10 Greatest Hitter-Pitcher Rivalries in MLB History
Things are getting chippy again in the Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry. This time it's first baseman Mark Teixeira for the Bombers and Vicente Padilla of the Sox.
After verbal barbs, punctuated by trading homers and hit by pitches, the two have made headlines for as many off-the-field instances as on-the-field ones.
And after the last couple meetings following those public comments, when Teixeira hit a bomb and took a little extra time on his stroll around the bases...it cemented the two of them in baseball lore as one of the greatest hitter versus pitcher rivalries in MLB history.
But there are 10 others that really stand out to me. Who makes the cut? Read on:
Coco Crisp vs. James Shields
Why not begin with another recent dispute between a big league hitter and pitcher? Remember back around 2008 when the Rays started their strangely awesome rise to the top of the crop in the American League?
That came about due to good coaching, smart drafts and gritty players. For example, "Big Game" James Shields. And Shields sure as heck didn't want to show any fear against one of the big boys in the division, the Boston Red Sox.
Shields plunked Coco Crisp, which started an epic melee. Crisp ended up getting suspended for seven games, Shields for six and the ultimate bad boy Jonny Gomes (a Ray at the time) got five.
Tim Teufel vs. Rob Dibble
I'm actually not sure if this carried over past one at-bat, but it's hilarious either way. For those of you who don't know who Tim Teufel is, I'll help you out. According to MetsToday.com, Teufel was a below-average infielder who stood a not-so-menacing 6'0" and 175 lbs.
Those height and weight deficiencies didn't stop him from charging the mound against a hard-throwing, 6'4", 230-pound Dibble after getting intentionally beaned.
Sure, Teufel got hit with the ball, but Dibble ended up getting hit with a fist. Naturally, both players were ejected and suspended, though Dibble maintained his "innocence" afterwards.
Robin Ventura vs. Nolan Ryan
Do you think Ventura will ever live this down? I imagine whenever the current manager of the White Sox crosses paths with Rangers owner Ryan, that Nolan does a quick jab step, sending Ventura diving into the nearest corner, cowering in fear.
Okay, maybe not so dramatic. But this is THE quintessential charge-the-mound moment over the last half century of baseball. If you claim to be a baseball fan but have never seen Ventura's head locked under Ryan's wing, getting relentlessly bashed...you need to check yourself.
There is just way too much hilarity around a young kid charging a legend after getting hit by a pitch and immediately getting roped into a headlock and simultaneously pummeled. Classic.
Barry Bonds vs. Eric Gagne
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This was a rivalry in the sense that both were so absolutely dominant at their respective positions over a few year period. There must have been so much testosterone* involved with each and every matchup, but it wasn't even necessary.
Why? Because the Giants and Dodgers already have a long history of rivalry. With division supremacy on the line, Gagne faced Bonds at least a few times a year. And what is there not to love about the all-time home run leader facing triple-digit fastballs in the bottom of the 9th?
The one particular at-bat I'm thinking of is both epic and terrible. Bonds got three straight fastballs at a minimum of 101 miles per hour at the belt on the inside corner. The first two went about 500 feet, but foul. The third one went about 500 feet and landed in McCovey Cove at AT&T Park.
Bob Gibson vs. Everyone
It's a common misconception that Gibson beaned a ton of batters. In fact, his total was relatively low for his career. That being said, if you wanted to crowd the plate against Gibby, chances are you got a little chin music from a scorching-hot fastball.
As Dusty Baker once said:
"(Hank Aaron told me) 'Don't dig in against Bob Gibson, he'll knock you down. He'd knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don't stare at him, don't smile at him, don't talk to him. He doesn't like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don't run too slow, don't run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don't charge the mound, because he's a Gold Glove boxer.' I'm like, 'Damn, what about my 17-game hitting streak?' That was the night it ended."
