Boston first baseman pleads innocent to drunk driving

By Howard Ulman Associated Press Published:

EASTON, Mass. _ The voice on the intercom outside the 8-foot-high fence surrounding Mo Vaughn's spacious home said the Red Sox slugger was sleeping. But trouble had slipped through those black bars on a raw, drizzly Friday afternoon. The fan favorite and community icon had to deal with his arrest for drunken driving. Just 10 miles away and 12 hours earlier, his 1997 Ford pickup truck had rolled over on a highway after hitting an empty, parked Ford Escort in the breakdown lane at 2:15 a.m., police said. He pleaded innocent to operating under the influence of alcohol and failing to stay in his lane. He was released without bail and had a court hearing set for Feb. 26, the second week of Boston's spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. Vaughn, apparently, was unhurt. He refused medical treatment, and a police report gave no indications of injuries, authorities said. His reputation, though, may need healing. Workers at the Mo Vaughn Youth Development Program, which runs afterschool programs in inner-city Boston, had no comment. The Red Sox, who are trying to negotiate a contract extension with their best hitter, said they were investigating the accident and trying to determine whether Vaughn was physically hurt. "Our primary concern at this time is for Mo's physical and emotional well-being," the team said in a statement. "The Red Sox strongly oppose the use of any substance, including alcohol, which may adversely affect the health and performance of the members of the Red Sox organization." Tom Reich, Vaughn's agent, said he had no comment. Vaughn's lawyer, Kevin Reddington, said he was certain Vaughn would be exonerated. Vaughn, himself "has no comment," according to the man on the intercom who identified himself as Terrance Elder, who said he works for the player. The offseason had gone well for the Red Sox. They signed NL Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez and Dennis Eckersley, second in major-league history in saves. And they're trying to work out long-term deals with Vaughn, the AL's 1995 MVP, and John Valentin. On Friday afternoon, though, bare branches cut across a gray sky that hung over Vaughn's beautifully landscaped lawn on a suburban cul-de-sac 25 miles from Fenway Park. The first baseman had injected a negative note into a positive offseason. The accident came just four days after the Red Sox announced that for their home opener on April 10, Good Friday and Passover eve, no beer will be sold. State Police Lt. Paul Maloney said Vaughn's truck had rolled onto its roof after hitting the car on Interstate 95 in Norwood, south of Boston. It was not known where Vaughn was coming from. Capt. Robert Bird said Vaughn was described by arresting state troopers as "a perfect gentleman" and was standing outside his vehicle when police arrived. After a cordial conversation, police said, he was arrested. Vaughn, 30, is involved in negotiations to extend his three-year $18.5 million contract, which expires after the 1998 season. Last season Vaughn hit .315 and led the team with 35 home runs and 96 RBIs. The year before, he had career highs of 44 homers, 143 RBIs and a .326 average. Off the field, his life hasn't always been smooth. In July, an Ohio man accused Vaughn of assaulting him in a Cleveland nightclub, but no charges were brought. Scott Bird claimed his teeth were loosened and his lip cut when Vaughn hit him during a scuffle in the doorway of a strip club. Vaughn denied the accusation. In July 1995, Vaughn was hit in the eye during an altercation in a Boston nightclub. He issued an emotional apology to his fans. But early Friday afternoon, there was little activity outside Vaughn's house with the stone pillars, three-car garage and batting cage _ the automatic gates opening only for a maroon Ford Expedition and a black GMC Sierra. Neither Vaughn, nor the truck involved in the accident, could be seen.

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