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.