This, according to police and eyewitness accounts, is what appears to have led to his arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge:
One customer, James R. McCarthy, 25, described as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, had been haranguing Barkley through the evening. As Barkley left Rosie's Water Works at about 2:30 a.m., he heard McCarthy say, "So you're the baddest guy in the NBA." McCarthy and two or three companions approached Barkley on Juneau Street, near the two establishments where Barkley had been. At a distance of about 5 yards, McCarthy raised his fists.
Barkley threw a single punch and broke McCarthy's nose. McCarthy also suffered a laceration of the forehead that required seven stitches.
As cooler heads prevailed, Barkley was led away. He got into a car and was driven back to his hotel, several blocks away. Shortly before 7 a.m., he was arrested on the misdemeanor battery charge, punishable in Wisconsin by a maximum of nine months in jail, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.
Barkley, reached at his home late last night, said he had been with Milwaukee players Frank Brickowski and Larry Krystkowiak and was leaving with a female friend of the two Bucks when McCarthy challenged him. He said he had witnesses to corroborate his story.
"He told me he wanted a shot at me," Barkley said. "I was just defending myself."
Tony Harris, the Sixers' trainer, was the first to know of Barkley's arrest. Harris was snapped awake in his hotel room by a telephone call from the Milwaukee police, telling him that they had "some bad news." Harris, gathering his wits, listened intently. Then, at the request of the police, he
went to Barkley's room.
"I woke Charles up, told him what was going on and he said, 'Tony, that man walked right up on me and raised his fists like he was going to hit me.' ''
Harris said Barkley further explained that the complainant had been ''yelling at him" during a postgame meal and that "all I was trying to do was get out of there."
Barkley was released from Milwaukee County jail shortly after 10 a.m. yesterday on a $500 cash bond. He or a representative must appear at the office of the District Attorney in Milwaukee at 9 a.m. tomorrow for a review of the case.
McCarthy could not be reached for comment yesterday, but this is what was seen by David McKeithan, 22, a doorman at Brew City Barbecue:
"Charles came in after the game, about 11, 11:30 (p.m.). He was standing around, signing autographs, talking to people. He left about 12:30 (a.m.). I think he went to Rosie's, but I'm not sure.
"At the end of the night, about 2:30 (a.m.), I'm taking out the garbage, me and the other door guy, (and) we saw Charles and three other guys standing in the road, in the middle of Juneau (Street). One guy had a cut forehead; he said Barkley had jumped him. We found out . . . one guy made some comments. Charles walked over and something happened.
"(Barkley) busted his nose and he had a cut on his forehead . . . Oh, yeah, he was full of blood. Charles said, 'Wait a minute, I'm going to go get that (parking) sign and bust you over the head with it.' The other (doorman) grabbed Charles and I grabbed the sign away from him. The two friends were trying to calm down the guy, but he was pretty irate. He was yelling 'Charles, you're nothing but a big piece of bleep. You may be the strongest guy in the NBA, but you're nothing but a bleep.'
"Charles had his shirt and shoes off. When he started after the guy, he took his shirt and shoes off. We got him to pull his clothes back on."
McKeithan described McCarthy as "short but stout - he was a rock. He really wanted a piece of (Barkley).
" . . . I don't think anybody was to blame. It was just something that got a little out of hand . . . (Barkley's) a big guy, but the other guy didn't back down. We walked Charles to a car and he got in."
Tom Shepard, the manager and part-owner of Brew City Barbecue, said Barkley had come in after the game.
"My doorman said Charles was great in here," Shepard said. "Here, he was fine and a gentleman. People were buying him drinks. He was getting along with everybody."
Shepard said he was told by his doorman that "the other guys" were originally "in the wrong."
"But Barkley's a big guy and should've left it alone," Shepard said. "My guys kept telling Charles, 'You've got a lot more to lose than those guys.' "
The incident is the latest in a series of controversies that have involved Barkley since the start of the NBA season. In November, he said he didn't think the Sixers would drop backup center Dave Hoppen - their only white player - because they didn't want an all-black roster. Earlier this month, he said he had been misquoted in comments about three of his teammates in his just-published autobiography, "Outrageous!"
