Battle of the ages? Try aged

BOSTON -- And don't be getting any crazy ideas, Phil Rizzuto, or you're next, old man.

With Pedro Martinez pitching against Roger Clemens, we all anticipated a great afternoon in the storied Yankees-Red Sox rivalry Saturday but no one -- absolutely no one -- expected the Jerry Springer Show to break out. As Clemens said after he and the Yankees beat Boston 4-3 Saturday in his final start at Fenway Park, "Gosh, when I told y'all it was going to be festive, I didn't know it was going to be this festive.''

Festive? The only thing missing was Clemens biting someone's ear off. But you never know. The series isn't over yet. Who knows what will happen Sunday in Game 4?

Will Manny Ramirez charge the mound when the ceremonial first pitch is thrown? Will Don Zimmer challenge Game 4 starter John Burkett to a Texas Cage Match? Will the Yankees bullpen teach those insolent batboys a lesson they'll never forget?

And then there's the biggest question of all: Will 84-year-old Johnny Pesky "Cowboy Up'' and whack Derek Jeter with a fungo bat?

I don't know, but nothing will top Game 3.

Stories from Saturday's game are going to be passed down (and exaggerated) from generation to generation but the best way to sum up the day is to say that the 72-year-old Zimmer left Fenway Park in an ambulance (somewhere Bill Lee is smiling) and the Boston police issued a dragnet for two Yankees players who allegedly fought a Red Sox groundskeeper in the bullpen.

All this transpired just because Pedro threw a pitch behind right fielder Karim Garcia's head and hit him in the back in the top of the fourth inning. And because Pedro faced the Yankees dugout and pointed to his head. And because Clemens had to be held back from storming the field. And because Garcia took out second baseman Todd Walker with a vicious late slide. And because Manny stepped menacingly toward Clemens after a pitch that was nowhere near him in the bottom of the fourth.

Oh, and because these two teams have hated each other for decades.

The staggering moment from the game we will long remember however was in that amazing fourth inning, when the two great rivals were angrily storming the field, shouting obscenities and issuing threats -- and a seething Zimmer came racing around the bend, violently charging Pedro with such passion and energy that the Notre Dame Victory March should have been playing.

Now, imagine if you're Pedro in this situation. You're standing by the dugout and an enraged senior citizen is charging you and raising his arm to smack you in the head. If you fight back, you're going to get ripped for attacking a senior citizen. If you don't, the old man might clobber you and knock you out of a game your team needs to win. I don't know what you would do but Pedro coolly grabbed Zimmer by the head - it's hard to avoid, really -- and pushed him to the ground.

Given the situation, the reaction didn't seem out of line. As Boston reliever Scott Sauerbeck put it, "I don't care if the guy is in a wheelchair, you have to defend yourself.''

"Andy Pettitte and I went over there and I saw a bald head on the ground,'' Clemens said, delivering what may be the most bizarre quote in postseason history. "We weren't sure if it was Zim or (David Wells). I was like, Oh, my gosh, and he wasn't getting up. We went over and Andy and I were talking to Zim and we were just glad he was healthy, a man of his age. But that's Zim, he's got more fire than half those guys in the dugout and that's why I love him.''

Zimmer stayed on the bench the rest of the game and told reporters afterward that he was healthy enough to put on his clothes and eat dinner. He went to a local hospital in an ambulance for observation.

"That guy has a pair on him,'' Sauerbeck said admiringly of Zimmer. "Was what (Zimmer) did idiotic? Yes. Could he have hurt Petey? No.

"I think Petey handled himself pretty well. Petey could have hurt him. But he didn't. He tried to hold him up and he just sort of pushed him away and Zimmer fell down.

"It was kind of funny. It reminded me of when Tommy Lasorda fell down during the All-Star Game (in 2001). Zim hit the ground and he just kept rolling. It looked like he was rolling downhill. We thought he was going to roll into the dugout.''

People will excuse Zimmer because he's old and supposedly a lovable character (he isn't) but his behavior was disgraceful and inexcusable. Not that the Yankees agree. That's because they never think they're at fault whenever anything happens.

"Zim was probably out of line, too, but you have to consider his age,'' reliever Jeff Nelson said. "What, Pedro couldn't dodge him? The guy is 75 years old, how is he going to hurt you? You have to have more respect than that for someone like, an elderly man. You have to get out of the way.''

Nelson is one to talk. He was involved in such an ugly incident in the bullpen during the ninth inning that he may face arrest.

Depending on whom you believe, a Boston groundskeeper either got out of control and tried to punch Nelson (that's the Yankees version) or the Yankees tried beating up a groundskeeper who was just rooting hard for his employer (the Red Sox version). The truth, no doubt, lies in between.

All anyone knows for sure is that while closer Mariano Rivera was warming up on the mound for the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees and Paul Williams -- a special ed schoolteacher by day -- were going at it in the bullpen. It got so wild that Garcia left his position in right field to join the fray.

"The guy was waving a rally flag in our face most of the game,'' said Nelson, who denied he hit Williams. "I asked him nice to stop and then he got in my face. ... And all of a sudden crap broke loose.''

"I thought it was a fan, so I went, "All right, I want to watch them beat up the fan,' " Sauerbeck said. "Then I saw it was our grounds crew guy and we all felt kind of bad.

"Whoever started it, it was classless. If their guys started it, it was classless and if our guy started it, it was classless.''

Eventually, order was restored and Rivera retired the Red Sox in order to seal the win and give the Yankees a 2-1 lead in a series that is now so intense that not even talk radio could exaggerate it.

"There's more anger now than there was before,'' center fielder Johnny Damon said. "Before, it was mostly the media and the fans. It's a little too close for comfort now.''

So, the stage is set and everyone who can get into Fenway will be there to see what happens (as long as they can raise bail). Can Game 4 possibly top Game 3? We'll just have to wait and see.

But if the Red Sox win one of the next two games, they'll send this series back to New York. And if so, they better watch out. Bob Sheppard is waiting for them.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.