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The Biggest Brawls in Sports History

Zack PumerantzAnalyst IIIJanuary 12, 2017

The Biggest Brawls in Sports History

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    As tensions fly and emotions run high on the athletic playing field, athletes, coaches and inebriated fans often stretch the limits of acceptable behavior.

    Whether they found themselves involved in a competitive scuffle to protect their pride or were backing up teammates in need, these individuals (or teams) found themselves coming to fisticuffs in the midst of a game.

    It's about time we take a look back at the best melees in sports history.

20. 1993: Chicago White Sox vs. Texas Rangers

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    Nolan Ryan will always be revered for his world-class arm, but it was his well-rounded fist that stole the show on this quiet night in '93, when a certain mild-mannered third baseman decided to spark a fire.

    After getting plunked by the fireballer, 26-year-old Robin Ventura charged the mound with a clear sense of determination.

    Only to get further pummeled by his 46-year-old elder.

19. 1984: Atlanta Braves vs. San Diego Padres

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    Not one, but two bench-clearing brawls that seemingly come out of nowhere.

    Braves pitcher Pascual Perez hit Alan Wiggins on the first pitch, immediately setting the tone. 

    He was thrown at by Padres pitchers in his four trips to the plate.

    With the first fight as entertaining as it was, even fans decided to take swings in the second melee, eventually leading to 19 ejections and the suspensions of managers Dick Williams and Joe Torre. 

    Classy as always.

18. 1955: Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins

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    The bevy of riots that occurred in 1955 outside of the Montreal Forum all stemmed from one questionable check.

    After getting high-sticked by Bruins defenseman Hal Laycoe, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard (known for his borderline temper) decided to retaliate.

    In his efforts, he struck an innocent referee, persuading NHL president Clarence Campbell to immediately suspend him for the remainder of the season.

    The controversial star appeared at the first game following his suspension, and chaos ensued.

    Over $100,000 in damage, 37 injuries, 100 arrests, tossed eggs, drinks and futures by fans...ouch.

17. 2008: Detroit Shock vs. Los Angeles Sparks

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    It's about to be a...what, girl fight.

    It was the second serious basketball brawl to occur at The Palace in four years, dominated by scratching, clawing and unnecessary clapping.

    Seventeen games worth of suspensions were dealt out, and the matter was quickly closed.

    But we haven't forgotten.

16. 1972: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    It seemed calm at first—just a hard foul taken a bit out of proportion—until Luke Witte was helped to his feet by a seemingly-kind Golden Gopher...

    And then kicked in the groin.

    Stomping, kicking and a serious bleeder led to Witte being escorted on a stretcher to loud boos.

15. 1965: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants

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    It's easy to see why baseball brawls are perhaps the most entertaining to dissect, featuring a nice collection of minor scuffles amid a large melting pot of anger.

    This dust up between the Dodgers and Giants in 1965 was no different. It was all sparked by several brush-back heaters thrown inside by Juan Marichal and several tosses back to the mound by opposing catcher Johnny Roseboro, each one whizzing by Marichal's ear during his at-bats.

    Heated rivalries never cease to amaze us.

14. 1977: Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers

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    It was the fight that changed basketball forever, altered the lives of two flourishing ballers and headlined a heated rivalry.

    Rockets All-Star Kermit Washington was on the court, finding himself paranoid at the center of a fiery melee.

    Rudy Tomjanovich, at the height of his playing career, eventually rushed onto the court to join in, perhaps tossing some jabs of his own.

    But the only jab he'd see was the one flying right at his head.

    Shattered jaw, life-threatening head injuries and a less productive career followed, as well as a 26-game suspension for Washington.

13. 1956: Soviet Union vs. Hungary

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    While not very climactic, this blood bath (literally) was perhaps the most significant cultural-athletic dispute we've seen.

    Fans were ready for a seemingly-harmless water polo match between Hungary and the USSR at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, but they got a bit more.

    Immediately following the Hungarian Revolution, these two teams were somehow expected to compete athletically.

    They certainly competed—just not quite the way we expected.

12. 1932: Chicago White Sox vs. Umpire George Moriarty

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    There's nothing more frustrating than losing a doubleheader, and it was clear the White Sox weren't very fond of this particular umpire after the opposing Indians had their way in Chicago.

