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Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Updated: April 30, 11:05 AM ET
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?' "

FIGHT CLUB
Sure, we love a good brawl at Page 2. Trouble is, we just don't see a good brawl very often. Page 2's Eric Neel is here to offer a solution with his list of 13 ways to make baseball "fights" a little more interesting.

Plus, in a Page 2 flashback, The Sports Guy explains why he finds baseball fights so damn loveable.

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)
No love was lost between the Giants and Dodgers during the heated pennant race of 1965. Marichal, facing Sandy Koufax at Candlestick Park, knocked down Maury Wills and Ron Fairly with brushback pitches before he came to the plate in the third inning. Koufax wouldn't retaliate, but his catcher, John Roseboro, would.

"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.

Juan Marichal vs. John Roseboro
Roseboro should have used Daniel LaRusso's crane technique.
Marichal and Roseboro became friends years later -- Roseboro (and others) believed that Marichal wasn't getting elected to the Hall of Fame because of that incident. "There were no hard feelings on my part, and I thought if that was made public, people would believe that this was really over with," said Roseboro. "So I saw him at a Dodger old-timers' game, and we posed for pictures together, and I actually visited him in the Dominican. The next year, he was in the Hall of Fame. Hey, over the years, you learn to forget things."

2. Braves vs. Padres (Aug. 12, 1984)
This was more like a slugfest and beanball war that was occasionally interrupted by a baseball game. It all started on the first pitch of the game, when Atlanta's Pascual Perez hit Alan Wiggins. Payback came for Perez in the second inning, when Ed Whitson threw behind his head. When Perez waved his bat at Whitson, the benches emptied in for the first brawl of the game. That one would be followed by fights in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings, some started when the Padres continued to throw at Perez every time he came to bat. When the dust had cleared, 14 had been ejected, including Braves manager Joe Torre and Padres manager Dick Williams. Five fans who'd joined in the fun in the late innings were arrested.

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."

Yankees vs. Orioles
I guess the O's were still ripped about the Jeffrey Maier thing
3. Orioles vs. Yankees (May 19, 1998)
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)
The Mets were blowing out the Reds, 9-2, in Game 3 of the NLCS, as Cincinnati came to bat in the top of the fifth. After pitcher Roger Nelson grounded out, Pete Rose came to bat and singled off of Jerry Koosman. Next up: Joe Morgan. He grounded to first, and the Mets pulled off a 3-6-3 double play.

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)
The occasion: "Strike Out Domestic Violence" night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The catalyst: Warthogs pitcher Jason Kummerfeldt, who hit three Bulls batters before the third inning ended. The charger: Bulls batter John Knott, who was sure Kummerfeldt was doing it on purpose. The end result: fisticuffs and one kick to the face of Winston-Salem pitcher Glen Cullop, who ended up hospitalized with a broken jaw and lost five teeth. A splendid show for the anti-domestic-violence fans who cheered on their Bulls when the punches started flying. Ten players were ejected, and within a few days Carolina League president John Hopkins meted out $6,000 in fines and 124 days of suspensions, penalizing every player on both clubs except the next night's starting pitchers, who were both in the stands charting pitches.

White Sox vs. Tigers
Man, these teams can't even win a fight.
6. White Sox vs. Tigers (April 22, 2000)
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)
After the White Sox lost both ends of a doubleheader to the Indians in Cleveland, some of Chicago's players accused ump George Moriarty of deliberately making bad calls against them. Moriarty, who'd once played for the Sox, challenged the players to a fight, and pitcher Mike Gaston accepted. Moriarty knocked Gaston down with one punch, but broke his fist in the process. At that point, White Sox manager Lew Fonseca and catchers Charlie Berry and Frank Grube jumped the ump and thrashed him good, bloodying his mouth.

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)
After Senators outfielder Carl Reynolds and Yankee catcher Bill Dickey collided hard on a play at the plate, Dickey swung and, with a single punch, broke Reynolds' jaw. It was one of the quickest KOs in baseball history. The league suspended Dickey for 30 days and fined him $1,000.

"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."

Ed Whitson
Needless to say, Whitson got the better of Billy.
9. Billy Martin vs. Ed Whitson (Sept. 22, 1985)
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)
When it became clear to Texas Rangers second baseman Lenny Randle that he had lost his starting position to rookie Bump Wills, he decided he'd had enough. He'd been letting everyone know all spring that his 1976 batting average of .224 deserved more respect, and almost left camp before some teammates talked him out of it.

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.