"I don't know the facts," Sixers general manager Gene Shue said. "I've tried to reach Charles and have not been able to. Until I do, we have no statement."
Tomorrow, if the prosecuting attorney feels it is necessary, he can issue a summons and complaint and refer the case to an independent magistrate. With a plea of guilty or no contest, the magistrate has the power to find Barkley guilty and can sentence him or order a presentencing investigation. With a plea of not guilty, the magistrate sets bail and refers the case to Circuit Court for trial.
Tom Sullivan, Barkley's attorney in Birmingham, Ala., said he had not spoken with Barkley yesterday but would be looking into the situation. Glenn Guthrie, Barkley's business manager, was vacationing in Florida.
Brian McIntyre, the NBA's vice president of public relations, said the league would "have to get more details, but we're looking into it." The matter was referred to Horace Balmer, the league's vice president and director of security, and eventually could get to the office of commissioner David Stern.
APRIL 16, 1988: Scott Lorah, a 28-year-old Indiana Pacers fan sitting in a front-row seat near the Sixers' bench, claims he was struck by Barkley with an open hand under his left eye after the Pacers defeated the Sixers, 126-92, in Indianapolis. Barkley, who admits exchanging heated words with Lorah but denies striking him, says Lorah was "harassing the team all evening."
AUG. 17, 1988: Barkley is arrested on a weapons charge by a New Jersey State Trooper who had stopped him for speeding on the Atlantic City Expressway and saw a 9mm pistol on the floor in the back of his 1988 Porsche. On Sept. 19, the gun charges are dismissed.
JAN. 11, 1990: Barkley and New York's Mark Jackson are fined $5,000 by NBA commissioner David Stern for admitting they had a running bet on who would make the big play whenever the Sixers and Knicks played.
APRIL 19, 1990: With 14.8 seconds left in a Sixers victory over Detroit that clinches the Atlantic Division title, a brawl ensues after Barkley hits Bill Laimbeer with a left hook in retaliation for Laimbeer shoving the ball in Rick Mahorn's face. Barkley is fined $20,000 and suspended one game. The fine brings Barkley's total for the season to $39,000.
NOV. 3, 1990: Barkley angers women's groups when, after an overtime victory over the New Jersey Nets, he says, "This is a game that, if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids. Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That's because she knew I wasn't going to beat her."
MARCH 13, 1991: Barkley, for the second time that season, delays going back into a game after being yanked by coach Jim Lynam. After the game, he tells the Knicks' Mark Jackson that "Me and Jimmy got into it tonight . . . I cursed him out in front of everybody. He better realize who's running the show." The Sixers fine Barkley $5,000 and order him to apologize to his teammates.
MARCH 26, 1991: Late in the fourth quarter of a 98-95 overtime loss at New Jersey, Barkley becomes angry at a courtside fan whom he says has berated him all evening. Standing near the end line, Barkley turns and spits. Some apparently lands on 8-year-old Lauren Rose, the daughter of a longtime Nets season ticketholder. Barkley is suspended one game without pay and fined $10,000 by the NBA. "Obviously, it was wrong," Barkley says. "I can't even begin to apologize about it, because that's not good enough. It was just a bad, bad thing."
APRIL 30, 1991: Barkley is fined $109 by the Milwaukee police on a charge of disorderly conduct after he throws cups of Gatorade on Bucks fans at the Bradley Center during Game 2 of the Sixers-Bucks first-round playoff series.
NOV. 15, 1991: After several days of controversy, Barkley wears No. 32 - the retired number of Sixers great Billy Cunningham - for the first time in Boston as a tribute to Magic Johnson, who retired a week earlier with the AIDS virus.
NOV. 29, 1991: In response to a queston on a radio talk show, Barkley predicts the Sixers will keep backup center Dave Hoppen so the team will have a white player on the roster.
DEC. 18, 1991: Barkley criticizes a number of teammates and owner Harold Katz in published excerpts of "Outrageous!", his soon-to-be-released autobiography. Barkley later terms the criticisms as "misinterpretations," clears the air with his teammates and meets with Katz, who implies that the ever-present controversies surrounding Barkley are starting to harm the team.