Jeter said.

Fenway hasn't been a friendly place for Boston's chief rival.

The fans boo Alex Rodriguez, razz Jason Giambi about steroids and

generally make life unpleasant for the Yankees.

"People here yell at you and throw things at you, all kinds of

things all game long," center fielder Bernie Williams said. "But

what that guy did was different, totally unexpected. It was

dangerous and something should be done about it."

During the 2003 AL playoffs, two Yankees players got into a

brawl with a Red Sox groundskeeper in New York's bullpen.

Relief pitcher Jeff Nelson and outfielder Karim Garcia were

charged with assault but agreed to a deal last October that called

for the charges against them to be dropped in six months.

"We have two great teams and two great baseball cities and a

lot of emotion," Boston manager Terry Francona said.

The near-fight between Sheffield and the Boston fan Thursday

night was the latest problem between fans and players at a sporting


On Nov. 19, players and fans exchanged punches in the stands

near the end of a Pacers-Pistons game in one of the worst brawls in

NBA history. The mayhem left several people injured and prompted a

police investigation.

Last September, the Texas Rangers got into a fight with fans in

Oakland, and Rangers reliever Frank Francisco was arrested after

throwing a chair into the stands that hit a woman and broke her


And on Sept. 28, Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley was ejected

after he slammed a plastic bottle down in the front row of the

right-field seats after a fan threw the bottle onto the field. He

was suspended for the rest of the regular season.

Edgar Renteria's RBI double in the eighth broke a 5-5 tie, and

Boston took two of three from the Yankees to even the season series

at three games apiece.

Randy Johnson gave up three homers for only the 12th time in his

career, and Francona and Red Sox hitting coach Ron Jackson were

ejected after questioning calls by plate umpire Greg Gibson.

Johnson left with the score 5-5 after seven innings and Tom

Gordon (0-1) fell behind before getting an out. Johnny Damon led

off the eighth with a single and scored on a double by Renteria,

who had made the last out for St. Louis in Boston's sweep of last

year's World Series.

"We have to give Sheffield a lot of credit," Damon said, "for

him to restrain himself the way he did."

After an intentional walk to David Ortiz, Varitek hit a ball

down the right-field line that hugged the curved wall and led to

all the trouble.

Varitek's two-run triple gave the Red Sox an 8-5 lead.

Sheffield led off the ninth with a double off the Green Monster

and the Yankees loaded the bases before Keith Foulke (1-1) ended

the game by getting Ruben Sierra to foul out to catcher Varitek,

who made a nice catch on a difficult play near the stands.

Renteria, Jay Payton and Varitek all homered in the first four

innings off Johnson.

"I didn't settle in until after," said Johnson, who allowed

five hits.

Hideki Matsui drove in three runs for the Yankees with a single

and a double as the teams wrapped up a nine-game stretch in which

they faced each other six times.

The last time Johnson allowed three homers was Aug. 15 against


New York took a 5-4 lead in a four-run fourth, when Bronson

Arroyo issued three walks.

One of them led to the ejection of Jackson, who was upset after

Gibson called a bases-loaded, 3-2 pitch to Sheffield a ball.

Francona rushed out of the dugout to argue and Jackson, who

followed, was restrained by several Boston coaches.

Matsui followed with a two-run single and Rodriguez put the

Yankees ahead with an RBI single.

Varitek's third homer of the season tied it in the fourth. But

with two outs and a 2-1 count on Bill Mueller, a pitch that

appeared to be low and inside was called a strike by Gibson. That

brought Francona out of the dugout again and he also was ejected.

Francona returned to the team Monday from a four-game absence

after undergoing tests for tightness in his chest that team

physician Dr. Thomas Gill said probably was caused by a viral

illness.Game notes
Arroyo allowed runners in scoring position in each of the

first four innings. ... Johnson had at least one strikeout in each

of his seven innings.