One of my fellow writers on MMO sent me a video link to the Ian Kennedy plunked his L.A. counterpart, Zack Greinke, with a high-and-tight pitch. The Dodgers’ pitcher, who fractured his collarbone in a brawl with the Padres earlier this season, was the third player hit in the tense NL West tilt. That 92-mph fastball at Greinke’s head proved to be the final straw.”>D’Backs versus Dodgers brawl last night. The bench-clearing fiasco got underway in the seventh inning after Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy fired a 92 mph fastball straight to the head of Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke who fell flat to the ground. All hell broke loose after that and Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Allan Trammell were just a few of the names on the field.
“No use calling out names, they’re all there,” Dodgers announcer Vin Scully said with a calm that belied the frenzied action on the field.
Anyway, as far as baseball brawls go, today’s brawls are so much more tepid than the ones I remember from the past. In 2009, I actually wrote about some of the most notable and infamous Mets brawls which included many career-ending injuries as well as some pretty significant bumps and bruises. Enjoy…
Take Me Out To The Brawl Game
Elio Chacon, an original Met, may best be remembered for starting the first triple play in Mets history in 1962. It happened on May 30 (Memorial Day), and it came against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They were playing their first game in New York since their final game at Ebbet’s Field on September 24, 1957 as the Brooklyn Dodgers.
What you may not know is that Chacon was also responsible for starting the first bench clearing brawl in Mets history during that same inaugural year. Here is the blow-by-blow… While playing the Giants at Candlestick Park, Willie Mays slid hard into second base after being picked off and caught Chacon with his spikes. Chacon turned and clocked Mays in the face with a right roundhouse punch. Unfazed, Mays grabbed Chacon and body-slammed him into the ground at second base inciting the Mets’ first ever benches-clearing brawl.
For Chacon, it spelled the end the end of the road. He would never be the same, and at 25 years of age, he’d never play another game after that 1962 season.
The Mets have been involved in many notable bench-clearing brawls since their rumble with the Giants in ’62. One of the great ones involved Mets catcher John Stearns who in 1978 triggered a huge brouhaha when he swung at and punched then Expos catcher Gary Carter in the face. The photogenic Carter walked away from the encounter with a face that was bruised and battered. It would take almost a week until the swelling went down.
After some extensive research, I put together a “Mets All-Brawl Team” for your pleasure. Despite some of my research and personal recollections, I may have missed a couple of incidents worth noting. That’s where you the readers come in so feel free to add any memories of your own. The team is comprised solely of players who wore the “Orange and Blue”, although a few of the incidents may have taken place while they played for another team.
I intentionally left off Roberto Alomar and Jose Offerman, who both had tempers that led to quite a few publicized brawls and incidents. However, I didn’t want to discredit my All Brawl Team with a saliva-spewing punk and a bat-wielding psycho. With that, I give you my “New York Mets All-Brawl Team”. A collection of some of the best bad-asses ever to play for the Mets.
1B Keith Hernandez: Of course everybody remembers the spring of 1989, when Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry gave the Mets their ultimate Kodak moment on Team Photo Day when the two of them started wailing on each other after exchanging some heated words. The fists were flying and eventually order would be restored, but the damage was done. What few don’t know was that this was just a continuation of a bar room brawl that started the night before between the two as Strawberry blamed Hernandez for influencing the 1988 MVP vote. Even as recently as 2008 Keith is still feeling his oats. During a team flight, Hernandez and current Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, had a heated exchange that nearly went to blows if not for a few teammates being on hand to break them up.
Honorable Mention: Mike Marshall was involved in two classic baseball brawls before he joined the Mets. His grittiness certainly didn’t carry over in his new blue and orange duds however, and he had a tough act to follow in Hernandez. But I bet nobody ever stole his milk money.
2B Felix Millan: I remember this one like it was yesterday… Poor Felix Millan picked a fight with the wrong guy on August 12, 1977 when he slugged Pirates catcher Ed Ott in the face with the baseball still clenched in his fist. “The Cat” went postal after he was upended by Ott who was trying to break up a double play. Ott retaliated and grabbed Millan with both hands, lifted him up horizontally and slammed him to the ground like a rag doll. The impact shattered his clavicle and ended Millan’s career. I thought a cat had nine lives?
Honorable Mention: Wally Backman didn’t take any lip from anyone on the field, and he could glare toward the mound with the best of them whenever a pitch came too far inside. Strawberry thought he was a redneck, but actually he was just “scrappy”. He’s also the only Met whose mugshot appears on every internet search.
SS Bud Harrelson: During Game 3 of the 1973 NLCS, Rose slid hard into second base on a Joe Morgan ground ball to break up a double play. Shortstop Bud Harrelson took a swing at Rose and both benches cleared in what was a 10-minute brawl. When Rose took the field in the bottom of the fifth inning, Mets fans showered him with garbage and bottles and he had to take cover in the dugout until order was finally restored.
Honorable Mention: Jose Reyes completely snapped during the final days of the 2007 season, and in a futile attempt to fire up the team, he picked a fight with his longtime buddy, Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo. Reyes who was the runner at third, taunted Olivo who was on the mound with his pitcher until Olivo charged after him and the two wrestled while both benches cleared. It was later joked that none of the Marlins were too worried because they knew the Mets couldn’t hit. That damned Hanley Ramirez.
3B Ray Knight: In 1986, on their way to their second World Series in franchise history, Ray Knight ignited a 16 minute bench clearing brawl on July 22nd that would define the Mets character and become the turning point of their championship season. When the Reds’ Eric Davis slid hard into third base and pushed into Knight it seemed like a good hard slide. But as both players got up off the ground, Davis called Knight a choice expletive. Knight responded with two vicious punches to his head, and even the Reds’ Eddie Milner, who came in to break it up, was greeted with a Knight left hook to his face. After that, it seemed like the entire Reds roster piled up on top of Knight who eventually emerged out of the pile like a conquering warrior.
