After exchanging words in the eighth inning of Washington's 12-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Papelbon reached for Harper's throat and shoved the 22-year-old NL MVP candidate. Fortunately, teammates intervened, and neither player was injured. The game itself did get uglier for the Nationals, as Papelbon subsequently allowed five runs in the ninth inning to suffer his third loss of the season.
While the incident is surprising, it's not unique. Altercations between players, and even coaches, on the same side aren't rare in the world of sports. Here are 11 memorable instances of intrateam violence:
Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez, New York Mets: Most fights occur during the heat of competition, during either games or practice. Not this one. Strawberry got into it with Hernandez during team photo day at spring training in 1989, throwing a punch before teammates separated the two star players. Strawberry reportedly wasn't happy that Hernandez and some other players didn't take his side in Strawberry's contract dispute with the team.
Ikemefuna Enemkpali and Geno Smith, New York Jets: It was shocking news last month when Smith was punched by teammate Enemkpali in the Jets training camp locker room over a money dispute. Smith, the Jets' starting quarterback, is out 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw. Enemkpali, a second-year linebacker, was immediately placed on waivers.
Bill Romanowski and Marcus Williams, Oakland Raiders: During a running drill at training camp in 2003, Romanowski grabbed Williams' helmet, ripped it off and punched the tight end in the face, breaking his left eye socket. The Raiders fined Romanowski, a linebacker, $60,000. Williams sued, and a jury ordered Romanowski to pay him $340,000 in damages in 2005. "I just hope it tells him to at least monitor his actions somewhat, be more responsible and think more about what you're doing," Williams said after the verdict.
Bill Guerin and Brett Draney, Dallas Stars: Fighting is a part of hockey's fabric, including incidents between teammates. But Guerin's attack on Draney during training camp in 2002 is worth noting for its viciousness. Guerin, the Stars' big free-agent signing that offseason, wielded his stick like an ax and chopped down on the back Draney's head when the two squared off during practice. Draney, who never earned a spot on an NHL roster, got right up and went back after Guerin before teammates separated them.
Michael Irvin and Everett McIver, Dallas Cowboys: In training camp in 1998, Irvin, the future Hall of Fame receiver, stabbed teammate Everett McIver, a veteran guard, in the neck with scissors in an apparent dispute over a haircut. McIver needed stiches to repair a two-inch gash in his neck. Irvin was on probation for drug possession at the time and could have faced prison time if McIver had pressed charges.
Don Sutton and Steve Garvey, Los Angeles Dodgers: Hall of Fame pitcher Sutton and slugging first baseman Garvey were teammates from 1969 to 1980 and were two of the Dodgers' biggest stars of that era. During the 1978 season, Sutton was quoted in the press saying Garvey got too much credit for the team's success. Garvey confronted Sutton about the article, which led to an all-out brawl in the visitors clubhouse at Shea Stadium. The lack of harmony didn't prevent the Dodgers from reaching the World Series that year.
Michael Westbrook and Stephen Davis, Washington Redskins: In another training camp incident, Redskins wide receiver Westbrook attacked Davis and pounded the running back with punches during a workout in 1997. The Redskins fined Westbrook $50,000, and he apologized to Davis and teammates. "There has been words between the two of them for the last two seasons," Westbrook's agent, Stephen Zucker, later explained. "He had always walked away from it in the past. This time, he didn't walk away. It's unfortunate. Michael is really sorry about it."
Latrell Sprewell and P.J. Carlesimo, Golden State Warriors: Perhaps the rarest form of intrateam combat is when a player gets physical with his head coach. But that's what happened at Warriors practice during the 1997 season. Sprewell, an All-Star guard, choked Carlesimo during a heated confrontation, leaving marks on the coach's neck. The NBA handed Sprewell an 82-game suspension that was reduced to 68 games by an arbitrator. Sprewell was traded to the Knicks upon his reinstatement.
Buddy Ryan and Kevin Gilbride, Houston Oilers: Here's another one that involves coaches. Two coaches, in fact. Not a fan of Gilbride's pass-happy run 'n' shoot offense, defensive coordinator Ryan took out his frustration on Houston's offensive coordinator during a nationally televised Sunday night game in 1993. Houston led the New York Jets 14-0 when Oilers quarterback Cody Carlson fumbled on a pass attempt with time running out in the first half. After the play, Ryan raced down the sideline and punched Gilbride in the face -- a move ESPN broadcaster Mike Patrick called a "totally classless act." Oilers owner Bud Adams made Ryan apologize publicly.
Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett, Chicago Cubs: During a 2007 game at Wrigley Field with Zambrano pitching, Barrett, the Cubs' catcher, allowed a passed ball and made a throwing error during a five-run inning for the Atlanta Braves. Zambrano angrily confronted Barrett in the dugout after the inning, and they had to be separated by teammates when things got physical. Manager Lou Piniella sent Zambrano to the clubhouse. Barrett followed, and the fighting resumed. Barrett wound up needing stitches to close a cut on his lip.
Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, San Francisco Giants: During a June 2002 game, Bonds and Kent, who had a long-running feud, had a shoving match in the dugout at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium. "Just add that to the half a dozen times we've done it before. It's no big deal," Kent said afterward. The brawl apparently didn't alter team chemistry. The Giants advanced to the World Series, where they lost to the Angels in seven games. After the season, Kent signed as a free agent with the Houston Astros. "On the field, we're fine, but, off the field, I don't care about Barry and Barry doesn't care about me. Or anybody," Kent told Sports Illustrated in 2002.