|Put up your dukes|
By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff
There's something special about baseball brawls. There's usually real anger between the two or three players who get things started, but when the dugouts empty, things usually become ... well, kind of funny. "Baseball players are the worst fighters I've seen in my entire life," said former player and manager Bill Rigney. "The guy charging the mound is thinking, 'What the hell do I do now that I'm here?' "
Sometimes, though, brawls aren't that funny. But that doesn't mean they lose their entertainment value. So, we sort-of-fondly look back at some of the greatest melees in baseball history.
1. Juan Marichal vs. John Roseboro (Dodgers vs. Giants, Aug. 22, 1965)
"When Marichal came up to bat, I tried a knockdown from behind the plate, throwing the ball close to his nose when I returned it to the pitcher," recalled Roseboro. "I expected Marichal to attack me in some way. If he had said anything to me, I had studied karate, and I was ready to annihilate him."
The karate didn't help. When another of Roseboro's throws came too close to Marichal's ear, Marichal clubbed Roseboro on the head with his bat, opening up a two-inch gash that would require 14 stitches and starting a bench-clearing brawl that lasted 14 minutes. Marichal was handed an eight-game suspension and fined $1,750, a huge sum in those days.
2. Braves vs. Padres (Aug. 12, 1984)
Joe Torre had some unkind words after it was all over. "Dick Williams is an idiot," he said. "It was obvious he was the cause of the whole thing. Precipitating a thing like that was inexcusable. It was stupid of them, period, to take four shots at Perez. It was gutless. It stinks. It was Hitler-like action. I think he (Williams) should be suspended for the rest of the year."
Said umpire crew chief John McSherry, "I would think it was one of the stranger days I've ever seen, if not the strangest."
After O's closer Armando Benitez gave up what turned out to be the game-winning three-run homer to Bernie Williams in the eighth inning, he took out his frustration on Tino Martinez, drilling him between the shoulder blades. Yankee pitcher Graeme Lloyd became so incensed at the spectacle that he raced in from the bullpen to get in a lick at Benitez. The fight moved toward the O's dugout, with Darryl Strawberry throwing what the Baltimore Sun called a "sucker punch" at Benitez, swinging so hard that he ended up in the Baltimore dugout. Then Alan Mills pounded Strawberry, bloodying his face.
"I've never seen anything like that in 25 years," said George Steinbrenner. "That guy ... that pitcher ... should be suspended for the rest of the year. That was a classless act. He's got no class."
Yankee manager Joe Torre agreed with his boss. "It was so blatant," he said. "Benitez caused a riot. That's the downside to the designated hitter. The pitcher gets braver when he doesn't have to face the music."
4. Pete Rose vs. Bud Harrelson (Oct. 8, 1973, NLCS)
But Rose slid hard to break up the double play, barreling into Harrelson and taking him down. Obviously, the tactic didn't succeed, although it did result in a wrestling match between Rose and Harrelson and a 10-minute brawl that cleared both benches. The highlight of the melee came when Pedro Borbon ripped apart a Mets cap with his teeth.
When Rose took his position in left in the bottom of the fifth, Mets fans honored him with the traditional hated-player shower of garbage and beer bottles. Rose braved those conditions briefly, but took cover in the dugout when a whiskey bottle came a little too close. Sparky Anderson took the rest of the players off the field, and the Mets were almost forced to forfeit the game. After pleas from Tom Seaver and Willie Mays, city cops surrounded the field, fans calmed down, and play resumed.
Rose had no apologies. "I'm no damn little girl out there," he said. "I'm supposed to give the fans their money's worth and try to bust up double plays -- and shortstops."
Harrelson and Rose eventually made up, with the two getting together to autograph photos of the fight.
5. Durham Bulls vs. Winston-Salem Warthogs (May 22, 1995)
Sixteen players, coaches and managers suspended. Nine others fined. It was, MLB said, "the biggest mass suspension ever."
That was the end result of two brawls that erupted at Comiskey Park, one in the seventh inning, the other in the ninth. In the sixth, the Tigers Jeff Weaver hit Carlos Lee with a pitch. In retaliation, Chicago's starter, Jim Parque, plunked Detroit's Dean Palmer in the top of the seventh. Palmer charged the mound, throwing his helmet at Parque before the real action started.
"This wasn't just a shoving match," wrote Tom Gage in the Detroit News. "This was a nasty fight in which heavy punches were thrown and players were bloodied. White Sox reliever Keith Foulke had a facial cut that required five stitches."
In the ninth, a couple more hit batsmen inspired another round of wrasslin', kicking and fisticuffs. When it was all over, the umps had ejected 11.
Chris Osgood of the Red Wings was impressed. "It was a pretty vicious fight for a baseball game," he said. "But they stood up for themselves pretty good. It's a good way to build camaraderie."
7. Umpire George Moriarty vs. the White Sox (May 30, 1932)
Fellow umpire Bill Dinneen did try to help Moriarty, but George still had some brawl left in him. "You stay out of this, Bill," he said. "This is my fight." Then he got up and said, "Now who else is there who thinks I'm yellow?"
8. Bill Dickey vs. Carl Reynolds (July 4, 1932)
"It was hot, and the games had been close, and I had been banged around for days," Dickey said. "When Reynolds came at me high, I just had to hit somebody."
The Yankee manager, who prided himself on being a top-notch barroom brawler, proved himself not so able toward the end of his career. In a bizarre bout that started at the hotel bar and then proceeded to the lobby and third floor, pitcher Ed Whitson broke one of Martin's arms and two of his ribs after (according to Whitson) Martin "sucker-punched" him. Martin said Whitson started it. In either case, an unnamed Yankee source told the New York Times that an official investigation revealed that "Billy pursued Whitson to the lobby, then to the front door and then in the hall on the third floor. And then Billy tried to get Willie Horton to beat up on Whitson."
10. Lenny Randle vs. Frank Lucchesi (May 28, 1977)
Manager Frank Lucchesi, 50, told reporters he was tired of Randle's bellyaching. "It's just too damn bad somebody stopped him from leaving. I'm tired of these punks saying play me or trade me. Anyone who makes $80,000 a year and gripes and moans all spring is not going to get a tear out of me."
A few days later, the two spoke briefly before an exhibition game in Orlando, when Randle suddenly attacked his manager. "Lenny stepped back and hit Frank and hit him two or three times as he was going down and then hit him while he was on the ground," said Rangers mouthpiece Burt Hawkins. "Frank said he didn't remember a thing after he was hit the first time."
Good thing. Lucchesi lay on the ground in a bloody heap, suffering from a broken cheekbone, a concussion, and a lacerated lip, and would have to be operated on. Lucchesi later called it a "sneak attack," and claimed his hands were in his pockets. Randle disputed the latter point: "There was no way Frank had his hands in his pockets. He always uses his hands when he talks."
"It's one of the worst things I've ever witnessed," said Ranger outfielder Ken Henderson. "No way I'm going to play on the same field with him again."
He didn't have to. Randle was suspended for 30 days and traded to the Mets before his suspension was up.