Chicago White Sox outfielder Tony Phillips, who went into the stands Wednesday night and allegedly punched a heckler for making racial epithets, may face a battery charge and a jail term.
The incident occurred behind the left-field bleachers after Phillips had changed into street clothes. Phillips had been taken out after six innings in a 20-8 victory over Milwaukee, and went into the stands to confront the fan.
Phillips was ordered Thursday to appear before Assistant District Attorney Rayann Chandler-Szychlinski on Monday. The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department is recommending Phillips be charged with battery, Lt. Joseph Delaney said.
The charge carries penalties of up to nine months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
Delaney said the Sheriff’s Department will seek a disorderly conduct charge against the 23-year-old fan whom Phillips punched in the face, according to witnesses. That charge carries fines of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail.
Delaney said the fan’s name wouldn’t be released until he appears before the assistant district attorney. But The Journal Times of Racine, Wis., reported today the man’s name is Chris Hovorka of Racine.
The newspaper said Hovorka acknowledged heckling Phillips but denied yelling racial slurs at the black outfielder.
“This is the biggest bull,” said Hovorka, who is white. “They’re trying to portray me as a drunk racist. First of all, I had two beers the entire game. Secondly, I didn’t say anything racial. I guarantee you if somebody has yelled something racial, I would have been embarrassed. I don’t do that.”
Hovorka told the newspaper Phillips hit him twice after telling him to meet him behind the bleachers.
The district attorney’s office scheduled the matter for Monday because the White Sox are off that day following a three-game series at Detroit, where they went following Thursday’s 3-2 loss at Milwaukee.
After Thursday’s game, in which Phillips had to be restrained from going after an umpire when he was picked off base, he spoke for several minutes about his altercation with the fan, although he refused to go into specifics.
“Everybody has a breaking point and I just reached mine last night,” Phillips said. “From now on, my breaking point will be a little further.
“I’m just saddened that the incident happened last night and I regret it happened. I always have had a pretty good relationship with the fans,” he added.
White Sox general manager Ron Schueler said Phillips told him the fan yelled racial epithets at him during Wednesday night’s game, which was delayed for nearly 2 hours because of fog.
“Obviously, I don’t condone getting into street clothes and going out and fighting,” said Schueler, who added he would challenge any disciplinary action the American League might take.
“I don’t think anybody had the right to make personal attacks or speak about family. I don’t think the players should have to deal with that.”
Acting commissioner Bud Selig, the owner of the Brewers, declined to comment on the matter.
Usher Steven Schutt said he witnessed the altercation as he was leaving the ballpark when his shift ended. He said Phillips “cold-cocked the guy.”
“I saw an argument. I went to break it up and he (Phillips) didn’t want me to,” Schutt said.
After Phillips threw a punch, Sheriff’s deputies quickly arrived and took both Phillips and the fan in for questioning, Schutt said.
Schueler said Phillips had told him the fan pushed him first.
On Monday night, Phillips hollered at some fans who threw peanuts at him behind the White Sox dugout on the third-base side, and stadium security personnel escorted two fans from their seats.
“No one likes to get anything thrown at them,” Phillips said. “I’m not in a cage. I’m a human being just like anyone else, and I demand the respect of a man just like I give respect to everyone else in the stands and on the field.”
Phillips declined to say if his altercation was related to the peanut-throwing incident. He also said he didn’t have a lawyer yet.
Phillips entered Thursday’s game in the ninth and drew a leadoff walk. He was picked off by reliever Mike Fetters.