Honorable Mention: Gregg Jefferies showed ex-Met and then Phillie Roger McDowell a thing or two after Roger called him a “faggot”. Before anyone could break it up, Jefferies got in five blows to the head. Rumor has it that McDowell never called anyone a “faggot” again. I sure wish Jefferies could have shown as much power at the plate.
C Paul Lo Duca: The fiery and very outspoken Paul Lo Duca had a temper that was set on a hair trigger. His outbursts were not limited to just opponents and umpires either, as he would have no problem getting into a teammates face if he sensed a lack of hustle. Who will ever forget the scene of Lo Duca flinging his catching gear onto the field after being ejected from the game. And don’t forget those times when the “crazy eyes” came out.
Honorable Mention: Mike Piazza took a lot of abuse over the years, most notably from Roger Clemens. However, Mikey did have his moment in the sun against the Dodgers’ Guillermo Mota who ran like a scared mongrel from an enraged Piazza, inciting a memorable bench clearing moment. However, Mota got even when he joined the Mets and wrecked our chances for another post season.
LF Kevin Mitchell: Many believe that it was his volatile temper that paved the way for Kevin Mitchell to be traded to the San Diego Padres for Kevin McReynolds. Before he was drafted, he was shot three times when he ran with a gang call the “Syndo Mob” as a youth. He also got into a fist fight with fellow rookie Darryl Strawberry during a pick-up basketball game shortly after both were drafted by the Mets. He allegedly decapitated his girlfriend’s cat after an argument, was once arrested for assaulting his father, and in 2000 while managing in the minors, he was arrested for punching out the owner of the opposing team. And I didn’t even mention his three notable brawls… Mitchell is the ultimate bad ass.
Honorable Mention: Gary Sheffield has initiated more brawls than any player in the last two decades, and one of his last acts was as a Tiger that resulted in making a bloody mess of the righthander formerly known as Fausto Carmona.
CF Derek Bell: Here’s another notorious brawler for you… Derek Bell notched his first of many suspensions, in 1994 when he charged the mound against some young starting pitcher named Pedro Martinez of the Montreal Expos. It was a bad year for the gifted outfielder as he was also busted for soliciting a woman for oral sex, among some of his other antics that year. At seasons end he was traded to Houston where he joined “The Killer B’s”, and enjoyed a huge 1995 campaign. But, it wasn’t long until his attitude got him into trouble again, this time he confronted manager Larry Dierker who had just returned from a month long absence due to brain surgery. He was traded to the Mets along with Mike Hampton, and had a solid season in 2000, his only season with the Mets. In addition to over a half dozen suspensions, he has also been arrested numerous times for various drug related incidents.
RF Darryl Strawberry: Mets right fielder Darryl Strawberry didn’t ever have that quintessential moment that you could point to like some of the others on this list, but everyone in the league knew he was a man to be reckoned with if you got on his bad side. He was always the first Met out of the dugout whenever the benches cleared and he would arrive with his fists clenched and cocked. Even as a Dodger and then Yankee, players knew better than to cross the Straw Man, and Armando Benitez found that out the hard way when he invited the whole Yankees bench to the mound after plunking Tino Martinez between the shoulders. Strawberry was the only one to land a good solid punch to the face of Benitez who was stunned.
SP Nolan Ryan: In 1993, the Rangers’ Nolan Ryan plunked White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura on the right elbow. Ventura had no idea he was running into a buzz-saw when he slammed his helmet to the ground and charged the mound. Waiting for him was a 46-year old Ryan who greeted him with a headlock and five roundhouse punches to his face. Surprisingly, Ryan was allowed to stay in the game after one of the nastiest, dirtiest brawls in baseball history. There was no pity for a battered and bruised Ventura who picked the wrong guy to mess around with. This was not a no-hitter.
SP Pedro Martinez: Although he was with the Red Sox at the time, Mets fans still enjoyed watching Pedro Martinez throw Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer (an original Met) to the ground when he made the mistake of charging after Martinez in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. This was too funny and I wonder if Zimmer has stopped rolling yet?
SP Pete Harnisch: In 1996, the Mets’ Pete Harnisch punched Cubs catcher Scott Servais in the head after being brushed back by a Terry Adams pitch that he took exception to. What ensued was one of the more memorable bench clearing brawls in Mets history. Nine players were ejected when all was said and done, but Mets won the game 7-6 thanks to a walk-off Rico Brogna homer in the ninth.
RP Frankie Rodriguez: When Frankie Rodriguez got wind of some disparaging remarks levied at him by Yankees reliever Brian Bruney, K-Rod was hopping mad. You see his balls were already twisted because of that infamous dropped pop-up by teammate Luis Castillo. But to hear Bruney say he took joy in watching K-Rod blow his first save of the season, well, “thems were fightin’ words”. Rodriguez confronted Bruney before their next game during fielding practice, and if not for the intervention of several of his Yankee teammates, Bruney was about to get his ass handed back to him by K-Rod who looked like a man possessed. He got away, but unfortunately, K-Rod’s girlfriend’s father wasn’t as lucky…
Honorable Mention – John Franco completes the the All-Brawl Team. I gotta give props to the former Mets captain and resident hot-head, John Franco. He might be the only player in baseball history who managed to get himself ejected and suspended for his part in the 1996 Mets/Cubs fracas that took place on… you guessed it… “John Franco Day” at Shea.
There you have it my friends…