TORONTO -- New York Yankees' slugger Dave Winfield was arrested Thursday night and charged with killing a seagull during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The incident occured during the fifth inning as Winfield was warming up in the outfield. At the completion of the warmup, the Yankee center fielder tossed a ball and struck a seagull in the head. The bird dropped dead on the spot and was carried off the field by a bat boy.
A police spokesman said Winfield was arrested shortly after the game by police Constable Wayne Hartery who was on duty at Exhibition Stadium and witnessed the incident.
The spokesman said Winfield was charged with 'causing unnecessary suffering' to an animal under Section 402 of the Criminal Code. The charge carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine andor six months in jail.
Winfield remained at the police station until midnight Thursday to arrange a date for returning to Canada to face the charge.
'We were just playing catch in the outfield and I turned and whipped the ball to the bat boy and I hit the bird. But it wasn't intentional,' insisted Winfield. 'It was an accident.'
'They really hate us up here,' said Yankee reliever Rich Gossage.
Yankee manager Billy Martin was outraged by the charges but later saw a humorous side.
'That is the first time this year he has hit the cutoff man,' Martin said.
Yankee coach Lee Walls suggested Winfield's throw was an act of mercy.
'The bird was screwed up when he landed. His feet went out from under him,' said Walls. 'But seriously, this is a sad day for Canada that the police would take a matter like this seriously. In the United States they would just have ignored it.'
The incident drew a loud chorus of boos from fans, some of whom threw rubber balls at Winfield..
The arrest took place after the completion of Thursday night's game which the Yankees won 3-1, supported by Winfield's single and double and two RBIs.
Martin initially was under the impression that Winfield would be taken to jail but was later informed that the outfielder would probably be allowed to return to New York Friday.
'The police tell us that he will simply have to appear at the station tonight and sign a paper stating he'll return to Canada at a later date,' Martin said.
Winfield was flabbergasted. 'I don't know what to say,' Winfield said. 'All I can tell you is that Canada's national bird or foul or something is no longer with us.'
The seagull, although not Canada's national bird, is on the country's endangered species list.
Winfield was escorted from the stadium by police offices about an hour after the game.
Players in the Yankee locker room booed Winfield and yelled 'murderer.'
But Martin, the veteran manager, was not laughing at first.
'Good grief. I'm still trying to figure it all out,' Martin said. 'It's the darnedest thing. I'm told that the police were really mad about it. It was just an accident. It certainly wasn't done on purpose.'
Sea gulls are common at Exhibition Stadium, which is located on the Toronto lakefront.
'There are seagulls around here all the time. It's a 1,000 to one shot that you'd hit one all season,' Martin fumed.