For Jeff Nelson, the Gary Sheffield incident in Boston on Thursday brought back immediate and distasteful memories.
During the 2003 American League Championship Series in Boston, Nelson and Yankees teammate Karim Garcia were involved in a bullpen scuffle with a Red Sox groundskeeper at Fenway Park.
“New York might be a rough place, as far as fan-wise, but it’s nothing like when you’re a Yankee playing in Boston,” Nelson said yesterday at U.S. Cellular Field. “It’s ridiculous. It’s going to wind up escalating into something else.”
Nelson was particularly perturbed that Sheffield was portrayed in some media reports as the instigator of a scuffle with a fan.
“I said, ‘You know what, that’s the exact thing happened to me,’ ” Nelson said. “It’s the exact same thing, the way the media portrayed it, and I hate it. We’re at fault right away before anything ever happens. The fans? ‘Oh, there’s nothing wrong with what the fan did.’ I get tired of that.”
Nelson and Garcia were charged with misdemeanor assault and battery, but a deal was reached last October that the charges would be dropped in six months if the two players performed 50 hours of community service. Nelson said the charges were officially erased on April 1.
“I had to keep going back to court,” he said. “It was a joke. They never had anything on us. … We were victimized because of the Red Sox fans.”
Amen, props to Jeff Nelson for speaking out on behalf of persecuted professional athletes everywhere. Though as former teammate Garcia’s altercation with a pizza delivery boy proved, the harrassment doesn’t end at the ballpark. Whether they are pissing in the parking lot, retrieving balls in the right field corner or stomping groundskeepers, the current and former New York Yankees deserve better from the legal system and the public.