Yankees pitcher injured in diner fight

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Yankees pitcher David Wells was punched in the head and lost two teeth when he was attacked by a man waving a butter knife at a diner early Saturday, police said.

Wells refused medical attention after the assault at 5:50 a.m. at the restaurant on Manhattan's Upper East side.

Rocco Graziosa, 27, of Yonkers, N.Y., was arrested and charged with assault and menacing.

Police said they did not know whether Graziosa was being held or released, or if a court appearance had been scheduled. Calls to the district attorney's office and Graziosa's home were not immediately returned.

Wells' teammates saw him at Yankee Stadium before Saturday's game against Detroit, but the pitcher was not in the New York clubhouse after a 2-1 loss.

''I don't even know what's going on,'' catcher Jorge Posada said. ''I saw him earlier. I think he went back to the hospital or something.''

Yankees manager Joe Torre said he hoped Wells would be back at the ballpark Sunday. Torre was not sure how the attack would affect Wells' pitching.

''We'll have to wait and see how that shakes out,'' Torre said. ''We hope he's fine.''

''I really don't want to talk about that whole thing because one thing leads to another. I don't want to get in trouble,'' he said.

Wells pitched a complete game Friday night as New York beat Detroit. Several hours later, he was at the diner with a friend -- not a teammate -- when Graziosa walked in with some friends and began chatting with the star, police Sgt. David Jorin said.

After the conversation, Graziosa went to his own table and made a remark about Wells' mother, who is deceased.

A few moments later, Graziosa grabbed a butter knife off the table, began waving it and attacked Wells, police said. Wells called 911, and police arrived and made the arrest.

Wells, 39, is 16-7 with a 4.00 ERA this season.

Widely known for enjoying New York's nightlife when he played for the Yankees from 1997-98, Wells rejoined the Yankees this season after a winter meeting with team owner George Steinbrenner.

Wells was always popular with Yankees fans for his big-game pitching -- he was 5-0 in the postseason and also threw a perfect game -- his appreciation of Yankees tradition and his large living.

The left-hander broke his pitching hand in January 1997 in a street fight outside a bar during the week of his mother's wake. He later got into a clubhouse shouting match with Steinbrenner and reportedly threatened to knock out the owner.

Wells returned to the Yankees this season with a slimmed-up physique and a renewed determination to focus on baseball after being injured last year with the Chicago White Sox.

Wells pitched a five-hitter and defeated the Tigers 8-1 Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

''I've been working hard,'' Wells said after his victory. ''I'm busting my butt every day. I'm stretching. I'm doing my back exercises. It's paying off. It's showing that I'm healthy. The last few weeks, I've woke up and felt good.''

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