HOUSTON -- Houston Astros first baseman Cesar Cedeno was fined $5,000 and let off without a suspension by the National League president Friday for going into the Atlanta Stadium stands and grabbing a heckling fan.
President Charles (Chub) Feeney said in his decision the action of the fan, who was identified as Raymond Smith of Atlanta, was 'antisocial.' Feeney added the improper nature of the fan's action and Cedeno's written apology mitigated the penalty.
'However, even with such verbal provocation it is totally unacceptable for a baseball player to enter into the stands in a threatening manner toward a patron,' Feeney said in a statement issued in New York.
An indefinite suspension issued Wednesday was lifted, making Cedeno eligible to play Friday night as the first-place Astros opened an important three-game series against the contending San Francisco Giants.
Cedeno had not played since the incident in the first inning of Tuesday's game. He was ejected by umpires from that Tuesday game, and he missed Wednesday's game when Manager Bill Virdon held him out at the request of police. The team did not play Thursday.
Feeney said similar incidents in the future should result in stadium security personnel removing the fan from the ballpark.
'People who attend baseball games have the right, and it is part of the enjoyment the game, to root vociferously for their favorites or, on the other hand, vent in a sportsmanlike fashion feelings toward players that are negative, and the players expect this as part of their profession,' Feeney said.
'Yet in this case the evidence is compelling that the remarks made by the fans went beyond the realm of decency,' he added. 'This type of spectator behavior is not only unfair to the players, but is unacceptable to the vast majority of the fans who go to the game for entertainment and enjoyment rather than to express such anti-social behavior.'
Eyewitnesses said several fans during Monday and Tuesday games continuously called Cedeno a 'killer,' an apparent reference to his 1973 conviction on an involuntary manslaughter charge for the shooting death of a teenage girl in his Santo Domingo motel room.
In the first inning of Tuesday's game, Cedeno threw down his glove, jumped into the stands behind the Astros' dugout and grabbed Smith by the shoulders. No punches were thrown and no charges were filed.
Three fans left the stadium voluntarily.
Feeney said Cedeno called to apologize to a fan and followed it with a letter.
'Without these mitigating circumstances and (without) a letter of apology that has been read and will be sent by Cesar Cedeno, the penalties would have been much more,' Feeney said.