The sight of crazy Julián Tavárez clocking Joey Gathright as he slid into home (then standing victorious over Gathright’s supine form, like Ali over Liston) had to make Sox fans chuckle. Only spring training? Someone tell these guys that. But with opening bell — er, Opening Day less than a week away, we take a look at Boston’s five best bullpen-emptying, bench-clearing brawls. (Go to thephoenix.com/soxblog for a bigger list, including Piersall vs. Martin and Pedro vs. Zimmer.)
5/30/38. Archie McKain and Joe Cronin vs. Jake Powell. After Red Sox pitcher McKain succeeds in plunking Powell in the gut (after first aiming at his head), Powell charges the mound. Shortstop/manager Cronin, an avowed Yankee hater, intercepts him, throwing roundhouses for several minutes in the middle of the diamond — and, after they’re both ejected, under the Yankee Stadium stands.
8/1/73. Carlton Fisk vs. Thurman Munson and Gene Michael. Peter Gammons says the “dumpy, stubbled Munson” was jealous of “the chiseled, handsome Fisk.” Pudge may have been good-looking, but he was no pretty boy. Gene Michael’s botched squeeze leaves Munson thundering down Fenway’s third-base line, whereupon he crashes into Fisk and tries to lie atop of him so he can’t get rid of the ball. Pudge will have nothing of this. “Fisk had his left arm right across [Michael’s] throat and wouldn’t let up,” then–Yankees manager Ralph Houk once told Gammons. “All the while he had Michael pinned down, he was punching Munson underneath the pile. I had no idea Fisk was that strong, but he was scary.”
8/29/00. Pedro Martínez vs. Gerald Williams. On his fourth pitch of the game, Martínez hits Devil Rays leadoff man Williams in the hand. Williams charges the mound, getting in a few punches before being tackled by Jason Varitek. In the melee that follows, Sox players Brian Daubauch and Lou Merloni are injured. Benches clear again when Williams emerges from the dugout in the seventh. Petey responds by keeping his cool and taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning. It’s first blood in the Red Sox’s newest rivalry.
10/27/04. Jason Varitek vs. Alex Rodriguez. (Undercard: Trot Nixon and Gabe Kapler vs. Tanyon Sturtze.) If you believe some folks, this was the fight that shook a moribund team from its doldrums and turned the Year of Our Championship around. I’m not so sure it’s that cut-and-dried, but it sure was fun to see Varitek rearrange that metrosexual’s face. And Tek’s apocryphal rejoinder to A-Rod before the first punch — “We don’t throw at .260 hitters” — is priceless. Bonus points for this being the game in which Worcester’s own Tanyon Sturtze became a “true Yankee.” Ha!
4/18/06. Seth McClung vs. Mike Lowell. Sticking up for his boys, the fiery-haired fireballer puts one right between the ribs of “nice guy” Mike Lowell. Johnny Pesky then emerges from the dugout and dispatches each of the Tampa Bay starting nine with his bare hands. Okay, this hasn’t happened ... yet.