Baseball: Fists fly as Orioles lose again

THE Baltimore Orioles, pride of the city and of Washington DC, have barely hit anything this season. But they managed a few good hits on Tuesday night. It was just a shame that the contacts were knuckle on jaw.

Baseball is a sport that rarely sees violence of any kind, but a match between the Orioles and the New York Yankees at Yankee stadium erupted into chaos after the Orioles pitcher caught a Yankee with a pitch aimed squarely at the body. The Yankees owner, George Steinbrunner, called it "the worst brawl I've seen in 25 years".

The fuss started when Bernie Williams hit a three-run homer to put the Yankees clear in the eighth inning. Armando Benitez, the Orioles' relief pitcher, hit Tino Martinez in the back with his next pitch, and the game went crazy. Players leapt from the Yankees dug-out and ran to the pitchers' mound, where Benitez challenged Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry landed one on him, and fights broke out. Five players were ejected, including Benitez and Strawberry.

Benitez has been suspended for eight games for throwing at Martinez, although he denies it was intentional. Strawberry and his fellow Yankee Graeme Lloyd must sit out three games each for fighting and "prolonging the violent incident", and there were two-game bans for the Oriole Alan Mills and the Yankee Jeff Nelson.

Benitez has been involved in a fight before, and had landed a ball on Martinez three years ago, but undoubtedly part of the reason for the violence was Baltimore's frustration. The Orioles had been ahead until the eighth inning, and then - as so often lately - seemed to throw it away. The Yankees won 9-5, strengthening their position at the top of the American League East, and sending the Orioles down to bottom position, with six successive losses. Yet this is the team that has the highest player payroll in major league history, at $74.3m (pounds 45m).

The author Tom Clancy has withdrawn his $200m (pounds 120m) bid for the Minnesota Vikings NFL team.

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