by Kent Sterling
The headline is a little misleading in that I’m sure that there were many brawls not caught on film, and others of which I’m not aware. My all time #1 is a fight I wouldn’t be aware of if I didn’t know one of the protagonists.
Brawls among baseball players are usually silly affairs where there is a lot of idiotic posturing among guys with no interest in taking a swing – or receiving one.
#1 – Peoria vs. Quad Cities (2002)
This first brawl occurred when Peoria Chiefs first baseman Chris Duncan took a Quad Cities pitcher deep. He was hit by a pitch during the plate appearance that followed, and then was beaned in the head during the next one. Chris took umbrage and charged the mound. The melee that followed involved a Quad Cities player grabbing Chris’s helmet and laid his nose sideways across his face with it.
This game featured two catchers who have gone on to be among the games best – Yadier Molina and Joe Mauer. The video doesn’t do Dunc’s story about the brawl justice, but anyone who messed with Dunc on or off the field made a mistake. He was not the kind of player and is not the kind of man to be taken lightly.
#2 – Texas Rangers vs. Chicago White Sox (1993)
When Robin Ventura took one in the right triceps off Nolan Ryan, who was making his seventh to last start in his hall of fame career, Ventura charged the mound. Ryan put Ventura in a headlock and began pounding the top of Ventura’s skull. The benches emptied, and suddenly the Rangers were confronted by both Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas. Had I been a Ranger, I would have stayed away from both. Amazingly, Ryan was not tossed from the game, and despite bruising his knuckles on Ventura’s melon, stayed in the game to notch the 322nd of his 324 career wins.
#3 – Canada vs. Mexico (2013)
The World Baseball Classic is a massive waste of time, unless people are playing and fighting for their nation’s pride. In the ninth inning of this dull 10-3 win for Team Canada, Chris Robinson from Canada sees the Mexican third baseman playing deep, and drops down a bunt for a base hit. Mexican pitcher Arnold Leon took exception and threw inside twice before connecting with Rene Tosoni’s back. The fracas started slowly, but quickly picked up steam.
I like this brawl because I would have made the same decision as everyone involved. For the batter who bunted, I would have seen the 9-3 score, known I could beat out even a mediocre bunt and laid it down. If I were the pitcher on the wrong end of an ass-kicking, and some slap bunted for a hit, I’m throwing at the next batter with all I have until I hit him. If I’m the guy who got plunked because of the ill-tempered pitcher, I’m confronting him.
#4 – Dodgers vs. Giants (1965)
This is included because the result was so cool. Giants pitcher Juan Marichal lost his cabeza, and bopped Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro in the melon. All hell broke loose, and Marichal was deemed an erratic and cowardly moron. Bleeding, Roseboro was led to the clubhouse by Giants center fielder Willie Mays.
Marichal and Roseboro became good friends over the years, and when Marichal was passed over four times in hall of fame voting, it was Roseboro who pleaded successfully with voters to forget the incident. They voted him in, and the friendship became closer.
Roseboro’s forgiveness of Marichal serves as a great example of how forgiveness is done. Unlike the previous brawl, I would have behaved like neither of these ballplayers. Knocking a guy in the head with a bat is unacceptable, and you can bet your ass that if someone whacks me in the head, I will pray for his demise for eternity.
#5 – Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees (2003)
The Yankees and Red Sox have hated each other since before the colonel bought Babe Ruth, and pitcher Pedro Martinez grabbing Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer by the head and flinging him like a whirligig onto the ground was a sad day for fans of Zimmer.
I didn’t see it that way. The competitive fire within Zimmer, in his early 70s at the time, still burned brightly enough that he charged at Martinez. While laudable, Zimmers spirit wrote a check his body could no longer cash. Martinez dispatched him with an almost confused look.
The moral of the story is, if you want to dance with the young guns, you take your lumps with a smile when they come.