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August 10, 2011
The Lineup Card
12 Favorite Basebrawls and Individual Performances in Basebrawls
1) Armando Benitez vs. Tino Martinez and the Yankees
Martinez jawed at Benitez on the way down to first base, and the 6-foot-4 reliever dropped his glove. Both benches and bullpens emptied, and things escalated when Yankees' lefty reliever Graeme Lloyd—a 6-foot-8 Australian native my friends and I called "The Big Dingo"—came charging out of the bullpen and grabbed Benitez's chin before throwing a few wild punches with fellow Yankee reliever Jeff Nelson joining the fray. Benitez connected on a blow to the back of Lloyd's neck as he retreated from the mound into foul territory. As he neared the dugout, he squared off with Scott Brosius, who threw no punches but captured his attention while Darryl Strawberry rolled up behind and connected on a sucker punch to Benitez's head before pushing him into the Oriole dugout. Strawberry was restrained by multiple Orioles at the edge of the dugout, but amazingly enough, the two would square off again minutes later after Mills punched Strawberry while an irate Martinez kept making his way towards Benitez. The second time, Stawberry's blow was more glancing, and his momentum carried him into the dugout where Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken tried to calm him down. Ultimately, it took around 15 minutes before order was restored and play resumed.
"This is like one of those hockey brawls where the umpires have to figure out who stays and who goes," said Yankees broadcaster (and former Oriole) Ken Singleton. "To a man, the Orioles refused to muster even feigned support for Benitez," wrote Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci. "The action of 'I'll hurt you if I can't beat you' totally misrepresents the Baltimore Orioles' tradition of good play and sportsmanship," said manager Ray Miller in apologizing to the Yankees. Benitez drew an eight-game suspension while Strawberry and Lloyd (three games) and Mills and Nelson (two games) received suspensions as well. The Yankees went on to win 114 regular season games and the World Series while the Orioles were swept by the Yankees en route to a nine-game losing streak. They haven't had a winning season since. —Jay Jaffe
The first incident came in spring training. After another Ray had smashed into Francisco Cervelli and broke his wrist, Duncan decided to retaliate with a high, aggressive slide into the Rays second baseman. Gomes, never one willing to wait for an invitation, flew in from his right field perch and attempted to tackle Duncan before the pair was separated.
Crisp wasn’t as lucky as he charged the mound after being plunked by a pitch, only to find Gomes straddling and pummeling his upper body for a few seconds. Those incidents became inspiration for what Rays’ fans labeled “brawlfense”. —R.J. Anderson
3) Rick Porcello vs. Kevin Youkilis (Watch)
Once the ball made contact with Youkilis’s back, Porcello turned towards first in dismay having put a man on in a game he was winning 3-0 at the time. Fortunately (for the love of the brawl, at least), Youkilis did not appreciate or understand Porcello’s dismay. What transpired next was straight out of Looney Tunes as Youkilis charged like a bull seeing red and Porcello took him down with the ease of a Bugs Bunny matador dance. As the rookie right-hander put his arms out as if to ask in surprise, “What?” the helmet flew and the two engaged. When the diamond dust settled, the Tigers’ 20-year-old phenom from New Jersey had thrown the Red Sox slugger to the ground and was raining haymakers on him.
At the end of the day, the Red Sox came back to win the game, but without a doubt, that brawl cemented Rick Porcello in baseball lore.—Adam Tower
5) Kevin Goldstein vs. Bill
I don't remember the score, and I don't remember the win-loss record, but I do remember that when I stepped into the box, I knew Bill was going to throw at me, and he did just that, missing wildly with his first offering and nailing me in the back with his second shot. I knew it was coming. Every kid at the game knew it was coming. But it was Little League, where command and control are rarely virtues, so the adults didn't see it coming, nor did they see any malice, and I was in no position to rush the mound and get my revenge in a game where the umpires are three times the size of the players, but I sure wanted to. Bill moved away shortly thereafter, and the thud of that fastball hitting me ended up being the peak of our feud, but I remember how I felt at that moment, and while I don't support fighting in baseball, I certainly understand it. —Kevin Goldstein
7) The Padres vs. Pascual Perez
Braves pitcher Pascual Perez hit the Padres' Alan Wiggins with the first pitch of the game. Knowing of the zany and mercurial Perez from his days as a rookie with the Pirates, the three of us were sure that good theatre was likely ahead. Sure enough, when Perez came to bat in the bottom of the second, Padres pitcher Ed Whitson threw a pitch behind his head. Perez started waving his bat and both benches emptied. That, however, would be just the beginning of one of the most bizarre games in major league history. Every time Perez came to the plate, the Padres kept throwing at him. Three more fights broke out in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings, and even the spectators got involved as five fans were arrested in addition to the ejections of 14 players and coaches. After the game, Braves manager Joe Torre accused Padres manager and future Hall of Famer Dick Williams of "Hitler-like action" for continuing to have his pitchers throw at Perez. We never did make it to the golf course that day, but none of us complained. Instead, we watched a baseball game unlike any other. —John Perrotto
8) Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Ventura
In the top of the third inning on that steamy August night, 25-year-old Robin Ventura decided to take physical exception to a purposeful pitch to his back, courtesy of a then 46-year-old Nolan Ryan. The famous gunslinger was in the twilight of his 27th season in the majors, only a few starts away from packing up the iron and walking away from the mound. The big Texan was already a legend, but what transpired on this fateful night would stand alongside the rest of the pieces of his lore, painting him as the physical embodiment of Texas pride in accepting the challenge of a younger pistoleer and shooting him down in front of the eyes of his brethren.
