Five Memorable MLB Fights In History

MLB fights
Spread the love

Baseball is a sport that is leisurely by nature. Players take positions spread out from one another while the pitcher takes his time to gather himself and fire the ball towards home plate. While it may not call for the same level of physical contact, flaring tempers have culminated in a series of memorable MLB fights.

MLB is far from the NHL in terms of fighting, but when a team plays 162 regular-season games against 19 other teams, tension can certainly be high. The next installment of the Last Word On Baseball ‘Ten Memorable’ list series looks back at some of the most memorable brawls in MLB history. For this list, two articles will be released, each with five of the most memorable MLB fights. 

Juan Marichal-John Roseboro 8/22/1965

Sandy Koufax and Juan Marichal faced each other in August of 1965. Although these two future Hall of Famers squared off in a matchup of two of MLB’s biggest rivals, the headlines focused on something other than the San Francisco Giants defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers

Maury Wills led off the game with a bunt single, and Marichal retaliated. After he threw at Wills in Wills’s next at bat, Koufax responded by throwing at Willie Mays and sending a ball sailing to the backstop (Koufax’s opposition to throwing at batters is well documented). A warning was issued to both teams. Catcher John Roseboro respected Koufax’s desire to not get involved, but he did not want Marichal to get away with his actions. As a result, Roseboro dropped a second-pitch ball when Marichal was batting, and he picked it up and purposefully threw it back in a way that came close to hitting Marichal’s face. 

After tempers started flaring between the two, Marichal, who claimed the ball hit his ear, swung his bat and hit Roseboro on the head. That ignited the benches to clear. Home plate umpire Shag Crawford tackled Marichal so that he wouldn’t hit Roseboro again. Roseboro, bleeding from his head wound, started after Marichal, but he was held back by Mays. Mays pulled him aside and helped treat his wounds, preventing the brawl from escalating further.

Marichal and Roseboro would eventually put their differences aside and become friends, but in the moment, they were the ignition to one of MLB’s most horrific moments. Marichal was suspended for eight days (ten games), and Roseboro was suspended for two. A lawsuit from Roseboro dragged the situation out longer, but he eventually settled for a $7,500 payment from Marichal. 

Pascual Perez-Alan Wiggins 8/12/1984 

The record for most ejections in one game is 17, held by the August 1984 game between the San Diego Padres and the Atlanta Braves. Tension started building the night before when Pascual Perez got upset with Alan Wiggins bunting for base hits. Perez chirped at Wiggins throughout the game. The Padres won, 4-1, they and built a ten-and-a-half game lead over the second-place Braves. 

Perez would pitch the following night and decided to throw at Wiggins on the first pitch of the game. The Padres decided to retaliate, or at least try. Ed Whitson started the game for the Padres. He threw at Perez four times, including three times in the fourth inning, but he missed every time. 

Whitson and Padres manager Dick Williams were ejected as were their replacements, Greg Booker and Ozzie Virgil. Craig Lefferts landed the first successful attempt at hitting Perez in the eight inning, and the benches cleared. Lefferts and Jack Krol, who was replacing Virgil, were two of the players ejected as a result. The Padres were using their fourth pitcher and fourth manager of the game. 

Despite being injured, Braves third baseman Bob Horner knew what was brewing. He left the press box to prepare himself for the fight. That decision proved wise as Champ Summers went from the Padres bench to the Braves bench to attack Perez. Horner cut Summers off and thwarted his attack. After ten minutes, the brawl subsided and play resumed. 

The fighting was not finished. Donnie Moore took the mound in the ninth inning to close out a win, but he hit Graig Nettles. Moore and Braves manager Joe Torre were ejected, and Nettles charged the mound. More ejections ensued. 

Although the Braves won the game 5-1, the Padres won the ejection battle 12-5. 

Tino Martinez-Armando Benitez 5/19/1998

The New York Yankees had plenty of memorable moments in their record-setting, championship-winning 1998 season. One of them had nothing to do with wins or statistics. On May 19th of that year, they faced the Baltimore Orioles, whom they had beaten in the 1996 ALCS before finishing second to them in the AL East in 1997. 