    After being accused of favoring the Indians, umpire George Moriarty (a former White Sox player) challenged the entire Sox team to a fight, eventually receiving a willing Milt Gaston...who was immediately knocked out. 

    Seeing that Moriarty had broken his hand on Gaston's face, manager Lew Fonseca and catchers Charlie Berry and Frank Grube jumped in, with umpire Bill Dinneen attempting to break it up.

    “You stay out of this, Bill," he said. "This is my fight."

11. 1991: St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

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    The defining moment of the rivalry between the Blues and Blackhawks came in March 1991, as adrenaline soared and sticks rattled.

    Twelve players were ejected, and the NHL suspended Scott Stevens for two games and Mike Peluso and Kelly Chase for 10 each, with both teams being fined $10,000.

    It was complete mayhem.

10. 1977: Slap Shot

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    The perfect, most inspirational start to any game.

    We couldn't possibly exclude Slap Shot from our brawling adventure.

9. 2004: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

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    There are few sports fans who didn't get a chuckle out of watching Alex Rodriguez take a nice glove to the face from Jason Varitek.

    With Chumbawamba's immortal "Tubthumping" blasting over the speakers, this bench-clearing fiesta will go down as one of the greatest fights between two storied rivals.

8. 1981: Boston Bruins vs. Minnesota North Stars

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    Forty-two penalties, seven game misconducts and 406 total penalty minutes...the ingredients to a memorable on-ice melee.

    Perhaps the longest box score we'd ever seen.

7. 1998: New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat

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    While watching two enormous redwoods toss flailing fisticuffs at each other was obviously memorable, it was Jeff Van Gundy's clinging-to-life approach that had fans cheering.

    As these two heated rivals battled for position in the first round of the 1998 playoffs, the measly Knicks coach hung to Alonzo Mourning's leg for dear life. 

    Classic.

6. 1987: Canada vs. Soviet Union

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    It's now apparent that only when the lights are shut off is a fight truly serious or lethal.

    Canada had often used physicality to counter the impressive Soviet abilities, and the 1987 World Junior Hockey Championships was no different.

    One final dump check in front of the net ended it for the Soviets, who couldn't possibly be respectful any longer.

    The game was cancelled, with both teams dismissed from the tournament following the historic brawl.

5. 2011: New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

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    After Maxime Talbot delivered a hit to Blake Comeau in their previous meeting, the Penguins and Isles were set for quite the interesting rematch.

    Sure, there were 65 penalties, including 15 fighting majors and 21 game misconducts, and a total of 346 penalty minutes, but it was the final score that had us dropping our own gloves.

    9-3 Islanders...well done (except for you, Rick DiPietro).

4. 1998: Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Yankees

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    Like his first escape from the womb, there was plenty of flailing and drooling from Armando Benitez during his fight with the Yanks in 1998.

    After Bernie Williams slugged a four-bagger to put the Pinstripes ahead, the routinely-wild Benitez pegged Tino Martinez directly in the back.

    Amid two cleared benches was several swings from Darryl Strawberry that shook more than just his opponent's face.

    Benitez was suspended for eight games and Strawberry for three.

    As always, justice was served.

3. 2011: Chinese National Team vs. Georgetown Hoyas

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    Some may call it culture shock, but we prefer madness.

    As China was getting embarrassed on the court to a college team, they decided to take it to a more physical level.

    Georgetown was shocked to say the least, but let's not forget the memorable Khaki kid...yeah, he stole the show.

2. 2006: Miami Hurricanes vs. FIU Golden Panthers

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    "As dicey as dicey gets"...thanks, but quite the understatement.

    There was punching, hopping, thrusting, chucking and body-slamming. It was perhaps the most realistic WWE match we'd ever seen.

1. Malice at the Palace: Indiana Pacers vs. Detroit Pistons

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    It was 2004, and an angry Ben Wallace seemed ready to spark what would become the most violent, studied and dissected NBA brawl in history. 

    One daredevil fan's decision to chuck a cold beverage at Ron Artest, however, is what truly sent the Palace into a frenzy.

    The man now called Metta World Peace hadn't found his friendly nature just yet and was seeing red.

    Headlining the plethora of disgraceful suspensions was Artest's season-long dismissal.

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