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Yanks, Orioles Stage Slugfest

May 21, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Three players suspended, another one injured. At least the New York Yankees got an apology from the Baltimore Orioles.

Orioles reliever Armando Benitez was suspended for eight games on Wednesday for intentionally throwing at Tino Martinez, and four other players were penalized for their involvement in the wild brawl that followed at Yankee Stadium.

Darryl Strawberry and Graeme Lloyd of the New York Yankees were suspended for three games each by the American League for ``overly aggressive behavior, fighting and prolonging the violent incident″ on Tuesday night.

Alan Mills of the Orioles and Jeff Nelson of the Yankees were suspended two games apiece.

``Not enough of their guys; too many of our guys,″ Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Martinez was out of the lineup against the Orioles on Wednesday night because of a large bone bruise on his upper back. The All-Star first baseman’s status was day-to-day after Benitez hit him.

``I apologize to the New York Yankees and to Tino Martinez specifically,″ Orioles manager Ray Miller said. ``It was an act of an immature young man that led to this.″

On Wednesday night, each team had a batter hit by a pitch in the early innings. There were no further hostilities, however.

Benitez was fined $2,000, Strawberry and Lloyd each were fined $1,000, and Nelson and Mills both drew $500 fines.

``The severity of the discipline reflects the gravity of the offenses,″ AL president Gene Budig said. ``Mr. Benitez not only intentionally threw at Martinez, but the location of the pitch was extremely dangerous and could have seriously injured the player.″

The fight also renewed calls by some for baseball to consider adopting a rule used by the NBA _ that any player who leaves the bench is automatically suspended.

``There are those _ several within baseball favor having the general managers at their next meeting review what other professional sports do and see if it might have applicability,″ Budig said.

Any such rule would have to be negotiated with the union.

``I think that would be a terrible idea,″ said Gene Orza, the union’s No. 2 official.

``In a game in which the batter, however much he believes he is wronged, goes to the mound, if no one leaves the bench the fight is eight to one. As a result, the guys will leave the bench. They can’t leave their teammate alone,″ he said.

Owners George Steinbrenner of the Yankees and Peter Angelos of the Orioles talked by telephone Wednesday.

``He felt badly and I felt badly,″ Steinbrenner said. ``I don’t want any retaliation today.″

After giving up a three-run homer to Bernie Williams that put New York ahead 7-5, Benitez hit Martinez between the shoulder blades with his next pitch. The brawl spilled into the Orioles’ dugout. New York went on to win 9-5.

The suspensions of Strawberry and Benitez began immediately. Mills’ suspension would start after Benitez’s is completed.

Lloyd’s suspension would start when Strawberry is finished sitting out, and Nelson’s penalty would when Lloyd’s is completed.

Benitez and Strawberry said they will serve part of their suspensions on Wednesday and Thursday and then decide whether to appeal remainder of penalties, the players’ union said.

Mills will decide by Friday whether to appeal. There was no word on the plans of Lloyd and Nelson.

Extra police were on hand for the Orioles-Yankees rematch. Major league baseball made sure it brought additional security personnel to watch Baltimore’s dugout.

The Orioles were booed during pregame introductions. About 10 minutes before the game, highlights from Tuesday night were shown on the scoreboard _ there no replays of the fight, however.

Benitez was not at the ballpark. Strawberry worked out before the game.

``You can hurt a guy with what he did,″ said Strawberry, whose flying hook to Benitez’s head was the biggest punch of the fight.

Said Steinbrenner: ``It was the worst brawl I’ve seen in 25 years.″

Punctuated by furious punches, nearly every player participated in the 10 minutes of chaos. Eventually, bodies spilled into the Orioles’ third-base dugout.

``I think that was ridiculous and uncalled for,″ Yankees pitcher David Wells, a former Oriole, said Wednesday. ``It’s not good for baseball. It’s part of the game, yes. But to be blatant like that, it’s not acceptable.

``If it was one of my teammates, I would be upset with them. I’ve had teammates upset with me for doing that once. I regret doing that because you can really hurt somebody.″

Benitez, Mills, Strawberry, Lloyd and Nelson were ejected in one of the most vicious fights in recent baseball history. Amazingly, there were no serious injuries in the brawl.

``I don’t think there was a guy on the field who didn’t throw a punch,″ Orioles coach Elrod Hendricks said.

Lloyd and Nelson had little to say about their suspensions.

``I was just protecting my players,″ Lloyd said.

``When the league reviews the films and sees guys going at it, you pay the price,″ Nelson said.

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