Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles punched teammate Reggie Jackson at a party hosted by team owner George Steinbrenner several hours after New York had won the American League pennant Thursday night.
The incident occurred at Vince's Restaurant in Oakland and apparently started when outfielder Jackson brought several friends to a party for Yankee players and their families. The Yankees had defeated the Oakland A's, 4-0, to sweep the league championship series in three games and advance to the World Series.
Jackson's friends sat at a table in the banquet room with Nettles and his wife Ginger, and, according to an Associated Press report, asked her to move.
Nettles reportedly began arguing with Jackson's friends, and when Jackson approached him, Nettles said, "Look, my fight isn't with you. They just had no right to push my wife out of her chair."
According to another report, Jackson then knocked a bottle of beer out of Nettles' hands. Nettles punched Jackson in the mouth, the two began scuffling, and Nettles wrestled Jackson to the floor just outside the banquet room.
Steinbrenner, who along with several security guards helped break up the fight, then asked Jackson's friends to leave, according to Dick Young of the New York Daily News, who was at the party.
"You'll regret this," Jackson reportedly told Steinbrenner.
Afterward, Steinbrenner said, "It was a shoving match as far as I'm concerned . . . It's not that important . . . it's an in-house thing and I don't regard it as important." He was not available for comment today.
The Yankees' intrateam squabbles are well known. In 1979, for example, Cliff Johnson (now with the A's) broke relief pitcher Rich Gossage's thumb in a clubhouse fight.
Participants in Thursday night's incident had calmed down by this morning. Nettles -- who drove in nine runs against the A's and was named the series' most valuable player -- spent most of the morning today playing whiffle ball with his children by the pool at the Oakland Hyatt, where the Yankees were staying.
"I don't want to say anything. Yes, I am fine," Nettles said. When a television camera crew approached, Nettles went inside.
But before the Yankees' flight home today, Nettles said the incident was "no big deal" and that he had looked for Jackson later to apologize, but the outfielder had already gone home.
"I'm sure he feels bad about it. I feel badly about it, too, because it was such a good day for the whole ball club and myself especially, and it's just something I hope is forgotten. I'm going to forget about it, and I hope Reggie does, too."
Nettles said the fight was the result of a misunderstanding that began when Jackson's friends sat down at the table with his wife.
"And then I noticed that Reggie came and sat down there, too, so they were friends of his, and Reggie came and wanted to know what the problem was and we had a little argument, a little shoving, and that was about it."
Jackson, who has a home in Oakland, did not stay with the team at the hotel. He missed the last two games of the Oakland series with a calf muscle injury.
"It was a bizarre and unfortunate thing," Jackson said 12 hours after the fight. "It was just a weird circumstance, a crazy happening and very unfortunate."
But, he added, "We'll sit down in the back of the plane on the way home . . . and we'll get over it."
Manager Bob Lemon was cornered at the Hyatt by reporters and said, "If they want to go under the stands and have it out, that's okay with me as long as they are ready to play baseball. Am I going to just let it go? Why, sure. These guys are professionals. I think it was a lot of pent-up frustration, and I don't think there will be any repercussions."
Joe Ingargiola, a student at Dowling College in New York who said he posed as a Time Magazine correspondent to get into the games, claimed to have seen the fight from his vantage point outside the door of the banquet room. He said he had his tape recorder on.
"I paid my own way out here from New York. I was looking for a big story to help me get a job," said Ingargiola, who played the tape for reporters today.
Although the tape was difficult to decipher, the voices of Steinbrenner and Jackson were understood easily enough.
The conversation just after the fight went like this:
Steinbrenner: "Come on, come on. Let's get out of here. Come on, Graig."
Jackson: "I'm not going to take that from nobody . . . I don't care about nothing . . . I don't care if I don't play in the World Series . . . I don't have a contract (Jackson's contract with the Yankees ends after this season). I can go anywhere."
Steinbrenner: "Let's go Reggie, come on. We are here to party."
At Vince's Restaurant today, owner Tom Katsantones talked about the fight. "I was worried that a fan had slipped into the room," he said. "I thought our security had broken down. Truthfully, I was glad when I heard it was an internal thing.
"Steinbrenner came out and said to me, 'Tom, I'm sorry for what happened.' "
Katsantones added, "Al Davis, the owner of the (Oakland) Raiders, was sitting in the next room. He was at his own table; he comes here about three times a week. He was sitting there with Curt Gowdy. When those guys (Nettles and Jackson) came barreling out the door and rammed against the wall behind him, Al said, 'It sounds like my football players are practicing in there.' "