Nineteen-eighty-eight is relatively recent in terms of baseball history, but an incident that occurred on July 20, 1988 would never occur in 2012.
The Boston Red Sox were leading the Minnesota Twins 5-4 in the eighth inning at Fenway Park. Ellis Burks was on first base after leading off the inning by working out a walk off tough right-hander Jeff Reardon.
Jim Rice was next.
As he neared home plate, he saw Spike Owen grab a bat and start walking toward him. Rice knew what was happening and to say that he wasn't happy is an understatement.
Rice went back to the dugout and started shouting at new Red Sox manager Joe Morgan. According to Marty Barrett, Rice grabbed Morgan by his shoulders and forced him down the stairs from the dugout into the runway. Some players intervened and no punches were exchanged.
General manager Lou Gorman later said, "They broke it up before punches were exchanged, but there was physical contact."
As he returned to the dugout, Morgan kept shouting "I'm the manager. I'm the manager."
Morgan had Owen pinch-hit for Rice because he wanted the shortstop to sacrifice Burks to second base. Rice was a slugger that had never learned how to bunt.
The result was that the Red Sox suspended Rice for three games.
"We couldn't condone the action so we had to suspend Rice," Morgan told reporters. "I've never had any trouble with Jimmy. I've been a booster of his, but we couldn't let it go."
Gorman expressed a similar view. "It's tough to suspend anybody," he said. "I have great respect for Jim Rice, but you can't have anybody physically intimidate or question a manager's authority."
Morgan had replaced John McNamara as Red Sox manager He finished second in the voting for 1988 Manager of the Year as the Red Sox won the Eastern Division title but lost to the Oakland A's in the playoffs.
It is doubtful if any of today's managers would want to sacrifice in such a situation, much less pinch hit with a Spike Owen for a Jim Rice. It is less doubtful that if a modern manager sent up a pinch-hitter for a slugger, the slugger would react the same way Rice reacted.
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