The Phillies and Giants recent bench-clearing brawl which started when Shane Victorino was hit by a Ramon Ramirez fastball and ended with Victorino’s 3-game suspension (now under appeal), got me thinking.
There’s nothing quite like a brawl in baseball. Both benches empty. Pitchers and coaches come running in from the bullpen and a mob forms in the center of the field. There is a lot of pushing and shoving but usually not much damage is done. After 10 minutes or so the mob is broken up by coaches and umpires, order is restored and the action continues.
But every once in a while there is a brawl for the ages. Some are bench clearing all-hands-on-deck slug fests, some start as one-on-one wrestling matches. In the case of the Phillies one is even thought to have changed the course of a World Series. There is a memorable brawl that even involves their mascot!
So put up your dukes and get out your ice packs as we count down the five craziest brawls in Phillies history.
Lenny Dykstra will never be accused of diplomacy. The volatile Mets and later Phillies outfielder often called “Nails” for his on-the-field-toughness, lived up to his name on an August night in 1990. It all started in the fifth inning of a game between the Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dykstra was at the plate with runners on first and third when he was called out on strikes by home plate umpire Ron Barnes.
When Dykstra came to bat in the seventh he started complaining to Barnes about his earlier call. And he didn’t stop there. Next he went after Dodgers catcher Rick Dempsey accusing him of brown-nosing the umpire.
That was enough for Dempsey. He stood up, took off his mask and as Dykstra dropped his bat and took a step forward, Dempsey punched him in the face with his glove hand then followed with a quick right. The two men wrestled to the ground and continued going at it while both benches cleared.
Dempsey ended up on the bottom of a huge pile of Dodgers and Phillies and finished the night with a large welt on the side of his face which he later said was caused by Dykstra who “grabbed me by the side of the face and squeezed every pimple I had.”
Oh, now there’s a visual I can do without.
Although this is certainly not the biggest brawl on the list (in fact, some might say it was barely a brawl at all,) it’s hard to argue that it had the biggest impact. It was in the 1980 World Series, the Phillies against the Kansas City Royals. The Phillies had taken the first two games in Philadelphia, the Royals had won Game 3 in Kansas City and were already ahead 5-1 in the second inning of Game 4. The momentum was certainly leaning in the Royals’ direction and the Phillies could feel it.
Manager Dallas Green knew his team was on the ropes and the Royals were pretty much having their way.
“We needed to back them down,” said Green.
Enter 23-year-old Phillies pitcher Dickie Noles who had come in to relieve Phillies starter Larry Christenson, who had given up four runs in the first inning. Now Noles had already given up a home run in the second to Willie Aikens, his second of the game.
After hitting the ball, Aikens stood in the batters box watching his blast. While his posing electrified the hometown crowd, it did not please the Phillies and Dickie Noles decided it was up to him to do something about it. In the dugout he told his fellow pitchers that he was “going to bury a fastball in Aikens' ribs.” They all agreed it had to be done.
But Noles' plans changed when Kansas City’s superstar slugger George Brett was up before Aikens in the fourth. Noles had him down 0-2 in the count and decided this was as good a time as any to send the message that the Phillies had had enough.
“I needed to stop the bleeding,” Noles said. “I decided to flip George. I wanted to come inside and knock him on his rear end. I didn’t want to drill him. I wanted to drill the next guy.”
Noles threw a fastball and it went right for Brett’s head. The KC third baseman hit the dirt and he hit it hard. Royals manager Jim Frey ran out from the dugout screaming at Noles, the umpire and anyone else who would listen. Phillies first baseman Pete Rose came running in from first base to support Noles and he and Frey were really going at it nose-to-nose.
It looked for a moment like the benches would clear but the umpires restored order and warned both teams about knockdown pitches. Brett finally got up and back in the batter’s box. He struck out. Yes, the Royals did hang on to win Game 4 but that was their last victory in the series. In fact, they only scored four runs in the next 22 innings. The Phillies went on to win the next two games and their first World Series Championship.
Many fans and players still believe that the turning point of the Series was the knockdown pitch thrown by Dickie Noles that night. It not only put George Brett on his back, it seemed to put the entire Royals team on their heels.
As for Philadelphia, it was the wake-up call they needed to get their fighting spirit back and to finally give the 'Fightin Phillies their long-awaited and much-celebrated parade down Broad Street.