I mean, what else is there to say? Gibson was just a competitor. If you're old enough to remember the 1992 All-Star Game, you'll remember Reggie Jackson hitting a home run off Gibson in an Old-Timer's Game. The two squared off the following year in the same game. Gibson, 57 at the time, threw a brush back pitch to the 47-year-old Jackson. Case closed.
Mike Piazza vs. Roger Clemens
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I'm not going to lie—I always thought this one was strange. Lots of yelling, bat throwing and pointing, but no actual brawling. Quite a disappointment for us fans who enjoy a little bloodshed. That being said, Mike Piazza and Roger Clemens definitely had it out on the big stage.
In Game 2 of the 2000 World Series, in front of the entire world (I assume—it was New York vs. New York after all), Piazza broke his bat on a pitch from Clemens. The splintered head of the bat came out near the mound, which Clemens promptly picked up and chucked in Piazza's general direction.
Though Clemens claims he was just ridding himself of the bat and it happened to fly towards Piazza, the two had to be restrained after that. Personally, I have a hard time believing it was an accident, considering Clemens beaned Piazza in the head earlier in the season. Now that would be a heavyweight fight.
Alan Wiggins vs. Pascual Perez
One of the most awesome MLB brawls took place as a result of Wiggins and Perez. In 1984, the Braves and Padres played a game that ended up having four benches-clearing brawls and 11 players and both managers ejected from the game.
At the heart of the dispute was Braves pitcher Perez, who plunked Wiggins on the first pitch of the game. San Diego tried to retaliate not once, not twice but three times when Perez came up to bat. They finally hit him on the third try, and madness ensued.
After a game in which seemingly half the players were tossed, both managers were publicly chiding the other and suspensions and fines were heavily levied. The Padres got the last laugh that year though, winning the National League pennant.
Clayton Kershaw vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks
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Yes. The entire organization. But really, Kershaw had a back-and-forth last season with ace Diamondbacks pitcher Ian Kennedy, a day after jawing with Arizona outfielder Gerardo Parra. Let me break down what happened.
Hong-Chih Kuo threw high and tight to Parra in the first game, who promptly hit a bomb to right a few pitches later. Naturally, Parra showboated on his way around the bases and then said something to Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis after crossing home plate. Kershaw was yelling at Parra from the dugout, even though he wasn't the pitcher that day.
The next day, Kershaw was buzzed by Kennedy. And then he returned the favor. To top things off, Kershaw hit Parra in the sixth inning, prompting an immediate ejection. Things have calmed down in 2012, but could get chippy again if the teams are tight down the stretch.
Jose Mesa vs. Omar Vizquel
No, that isn't a typo. Yes, Mesa and Vizquel really were teammates on that loaded 1997 Indians team that lost to the Florida Marlins in the World Series. And after Game 7, Vizquel publicly chided Mesa for blowing the lead, citing that he seemed to not care.
Well you can imagine a hot head like Mesa didn't take kindly to that. The first time the two guys squared off as opponents, Mesa hit Vizquel in the arm with a pitch. After the 1997 series, he had vowed to bean his former teammate every time.
After the third time in a row, Mesa was suspended. It's a good thing Vizquel just took the hits like a true professional and walked to first. Because let's be real—Omar is awesome, but Mesa would absolutely pulverize the little guy.
Juan Marichal vs. John Roseboro
You can call me biased, but this wasn't much of a brawl. It was more like assault and battery. Or assault with a deadly weapon. I don't know—I'm a writer, not a lawyer. But when Marichal raised his bat during an argument in a game and hit Roseboro in the head with it, the dynamics of the rivalry changed for the worse.
As I mentioned in the Gagne vs. Bonds slide, the Dodgers and Giants have a fierce, competitive, yet bitter rivalry that dates back to the beginning of the sport. And nothing encompasses the hatred as much as Roseboro and Marichal arguing after a brush back pitch, leading to a grisly attack.
Believe it or not, the two became friends after retiring and put the past behind them. But nothing can erase the memory of such a crazy on-field incident.