In the 1996 ALCS, Armando Benitez was on the mound when Derek Jeter hit his famous home run that was pulled over the fence by fan Jeffrey Maier. Now on this day, he faced Bernie Williams with a 5-4 lead. Williams homered down the right field line – without a fan’s assistance. The Yankees took a 7-4 lead and won 9-5. Benitez responded by drilling Tino Martinez, the next batter, square in the back. 

The benches cleared and a brawl broke out. Graeme Lloyd and Jeff Nelson came running in from the bullpen, each throwing punches. Darryl Strawberry sucker punched Benitez. The momentum from the punch brought him into the Oriole dugout. Once there, Alan Mills sucker punched Strawberry. The brawl lasted several minutes with a lot of shoving, bodies colliding, and jersey grabbing. 

The next day, Benitez, Mills, Strawberry, Lloyd, and Nelson all received suspensions and fines. American League President Gene Budig had received backlash for light penalties in his time in the role. He made sure not to hold back, suspending Benitez for eight games, Strawberry and Lloyd for three games, and Nelson and Mills for two games. Martinez sustained no structural damage, but he needed a few days to recover after the hit by pitch. 

Jose Bautista-Rougned Odor 5/15/2016

In the middle of the 2010s, the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays met in consecutive ALDS, developing bad blood. It culminated with one of the more memorable MLB fights of the decade. The Rangers won the first two games of the 2015 series in Toronto, but the Blue Jays won the next two in Texas to send the series back to Canada tied for a winner-take-all Game 5. 

The Rangers led early, but after three errors in the seventh inning, the game was tied. Still in the seventh, Jose Bautista stepped up and launched a go-ahead home run to left field. In doing so, he proceeded to throw his bat, sparking controversy. 

The Rangers felt that Bautista was excessively showboating, and they remembered it in 2016. During a series in May, Matt Bush, despite having no role in the postseason conflict, threw at Bautista. Bautista then took a hard slide into second with his spikes up, which Rougned Odor did not appreciate. He responded with a right hook into Bautista’s jaw.

The benches cleared. Four players were suspended in addition to Blue Jays manager John Gibbons and coach Tim Leiper. Odor received the longest suspension at eight games while no other punishment exceeded three.

The Rangers won the game 7-6, but the Blue Jays got the last laugh, sweeping the Rangers in the 2016 ALDS. Josh Donaldson scored the winning run in Game 3 on a walk-off throwing error. Matt Bush was credited with the loss.

Bryce Harper-Hunter Strickland 7/17/2017

Hunter Strickland struggled in the 2014 postseason. Although he pitched in eight games and won a championship for the Giants, his ERA in each series was 9.00, 6.75, and 6.75 respectively. Contributing to those struggles was Bryce Harper, who hit two home runs off Strickland in the NLDS. 

The first home run came in the seventh inning of Game 1. It was one of two that Strickland allowed that inning, as the Washington Nationals cut the lead to 3-2 before dropping the game by that score. The second home run came in Game 4, resulting in a blown save for Strickland, but the Giants would rebound to win the game and clinch the series. 

This futility stuck with Strickland and he decided to take it out on Harper when they met in a game during the 2017 season. He clearly threw the ball directly at Harper’s hip. Without hesitation, Harper charged the mound and threw his helmet at Strickland although his early release caused the helmet to fly far away from the intended target. Both benches cleared, igniting one of the more memorable MLB fights in recent memory. 

Harper received a four-game suspension, and Strickland received a six-game suspension. This fight ultimately ended the career of Mike Morse, who became concussed in a collision with teammate Jeff Samardzija, whom Morse was trying to prevent from attacking Harper. Morse was contemplating retirement after 2016, but the season-ending concussion in 2017 was a telling sign for him to make it official. 

While baseball games are not a frequent spot for violence and brutality, there is a history of memorable MLB fights. These are five of countless MLB fights that get remembered throughout history, showing just how physical the sport can get when tempers flare.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images