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MLB decides against punishing Sheffield

BALTIMORE -- In the end, Major League Baseball ruled that Gary Sheffield did nothing wrong a week ago tonight at Fenway Park, and thus, warranted no punishment. Not a suspension. Not a fine. Nothing.

"This just proves that I was right," Sheffield told reporters before the Yankees' game last night in Toronto. "I'm just glad I was an example of how to handle a situation without making it worse or hurting the Yankees or any other organization, for that matter, or any sport."

Sheffield was at the center of the chaotic scene in right field in the eighth inning last

Thursday when two fans, Dorchester's Christopher House and Matthew Donovan, interfered with Sheffield's ability to play a ball hit by Jason Varitek. House swung his arm near Sheffield, and Donovan threw the rest of his beer at the right fielder. "Sheffield in response swung his arms in an effort to extricate himself from the situation and to avoid further abuse, then completed the play and returned to confront the fan," according to a statement from the commissioner's office. "At that time no further altercation occurred, Red Sox security stepped in promptly, and order was restored. Under the circumstances, Bob Watson concluded that discipline for Sheffield was not warranted."

Watson, baseball's vice president of on-field operations, rendered the decision yesterday, a day after meeting with Sheffield and his agent, Rufus Williams, at Yankee Stadium. Watson, according to the commissioner's office, determined that House "struck Sheffield on the head as he was attempting to field a ball in play."

"We do not condone any interaction between fans and players whether initiated by either fans or players," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "I am pleased that Gary Sheffield showed restraint in not overreacting to the improper and clearly aggressive action of the fan in question."

"I think they are doing the right thing," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. "[Sheffield] handled it pretty good. It could have been worse."

Sheffield said he was glad the incident didn't escalate, because "it wouldn't have been just me involved if I would have went into the stands. It would have been my teammates. I would have put them at risk. I'd have put the organization at risk and also baseball."

"It's tough to put any ballplayer in that situation, period," said Sox captain Jason Varitek. "It took him a second, but he really regained his composure."

The Red Sox on Monday revoked House's seven season tickets for at least the remainder of 2005. Donovan, who is not a season ticket-holder, is not allowed to purchase tickets for the rest of the season. Neither man, though, is banned from Fenway Park.

On House's tickets being revoked, Varitek said, "Hopefully, through due time he'll be allowed to go to games if he truly wasn't trying to be malicious. "If he was, keep him out of the park."

Tuesday, Boston police applied for misdemeanor charges against both House and Donovan. The charge sought is disorderly conduct for "interfering with a public assembly," according to Boston police Sergeant Thomas Sexton.

"I also commend the Boston Red Sox for their swift and decisive actions regarding the involved fans," Selig said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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