In the eighth inning of the Memorial Day game between the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants, Bryce Harper took exception to what he thought was a deliberate attempt by Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland to hit him with a fastball. Harper charged the mound and threw his batting helmet at the San Francisco hurler. Both benches emptied as a result, and the brawl was on! Both players were ejected from the game. Harper was suspended for three games, Strickland will sit for six contests.
Washington’s Bryce Harper charges Giants’ pitcher Hunter Strickland.
This latest incident made me reflect and think about some of baseball’s most notable battles. Here are the three most notable fights in my opinion:
The bout that comes in at number three happened on October 12, 2003. At historic Fenway Park in Boston, the Yankees and Red Sox intense rivalry turned ugly. It happened during Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. The Yankees erased a 2-0 first inning Red Sox lead with two second inning runs and a Hideki Matsui homer in the third. In the top of the fourth, Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez took out his frustrations on New York’s Karim Garcia. After taking his base, Garcia would run into Red Sox second baseman Todd Walker to break up a potential double play. Manny Ramirez would lead off the bottom of the fourth. Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens threw a pitch that came in high and tight on Ramirez. Manny took exception to this and charged at Clemens. Both benches emptied and the fight was on! The most memorable moment of this melee occurred when Pedro Martinez decked Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer! The 72-year-old coach had charged at the Red Sox pitcher in the heat of the battle.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez takes down New York Yankees 72-year-old bench coach Don Zimmer.
The Martinez-Zimmer bout seemed to be a big mismatch, but the scuffle that I rate at number two was almost as lopsided. This one also involves a team from the Big Apple in Game 3 of a League Championship Series.
It happened on October 8, 1973, in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at New York’s Shea Stadium. Cincinnati Reds’ baserunner (one well built baserunner) Pete Rose slid hard into second base and attempted to take out a much smaller Mets shortstop in Bud Harrelson. Harrelson may have been a little on the small side compared to the mammoth Rose, but Bud was no pushover. He yelled at the Cincinnati baserunner that it was “a cheap shot” since he came in a bit high after the slide into second base. Words were exchanged, punches were thrown and history was made. As Rose took his position in left field in the bottom of the inning he was pelted with batteries and other debris by the Flushing Faithful. Reds manager Sparky Anderson threatened to pull his team off the field as a result. Mets icons Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, and Yogi Berra physically went out to left field to appeal for order to be restored.
The battle of 1973 between Pete Rose and Bud Harrelson.
The top melee on my countdown involves an old New York City rivalry that headed west in 1958. The Dodgers and, to come full circle in this article, the Giants, have been bitter rivals since the days of Brooklyn vs. Manhattan. The intensity of this rivalry has not waned since the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles and the Giants bolted from Manhattan for San Francisco.
Things boiled over at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on August 22, 1965. Future Hall of Famer’s Juan Marichal and Sandy Koufax were to hook up in a key late season game. The pitching matchup ended up taking a back seat to the headlines.
Marichal was famous for pitching inside through most of his career. He was in rare form on this day, so much so that Dodgers’ catcher Johnny Roseboro took exception to it. With Marichal at the plate in the third inning, Koufax threw a ball inside that Roseboro dropped. After picking the ball up, the LA catcher threw the ball back to the pitcher. Here’s the key though, the ball whizzed by the Giants’ hurler’s ear. Years later Roseboro would admit to doing in on purpose. Marichal would contest that the ball grazed him.
Giants pitcher Juan Marichal hits Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro with a bat.
Marichal turned around and confronted Roseboro, words were exchanged and in the ugliest incident in Major League Baseball history, Marichal struck Roseboro with his bat.
Much like take out slides and home plate collisions, pitchers and batters will always battle. These battles will always flare up from time to time. That’s basebrawl!