The baseball brawl: an accepted and occasionally anticipated aspect of The Great American Pastime.
It seems every baseball fan has a favorite brawl. Sure, they’re based on subjective variables such as teams, players, circumstances and who gets a beat-down, but they’re always worth some chatter at the water cooler.
To honor the tradition of clearing the benches, here are 10 great baseball brawls from the past four decades.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers, 2013
I debated long and hard about putting this one on the list, especially considering its infancy in the library of baseball brawls. However, the newly developed rivalry and blossoming hatred between the Dodgers and the Kirk Gibson-led Diamondbacks looks to be one that could become quite frothy over the next few years.
2. Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals, 2010
The St. Louis Cardinals may be considered one of the classiest organizations in all of sports, but the team is game for the occasional throw-down. This brawl was the result of Cincinnati Reds All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips calling the Cardinals “whiny bitches” in an interview. When Phillips stepped into the box, and tried to tap the shin guards of catcher Yadier Molina, Yadi took exception. The brawl ended the career of Cardinals (and former Reds) catcher Jason LaRue, who was kicked in the head repeatedly by Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto.
3. Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox, 2006
The poor Cubs. They suck. And the only thing worse than sucking is sharing a city with a team that just won the World Series. It’s not often you get to see two catchers collide at the plate, then go at each other.
4. New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, 2003 Playoffs
Of course there has to be a Yankees vs. Red Sox battle on this list. There have been more than a few. This one was incited by former ace Pedro Martinez, who consistently stirred the pot throughout the game. Martinez was a great pitcher, but he was also a manipulative thug and no stranger to acting the fool. The pitch that sent both squads over the edge was from one alleged steroid abuser to another.
5. Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees, 1998
It’s not just the Red Sox who dislike the Yankees. This particular nonsense rested squarely on the shoulders of then-Orioles pitcher Armando Benitez. No doubt about it, it was a legitimate brawl.
6. Oakland Athletics and California Angels, 1995
Ah, the rise of the steroid era. This brawl is comical. Mark McGwire is freaking huge and his mullet-perm is amazing. Who would dare mess with that guy?
7. Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers, 1993
This brawl was about two people: the pitcher, Nolan Ryan, and the player he hit, Robin Ventura. The fight solidifed the legend of Ryan’s badassery. I always imagine Ryan grabbing Ventura and saying, “OK, son, here’s how it works…”
8. Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles, 1993
To get this party started, a young Mike Mussina hit Bill Haselman a little high and tight. It’s one of the most underrated brawls in MLB history. It spawned several fights after the initial tussle and ended with Lou Pinella kicking dirt on home plate.
9. San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, 1986
Hoo boy. This fight had to be on the list simply because of the parties involved: two living legends, Ozzie “The Wizard” Smith and Will “The Thrill” Clark. Add to it the Cardinals’ utility specialist and current third-base coach Jose “Secret Weapon” Oquendo. Sure, if you’re a Cardinals fan, Clark’s slide was bush league. And if you’re a Giants fan, Oquendo kicked Clark and “started” the fight. Smith and Clark weren’t fond of each other in the first place, so it was destined to get ugly.
10. Royals and Yankees, 1977 Playoffs
Two dudes I would never mess with, not even to this day: George Brett and Graig Nettles. Brett slid hard into third base and Nettles kicked him in the chest. It was on. The best part about this short rumble? Nobody was ejected.