To continue the MLB Opening Week celebration, I wanted to take a look at one of the best parts of baseball: the bench-clearing brawl. They’re not all that common, and good ones are even more rare, but they make the game entertaining and make it seem like a real rivalry and war. Famous rivalries are nothing without these fights, and some have featured numerous memorable battles. Here’s the top six bench-clearing brawls baseball has ever seen:
6. May 20, 2006: Cubs vs White Sox
This brawl didn’t have too much animosity after the original brawl, but the beginning was truly great. A city-wide rivalry between two teams that very much didn’t like each other. Add in all the personalities the 2006 White Sox housed, and you had an epic brawl on your hands. A.J. Pierzynski showcased his usual attitude, and collided with Michael Barrett at home plate to score. Afterwards, Pierzynski decided to take things up a notch, and Barrett escalated things with a punch straight to Pierzynski’s face. Not much came from the brawl after the benches cleared, but the beginning sequence was a great addition to an already huge rivalry.
5. August 4, 1993: Rangers vs White Sox, 1993
Nolan Ryan is known as one of the best pitchers of all-time, so it’s not surprising that some young guns in the MLB would want to take a shot at the big man on campus. Enter 26-year-old Robbie Ventura of the Chicago White Sox. Ventura took a Ryan fastball to his back, and decided to charge the 46-year old pitcher to get revenge. Ryan ended up putting Ventura in a headlock and punched him repeatedly as benches cleared around the two at the mound. Ryan’s career ended shortly after this fight, but it was definitely a nice way to finish off a successful career.
4. September 24, 1996: Expos vs. Phillies
Pedro Martinez was certainly known for his personality and anger when he’s on the mound, and he was known for showing it in some of the most memorable moments in MLB history. Martinez, on the Montreal Expos at this point in his career, had pegged a batter earlier in the game in the ribs, creating some animosity between the two teams that came to a climax later in the game. Martinez stepped to the plate for the Expos in a sacrifice-bunt situation, and was thrown at twice by Phillies pitcher Mike Williams. Martinez charged the mound, threw his helmet at Williams, and an all-out war ensued. It was the first of many memorable Martinez moments, and it isn’t the pitcher’s last appearance on this Pick-Six.
3. October 11, 2003: Red Sox vs Yankees
I struggled with which of the two famous Red Sox-Yankees brawls I wanted to put higher on this list, and decided to put this epic 2003 battle in the three-spot. It all started with Martinez drilling Yankees outfielder Karim Garcia, and then further taunting the Yankees bench by pointing to his head to signal what would happen next. Later on, Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens threw close to Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez’s head, which instigated the fight that ensued. The biggest moment of this famous brawl was 72-year-old Don Zimmer of the Yankees charging and getting thrown to the ground by Martinez, which came to be one of the biggest and most important memories from the storied rivalry.
2. July 24, 2004: Red Sox vs. Yankees
This brawl features two repeats previously featured on this Pick-Six: Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. I put this edition of the famous rivalry over its predecessor because of the way it escalated the rivalry in that 2004 season, and the memorable moments involved in the whole scenario. The rivalry didn’t need anything to spark it further, but the addition of Alex Rodriguez to the fray made things far more interesting. Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo had drilled Rodriguez in the shoulder, and as A-Rod made his way slowly down the first base line, he and Arroyo exchanged some choice words that escalated the further Rodriguez walked. Red Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek stepped in between the pitcher and the batter and ended up shoving his mitt into Rodriguez’s face, starting one of the most famous battles the two teams ever saw. The teams would battle in a historic American League Championship Series later that October, which saw a historic four-game comeback by Boston to advance to their first World Series win in 86 years.
1. August 12, 1984: Atlanta Braves vs. San Diego Padres
Originally I had only thought about the two Red Sox-Yankees brawls on this list when it came to picking the top spot on this week’s Pick-Six. As I was researching, however, I came across this gem of a game between the Atlanta Braves and the San Diego Padres in 1984. Pascual Perez got thrown at three times in this game. In one of the earlier occasions, the benches cleared and Perez ran around with his bat in his hands ready to fight. In this instance in the game, everyone got involved, including the fans. The brawls went on around the field and in the stands, and true pandamonium occurred. It was one of the crazier things to ever happen in baseball, and takes the top spot on this Pick-Six.