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Nipper Hits Strawberry With Pitch--and Both Benches Empty

Associated Press

Boston Red Sox pitcher Al Nipper hit New York Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry with a pitch Saturday, touching off a bench-clearing incident in the first meeting between the teams since the World Series.

Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who was at the exhibition game, said he would look into “some unusual facts regarding the incident, and if they turn out to be true, I will take appropriate action.”

Nipper hit Strawberry in the back with a fastball in the second inning. The Met outfielder walked toward the mound, while Nipper stepped toward the plate.

Home plate umpire Dave Pallone got between them, and players from both benches rushed onto the field. There was some pushing but no punching, and order was quickly restored without any ejections. Strawberry hit a home run off Nipper in Game 7 of the World Series last fall and infuriated the Red Sox with a minute-long trot around the bases.

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“He better hope he doesn’t see me down the line. I’ll never forget it,” Strawberry said. “He threw the ball right at me. He did it on purpose.”

Said Nipper, who pitched four shutout innings Saturday: “The ball just got away. I came in with a fastball and I missed. It wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t a personal thing.”

Strawberry, who had been hit by a pitch earlier in spring training, had a single in his next at-bat off Nipper and later added an RBI single.

The Red Sox won the game, 7-2.

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“You never think of throwing at someone in spring training,” Strawberry said. “Last year, we had a lot of beanballs thrown at us. When guys hit us, they expect us to suffer.”

Strawberry said Manager Dave Johnson, who missed the game because of personal business, “doesn’t want us fighting this spring.”

The Mets were involved in four brawls last season, once when Strawberry charged the mound when hit by the Atlanta Braves’ David Palmer.

“It’s a fun thing to come out here, just reuniting the two teams that were in the World Series,” Met catcher Gary Carter said. “But there’s no emphasis on winning, per se.”

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Players on each side downplayed the significance of the matchup, although fans began lining up outside Al Lang Stadium at 7:00 a.m. for bleacher seats.

“It’s kind of like the eighth game of the World Series,” Ueberroth said. “I wanted to come to this one.”

Many key performers from last October were absent Saturday. Series Most Valuable Player Ray Knight is no longer with the Mets. Boston pitcher Roger Clemens is a holdout, Rich Gedman is a free agent, and Wade Boggs and Bill Buckner did not make the hour-long trip to St. Petersburg.

“It’s March. It’s just an exhibition game,” Boston Manager John McNamara said. “But in retrospect, many people who say they weren’t baseball oriented say the World Series captured their excitement. When you’re so deeply involved you don’t see it in that respect.”

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The Mets and Red Sox are scheduled to play again Wednesday in Winter Haven, Fla.


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