13 Sports Rivalries That Came to Blows
Sports rivalries often lead to fantastic games, brilliant trash talk and memorable legacies. Sometimes, they can even lead to some outrageous brawls.
There is no love lost between these next few rivals, which means the matches were more intense and the fights were all the more passionate.
Consider this a brief glimpse into some sports fights that were years in the making. But please feel free to add your thoughts on these scintillating scuffles or to chime in with others that should have made the list.
Now sit back and keep your hands and arms inside, because things are about to get violent.
Red Sox and Yankees
Of course, one of the most beloved sports rivalries is bound to spill over into a donnybrook every now and again. Now we have to mention the most recent epic explosions of fists and shoves.
However, there is something so unforgettable about this video that features Lou Piniella colliding with Carlton Fisk at home in a 1976 game.
The dugouts spill onto the field, and a second brawl begins when Bill Lee decides the scuffle isn't over by a long shot. Really, watching this video remains one of the more exhausting ways to spend your time.
NYPD and FDNY
Granted, we are playing it fast and loose with the term sports rivalries, but we just couldn't let this topical brawl stay ignored.
As you see in the report, a bench-clearing brawl broke out between New York's Finest and Bravest recently. Fox Sports gives a brief history of the two sides: "The annual event has been dominated by the FDNY, who came in to the event with a five-game win streak and a record of 23-15-2 against the NYPD."
The 2014 iteration saw the NYPD finally get its win, 8-5, and it also featured a Royal Rumble of sorts. The good news is that nobody was seriously injured.
Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues
We thought it prudent to include a hockey brawl dubbed "The St. Patrick's Day Massacre." This list would seem silly with something so sinister missing from the lot.
The Riverfront Times' Keegan Hamilton gives us an idea of why it is so named: "The Hawks won 6-4 but the outcome was overshadowed by melees in the first and second period resulted in 278 penalty minutes, including 24 minor, 12 major and 17 misconduct penalties."
We like to think some players are still serving time in the penalty box to this day.
San Francisco Giants and the L.A. Dodgers
Much like the Yankees and Red Sox, the Giants and Dodgers share a long-lasting legacy of bad blood. OK, the blood is downright awful.
One of the more famous incidents took place way back in 1965, in an August game that saw Giants pitcher Juan Marichal take a bat to the Dodgers' John Roseboro.
Here's a snippet from Leonard Koppett's New York Times article at the time:
In a burst of uncontrollable temper under circumstances still unclear, Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants attacked John Roseboro of the Los Angeles Dodgers today with a baseball bat. Marichal's bat hit Roseboro on the top of the head at least twice and opened a two-inch cut that bled profusely.
Eventually, those circumstances became a bit clearer.
CBS Sports' Dayn Perry recounted the event in December, noting that Marichal previously threw at Maury Wills and Ron Fairly. Wanting some retaliation, Roseboro asked Sandy Koufax to return the favor to Marichal.
Koufax's attempt wasn't good enough for Roseboro, who decided to toss back the ball to Koufax, throwing close to Marichal's head.
Perry writes, "Roseboro rifled it back to his pitcher and in doing so came perilously -- and intentionally -- close to striking Marichal in the head."
And that's how brawls start.
NY Knicks and Miami Heat
There was a time when any Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks game was a must-see event. One incident that remains unforgettable is the scuffle that broke out in the 1998 playoffs.
Here is former Knicks coach and current ESPN color commentator Jeff Van Gundy recounting the moment: "I now know why convicts plead temporary insanity, because I have no idea what I was doing out there."
At the time, he stated that he was really just trying to keep the peace. Here is what he offered to the New York Times in 1998:
I look at the tape and I look like I'm overmatched. Obviously, I was. But I don't regret what I did. People were trying to make it like I was attacking him. I was just trying to make sure it didn't escalate. Guess I was a nonfactor, huh?
Thanks to that momentary lapse in judgment, we now have one of the more memorable moments in NBA history.
Real Madrid and Barcelona
The 2011 Spanish Super Cup between rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid devolved into, well, utter madness, leading to red cards and a famous eye poke.
The Global Times reports:
Brazilian Marcelo set off the sparks when he was dismissed for a late challenge on former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, who made his debut toward the end of the game.
In an ensuing brawl on the pitch, Mesut Ozil of Real Madrid and Barcelona's David Villa were also sent off, bringing the red-card total to three.
The most infamous moment came when then-Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho decided to waltz over and poke the eye of Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova.
Gerard Pique had some pointed thoughts after the match: "Sincerely, Mourinho is destroying Spanish football. Sometimes they say we Catalans are the guilty ones, but the guilty ones are over there in Madrid."
Sometimes in life there just aren't enough red cards.
Red Wings and Avalanche
Apologies for the video shot with a potato, but it seems to capture what CBS Detroit's Ashley Dunkak considers the greatest fight in Red Wings history.
