Jackson, Downing Have Altercation With Heckler

Times Staff Writer

Reggie Jackson and Brian Downing were involved in an altercation with an unidentified man following the Angels' 8-1 exhibition victory over the Cleveland Indians at Tucson Friday.

The incident took place in the parking lot at Hi Corbett Field as Jackson and Downing were preparing to return to the Angel training base at Mesa, Ariz.

Jackson, reached by phone Friday night, said he was merely responding to the man's belligerence by trying to restrain him. He said no punches were thrown and that the man ultimately apologized as he and Downing left in Downing's car.

Witnesses told the Arizona Daily Star that the man had heckled Jackson throughout the game and continued to do so in the parking lot. They said that while there were no punches, the heckler suffered a cut lip, apparently in the jostling near Downing's car.

There was no police involvement.

"There was a mob of people in the parking lot," Jackson said. "I signed a few autographs, but when I get to Downing's car, this guy wouldn't get out of the way.

"We exchanged a few words and I finally got in. Then he starts pounding on the door and windshield, yelling at me in Spanish, which I understand. He said, 'Hey, I'm a big fan of yours. How about an autograph? How about some cocaine?

"There were all these kids around, and this guy's asking me if I want cocaine."

Jackson said he got out of the car to restrain the man.

"I grabbed both of his arms and held him," Jackson said. A couple of other people grabbed him, and Brian got out of the car to make sure nothing developed.

"I didn't know his lip was cut, but if it wasn't, it deserved to be. There's always one bad apple, one fan like that in 500.

"The guy cooled down when everybody grabbed him and actually apologized for causing the trouble. I couldn't believe it. He even asked for my autograph again."

A witness, Tim Vieburg, told the Daily Star that Jackson had been signing autographs as he made his way toward Downing's car.

"Then this guy came up and said, 'Come on, Reggie, I'll take you on.' He stuck a program in the window of the car and started beating on it.

"I didn't see any punches thrown, and nobody I talked to did, but the man's lip was definitely bleeding and his sunglasses had been knocked off. The guy had been very belligerent."

Said Gary Hatlen, a friend of Vieburg's: "We sat near him during the game, and he was heckling Reggie throughout, saying things like, 'Come on, Reggie, let's see the big K (strikeout).' "

Jackson, whose controversial career has been comparatively free of such incidents since he joined the Angels in 1982, went 0 for 4 in the game but did not strike out.

Asked if he was aware of the man's heckling during the game, Jackson said: "The whole stadium was on me. It was just another day."

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