COMMENTARY | On Christmas, outfielder Andruw Jones, whom in November was granted free agency by the Yankees after hitting .197 in 94 games last season, was arrested on a battery charge after his wife accused him of grabbing her by the ankle and dragging her down some stairs, according to police. Jones' wife, who also accused the ballplayer of grabbing her neck and saying that he wanted to kill her, filed for divorce a week later.
Jones now joins a select list of Yankees arrested for boneheaded decisions or, in some cases, bad luck. In many cases, these Yankees traded pinstripes for prison stripes. Lowlights, in chronological order, include:
Joba Chamberlain (P): Arrested near his Nebraska home for driving under the influence, speeding and having an open container of alcohol in his car. Video of the arrest made headlines because Chamberlain was filmed poking fun at Yankees legend Yogi Berra. Chamberlain eventually pleaded guilty to drunk driving and was sentenced to probation.
Daryl Strawberry (OF): Arrested in 1999 in Florida for possessing cocaine and soliciting a prostitute. Strawberry said the cocaine, which was wrapped in a $20 bill, wasn't his. The prostitution charge? Strawberry said he was "joking around" with an undercover police officer. Strawberry eventually pleaded no contest to the charges and was put on probation. A year later, the slugger was put under house arrest after admitting to driving under the influence of medication.
Outfielder Mark Whiten (OF): Arrested in 1997 for sexually assaulting a woman at a Milwaukee hotel. The Yankees released him a few weeks later. Prosecutors later dropped the charges, citing a lack of evidence.
Steve Howe (P): Already suspended five times for drug and alcohol problems, Howe was arrested in 1991 on cocaine charges in Montana after trying to buy drugs from a Drug Enforcement Agency informant. Howe was later fined $1,000 fine and sentenced to three years on probation. Two days after the Yankees released him in 1996, he was arrested at an airport for carrying a loaded handgun.
Luis Polonia (OF): Arrested in 1989 in Milwaukee after police found him with a 15-year-old girl in his hotel room. The teen accused Polonia of sexually assaulting her. Polonia was sentenced to 60 days in jail after the season and traded shortly after the start of the 1990 season. The journeyman outfielder returned to the Yankees in 1994 and played for a season and a half.
Dale Berra (3B) and Don Mattingly (1B): Arrested in Kansas City in 1985 in two separate incidents for urinating in a public place. Berra was also charged with resisting arrest. The prosecutor's office dropped the charges a few months later, citing that the "best interests of all concerned would be served by withdrawing the charges." George Steinbrenner, who fired Berra's father earlier in the year, wasn't so nice. Both were fined $1,000 each by the ballclub.
Dave Winfield (OF): Arrested by Toronto police on animal cruelty charges for killing a seagull in between innings at Exhibition Stadium. The 1983 incident occurred while Winfield was tossing a baseball in the middle of the fifth inning and the ball struck one of dozens of pigeons that were known to flock at the Blue Jays' home field. Yankees manager Billy Martin (in his third stint as the Yankees manager) fumed when he learned that Winfield was accused of hitting the bird on purpose, telling reporters, "It's the first time he's hit the cutoff man all year. I bet he could throw that ball a thousand times and not hit that bird." The charges were dropped later that season when police determined that it was, as Martin alleged, an accident.
Billy Martin (Manager): After the 1979 season, Martin (in his second stint as Yankees manager) got into a fight with marshmallow salesman at a Minneapolis hotel. The salesman ended up with 20 stitches; Martin got fired (again). In the years to come, Martin, whose struggles with alcoholism are well-documented, would be arrested for public drunkenness and battery charges.
Pedro Ramos (P): Arrested in Miami in 1965 for interfering with a police officer. The Cuban pitcher explained to reporters that he was asked to translate for a man who was being arrested by police. Ramos was acquitted later that year, but he'd have more run-ins with Florida cops years after retiring from baseball. In 1979, he was charged with trafficking narcotics and possessing a kilogram of cocaine. (He was convicted but not sent to jail.) Then, in 1980, he was arrested for threatening a bar owner with a gun. A year after that, while on probation, he was arrested for driving while intoxicating and carrying a gun, charges that landed him in prison for three years.
No Yankees rap sheet would be complete without the Bombers vs. Bowlers brawl at the Copacabana. In 1957, six Yankees were involved in a scuffle with a bowling team at the Manhattan nightclub. The Yankees -- Mickey Mantle (OF), Berra (C), Hank Bauer (OF), Johnny Kucks (P) and Whitey Ford (P) -- were there to celebrate Martin's 29th birthday. Bauer was arrested and later cleared on assault charges.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times. He was once accused of damaging property in upstate New York but never charged.
- Crime & Justice
- Politics & Government