Now this is definitely one for the record books. It’s not every day that the opposing team’s manager picks a fight with the team mascot. But that’s what happened in August, 1988 when Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda went off on the popular, green and furry Phillie Phanatic.
David Raymond, who originated the Phanatic, was wearing the green in those days and always liked to have a little fun at the expense of the visiting team. When Tommy Lasorda’s Dodgers were in town the Phanatic hopped on top of the Dodger dugout and repeatedly stomped on a life-sized, stuffed doll decked out in a Dodger uniform with the name “Lasorda” printed on the back.
Well, after watching this act a couple of times Lasorda just snapped. He ran out of the dugout, wrestled the doll away from the Phanatic, hit him in the face with it, pinned the Phanatic to the ground and just for good measure, even threw in a few punches.
Raymond later said that at first he thought Lasorda was kidding and just wanted to play along. As for Lasorda, he just thought it wasn’t very funny, “What he did wasn’t entertainment. I love the Dodgers, and it wasn’t right for him to stomp on the doll with the uniform. There were a lot of kids there, and he’s showing them violence. He didn’t need to do that.”
OK, OK, Tommy. Settle down. Just goes to show you, everyone’s a critic!
This 1998 brawl between the San Francisco Giants and the Phillies is eerily similar to the recent brouhaha between the same two teams. The Giants were holding a 9-2 lead in the fifth when Giants slugger Barry Bonds decided to steal second base.
Phillies reliever Ricky Bottalico took offense at Bond’s stealing the base with his team comfortably ahead. When Bonds led off in the seventh, Bottalico hit him in the right leg right above the kneecap with his first pitch. Bonds immediately charged the mound taking Bottalico down at the knees.
Both benches and bullpens cleared as players rushed in to jump on the pile. In the end not many actual punches were thrown but Bonds had a bruise above his right eye and Bottalico, who insisted that the ball “just got away from me,” was ejected from the game sporting a cut under his left eye.
The jury’s still out on who got the best of the brawl that day but Bonds clearly got the best of the Phillies. He went 4-for-4 driving in three runs with a homer, a triple and two singles. Bonds was also ejected but his Giants went on to beat the Phillies 15-3 where it counted, on the field.
There was no better baseball rivalry in the 70’s and early 80‘s than between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Tensions often ran high between the two clubs. They seemed to take turns winning the division in those days and every game had a playoff atmosphere.
On May 26, 1980, the Phillies were hosting the Pirates and a win would move them into first place. But nothing was ever easy when these two teams met and in this game trouble started brewing right from the start. In the first inning, Bucs pitcher Bert Blyleven buzzed a pitch right under Mike Schmidt’s chin. Greg Luzinski was the next batter and Blyleven threw another one high and tight to the Bull.
Cut to the third inning with Mike Schmidt again at the plate. Blyleven again threw one high and tight almost hitting Schmidt. Schmidt pointed a finger at Blyleven, they exchanged some less than friendly words and both benches emptied.
This proved to be just the undercard, however, as home plate umpire Doug Harvey quickly interceded, gave both sides a warning, and got things under control. That is—until the top of the sixth. The Pirates were leading 5-3. There were two outs and Pirates pitcher Blyleven was at the plate. Phillies rookie reliever Kevin Saucier, who had entered the game in the fifth, was on the mound.
The rookie took exception to Blyleven’s buzzing of the two Phillies sluggers earlier in the game and he hit Blyleven right on the back side. Blyleven dropped his bat, glared at Saucier and headed straight for the mound. He took a couple of steps and saw the baseball at his feet. He picked it up and was ready to fire it right back at Saucier when umpire Doug Harvey grabbed his arm.
Blyleven broke away from Harvey and ran to the mound, Saucier dropped his glove and both benches emptied again with bodies banging around everywhere. Then just when it looked like the umpires had settled things down, Phillies bullpen coach Mike Ryan ran straight toward Pirate Bill Madlock, grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground starting another round of bench clearing, pushing, shoving, trash talk and even a couple of punches.
The box score for this one? A tender jaw for Larry Bowa, a bloody nose for Keith Moreland, a bruised butt for Blyleven, shin gashes for Phillies manager Dallas Green, a Pirates player and Phillies coach ejected and oh yeah, a win for the Phillies.
All in a day's work at the ballpark. And they say the fans get rowdy!