Every couple of years, fans are treated to an old-fashioned baseball brawl. They happen sometimes, be it for a batter being hit or a baserunner sliding too hard, and the brawls range from some pushing and shoving to full-blown punches being thrown at full force.
Such was the case yesterday when Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera went after New York Yankees catcher Austin Romine after what started as simple verbal barbs. Three total bench clearings and eight ejections later, and this fracas might have earned its spot among the more intense brawls in MLB history.
Just the same, these five fights in particular still rule the roost for just how bad baseball brawls can become.
1 Alex Rodriguez vs. Jason Varitek, 2004
Sparks always fly when the Yankees take on the Boston Red Sox and this fight on July 24, 2004, was no exception.
What started with Red Sox starter Bronson Arroyo hitting New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez led to the three-time MVP spouting expletives at catcher Jason Varitek, which led to both men getting physical with each other before the benches cleared.
It only escalated from there. Boston favorites Kevin Millar and Trot Nixon got into a scruff with Yankees pitcher Tanyon Sturtze, who wound up getting a cut near his ear. Even the polarizing Curt Schilling managed to get his hands dirty.
Rodriguez and Varitek were, of course, ejected from the game.
It just goes to show that when the Yankees and Red Sox are playing each other, always expect the unexpected. In this case, that would be a brawl for the ages!
2 Yankees vs. Orioles, 1998
The on-field fight between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles is one of the most epic not only in baseball history but in sports worldwide and yet, nobody seems to talk about it.
It was a warm spring evening on May 19, 1998 when the Bronx Bombers took on their AL East rivals. New York led 7-5 in the bottom of the 8th inning when Orioles fireballer Armando Benitez drilled Tino Martinez in the back. Martinez had been intentionally plunked by Benitez before, so he naturally took exception along with the rest of his teammates.
This is a perfect example of an incident that got out of hand way too quickly. Though the real issue was between Benitez and Martinez, Benitez instead found himself on the receiving end of punches thrown by the Yankees 6'8" reliever Graeme Lloyd, who wasn't even in the game at that point. Things escalated even more when New York outfielder Darryl Strawberry got involved and the fight spilled into Baltimore's dugout. Even reliever Jeff Nelson joined in.
All in all, the fight led to five suspensions, all because Benitez was frustrated about giving up a go-ahead three-run home run to Bernie Williams upon entering the game.
3 Juan Marichal vs. Johnny Roseboro, 1965
We're going to go far back in time for this one, back before the DH rule changed the game forever and hitting a batter put your team's pitcher at risk for being beaned themselves.
This instance occurred in a rivalry game between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers and though a pitcher was involved, it was not from a throwing standpoint.
That is because Giants hurler and future Hall of Famer Juan Marichal was up at bat in a game where he and another legend, Sandy Koufax, were on the mound and throwing a clinic on inside pitching. Marichal threw at Maury Wills, so Koufax responded in kind by throwing at Willie Mays. Sure enough, a warning was issued by the home plate umpire.
Everything changed when Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro threw the ball back to Koufax but made sure that his throw back was close to Marichal's head. The Giants' pitcher responded in kind by hitting Roseboro in the head. With his bat, that is.
Marichal was ejected and served an eight-game suspension, while Roseboro exited the game and received 14 stitches.
The crazy part is that years later, the two actually became good friends!
4 Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Ventura, 1993
Rule #1 of baseball brawls: if the pitcher involved is a 46-year-old Texan with a high-90s fastball, don't charge the mound!
Chicago White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura clearly forgot that rule or just flat out ignored it after getting plunked by Texas Rangers hurler and future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Ventura charged the mound with fire in his eyes, only to be put in a headlock by Ryan and get punched repeatedly.
Ready for the crazy part? Ventura was ejected while Ryan was allowed to remain in the game, as umpire Richie Garcia felt Ryan was simply defending himself!
It just goes to show that circumstances sometimes do count and that, depending on the umpires involved, throwing a punch does not necessarily mean automatic ejection.
5 Braves vs. Padres, 1984
Here we have another brawl that tends to fly under the radar.
The date was August 12, 1984, and the Atlanta Braves were hosting the San Diego Padres at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Young righty Pascual Perez was on the mound for the Braves and began the game by hitting Padres leadoff man Alan Wiggins.
In response, San Diego opted to devote the rest of the game to throwing at Perez whenever he came up to bat. In this case, that was four total times.
What resulted was a game that is easily the ugliest in baseball history. There were three total brawls, a total of 13 people were ejected, and even five fans were arrested. Padres manager Dick Williams received a 10-game suspension and defended his decision to target Perez, claiming he was protecting his team's honor.
Home plate umpire John McSherry, meanwhile, said the game was "the worst thing I've seen in my life" and that all of the incidents had "set baseball back 50 years."
Thus, the fact that nobody ever brings this up because of how bad it was makes it worthy of the top spot.
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