Dunkak explains the brief history of this particular brawl with the Colorado Avalanche:
The impetus for the fight occurred almost a year earlier, in the 1996 playoffs, when Colorado’s Claude Lemieux smashed Kris Draper into the boards, promptly breaking Draper’s jaw and shattering his cheek and orbital bones.
As noted, Lemieux missed the first few games the teams played the following year, leaving the fisticuffs for this March 26, 1997 clash.
The announcer proclaims, "Oh my goodness," which is exactly the reason that phrase was invented. Fight after fight breaks out, and the crowd is left to merely scream as they watch a gladiator pit break out before them.
Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca
Now you didn't expect to see a couple of old guys get after it in this breakdown of team rivals, but we couldn't possibly leave them out.
The Los Angeles Times' Houston Mitchell explains: "The two have disliked other since the 1963 Grey Cup (the CFL championship game). Apparently in that game, Mosca delivered a controversial hit on Kapp’s teammate Willie Fleming, knocking him out of the game."
Kapp offers an olive branch, which leads two grumpy men to let off aggression that had been building up nearly 50 years.
A National Post report at the time has some pointed words from each, but Kapp did offer, "I’m embarrassed for participating in something that should not have happened. God bless (Mosca) I’m not competing with him in any way. If this incident affected B.C. negatively I’m truly sorry about that."
US Women's National Team and Canada
We take you to a friendly little match between rivals on Oct. 12, 2013, between the U.S. women's national hockey team and Canada.
Just kidding, because this was anything but friendly.
Yahoo! Sports' Greg Wyshynski notes that the men get a lot of attention in their rivalry but adds, "But comparing their levels of animosity to those between their women’s national teams is like comparing a tense conversation between friends to an arson-filled riot."
We don't disagree.
With about 3:10 to go in the third period in a game from Burlington, Vt., things get violent. Bodies hit the ice, punches are thrown, and wrestling matches ensue.
It's a tense rivalry between players who are letting off steam, and it's beautiful.
Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers
There was a time when NBA games were in danger of actually devolving into fights. Those days are largely behind us—settling in a time captured by very grainy video.
In any case, we have this tense moment from a budding Kings and Lakers rivalry that spilled over into the walkway to the locker room.
Sports Illustrated has a report on the Oct. 2002 game that began with a shoulder from Rick Fox, which garnered an uppercut from Doug Christie.
From there, it was on like Donkey Kong:
After they were ejected, the players left the court in opposite directions, but Fox apparently went around the back and met up with Christie in the tunnel that leads to the locker room area.
Fox grabbed Christie in a headlock, and they had to be separated by security, as well as the entire Kings bench. Shaquille O'Neal, in street clothes, attempted to separate players.
As you can see in the video, the Kings bench left to aid in the scuffle, leaving Fox and Shaq to hold their own for Los Angeles—essentially a fair fight the way we see it.
Ohio State and Michigan
There is hardly a better rivalry in sports than Ohio State and Michigan. One of their more recent grudge matches saw the two sides get after it as best as they could despite being protected with pads and helmets.
Sports Illustrated's Martin Rickman reminds us, "Ohio State running back/wide receiver Dontre Wilson and offensive tackle Marcus Hall were ejected, as was Michigan backup linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone."
Rickman also has a close-up shot of Hall's, um, parting shot to fans.
Canada and Russia (U.S.S.R.)
The kids got the memo.
Total Pro Sports broke down some of sports' most insane brawls, including this 1987 bench-clearing donnybrook that featured the young athletes who made up the Canadian and former-Soviet rivalry.
First, as you can see, it’s pretty wild. Second, it takes place during an international game, which are usually more civil than league games. Third, this is from the Junior World Championships—meaning all these guys were under 20 years of age.
The New York Times' 1987 report states the brawl encompassed 20 minutes and led the International Ice Hockey Federation to expel both teams for the brawl.
As if they would have even had the endurance to continue playing.
Bruins and NY Rangers
Now this isn't your average rivalry brawl, but we just had to include it here because it remains one of hockey's most harrowing moments.
NESN, in a 2009 article, remembered the 30th anniversary of the fight that culminated with a fan getting smacked with a shoe:
As the story goes, a fight unfolded when Boston’s Al Secord offered the Rangers’ Ulf Nilsson a little payback from a previous altercation with a sucker punch after the buzzer had sounded.
While the two parties exchanged shoves and unkind words by the glass, Rangers fan John Kaptain reached over glass, smacked the B’s Stan Jonathan with a rolled-up program and took off with his stick. After Terry O’Reilly led the B’s into the stands, Kaptain shortly found himself on the receiving end of his own shoe thanks to Mike Milbury, who was then a five-year veteran defenseman out of nearby Brighton, Mass.
For a far more involved retelling of the incident, we recommend The New York Times' Dave Seminara, who delved into the incident as well as its aftermath, which resulted in suspensions for O'Reilly (eight games), Peter McNab and Milbury (six each).
The small number of games garnered is shocking when you watch players going into the stands to fight fans of the opposing side.
It's a terrifying moment that resulted in the league instituting higher glass around the ice.
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