After being alerted to the incident and having clicked on the local news, my family sat wide-eyed at the television, watching replay after replay of our hero taking his famous right-hand to the top of Robin Ventura’s skull numerous times before landing an upper-cut (or two) to the face. Ventura’s decision to charge the mound was justifiable as he felt he was thrown at intentionally, which, of course, he was. However, you don’t stand on the street with the legend if you don’t have the skill to put the legend down. After being hit, Ventura started towards first but quickly changed his course and exploded towards the mound, where he met an aging (yet willing) adversary with his glove already removed and his pistol drawn. Before Ventura could execute his anger, the John Wayne of Texas baseball stepped toward Ventura in front of the mound, grabbed him like a rogue steer, and beat reality into his head before the scrum could form and force them to the ground.
When the dust settled, the rifleman emerged from the pile to the cheers of thousands of fans—and not just the people in the seats. Ventura was tossed from the game while Ryan remained on the mound, pouring salt on the wounds of the White Sox while pumping even more Texas pride into the veins of those with eyes on the event. My family celebrated that night like the first people celebrated the sunrise, with a nationalistic euphoria that is often quite unattractive to outsiders. Nolan Ryan beating Robin Ventura was one of the highlights of my youth, which doesn’t say much about my youth. On that night, Nolan Ryan’s fist belonged to all Texans, and despite being silly to celebrate the public humiliation of another human, the state rejoiced when our legend was still able to live up to his name. Come and take it. —Jason Parks
One was Hal McRae’s takeout slide—more accurately described as a body block—that sent Willie Randolph flying, broke up a potential double play, and allowed a run to score. (McRae famously “fell” on top of Randolph and waved the runner ahead of him to the plate. Randolph responded in kind by picking up the ball and firing it toward McRae in the Royals’ dugout.)
The other play came in the first inning of the fifth and deciding game of the 1977 ALCS in Kansas City. With McRae at first base, George Brett drove a ball into the gap and set sail for third base, where Graig Nettles of the Yankees waited for a relay throw. Brett slid hard and came up swinging when, he later explained, Nettles kicked him in the face. Nettles, for his part, thought Brett had pushed or elbowed him. Suddenly, both players were throwing haymakers. Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry—who had been backing up third—joined the fracas, and the three wrestled to the ground as the benches emptied. Brett later revealed that Yankees catcher Thurman Munson had protected him at the bottom of the dog-pile. Remarkably, neither Brett nor Nettles was ejected. A ninth-inning rally eventually sent the Yankees to the World Series, and the best rivalry of the era intensified. —Jeff Euston
10) Izzy Alcantara vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons (Watch)
When you miss your shot at stardom, you can accept your fate gracefully and move on with life, or you can come out with guns-a-blazin' and put on a show they'll never forget. Alcantara chose the latter.
On July 3, 2001, after being buzzed by a fastball from Red Barons’ right-hander Blas Cedeno, Alcantara pulled a move worthy of Ray Austin's finest choreography in The Avengers, karate kicking catcher Jeremy Salazar in the facemask. Alcantara, known more for his power than his ability to make contact, then bolted toward the mound where he swung at and missed Cedeno.
The pitcher threw his glove at Alcantara, who danced around looking for someone to fight before realizing that Alcantara’s teammates had not yet come out to support him. Eventually, both benches emptied (“no punches, fortunately, were landed,” intones the announcer), and Alcantara was tackled by former Cubs’ third baseman Kevin Orie.
Alcantara was suspended six games for his actions, Orie was suspended three games, and Cedeno drew a one-game suspension.
Alcantara retired in 2007, the owner of 287 minor-league home runs, six big-league home runs, and one spectacular meltdown captured on video. History may forget his minor-league power-hitting exploits, but the story of his karate kick will survive generations. —Geoff Young
11) Pedro Martinez vs. Don Zimmer
Suddenly, out of the milling fog, a man rushes towards you, arms extended. To most people, and to you in a different context, the man looks like this:
Right now, however, he looks much different. He’s charging straight at you, bug-eyed and cursing, wearing the uniform of the team you will soon call your “Daddy.” He’s an older man but clearly spry, with a well-known prejudice against beanball pitchers, having spent months in the hospital after a Triple-A pitch resulted in a two-week coma and a skull that had to be screwed back together before re-learning how to walk and talk. Moments ago you didn’t see him, but now he’s lunging at you, looking for all the world like this:
What do you do? You may think you would have side-stepped him, or held him at arm’s length, or just stood there and taken whatever he was there to dish, but I’m here to tell you that in that context, in real-time, that’s not what you would have done. Martinez was in a no-win situation (albeit one of his own making), and as sad as it was to see, grabbing Zimmer’s melon and pushing him aside and down was about the best response we could have expected and a perfect illustration of the monumental stupidity of baseball fights. —Ken Funck
12) Bill Dickey vs. Carl Reynolds
Nothing else might have happened, but in the tangle of bodies, Reynolds hadn’t actually touched home plate. Dickey, hearing him coming back, jumped up and punched the defenseless Reynolds in the jaw, breaking it in two places. Dickey was at first suspended indefinitely before the American League president settled on a one-month suspension without pay and a $1,000 fine, both a significant chunk of Dickey's earnings for the year. Reynolds spent the next month with his jaw wired shut, and at one point nearly choked to death when some insufficiently-liquefied food made it past the wires holding his mouth together. You often see it written that Reynolds was never the same, but he hit well enough upon returning as well as during the next season before fading abruptly in his early thirties. The Yankees won the 1932 pennant and World Series despite Dickey’s long absence, while the Senators would win the AL pennant in 1933, though without Reynolds, who was traded to the St. Louis Browns as part of a package for the infinitely better Goose Goslin. That April, the Yankees and Senators would have an even more celebrated brawl, a full-on riot which involved players, fans, and police before it was all over.—Steven Goldman