What are the biggest brawls in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 10
There's nothing like a brawl to get the juices flowing during a long, hot summer. We're unlikely to see too many dustups in 2020, thanks to the coronavirus and the need to stay socially distanced, as well as the fact that the baseball season will only be 60 games.
That doesn't mean we can't look back at some of our favorites, however. The Red Sox have been no strangers to fisticuffs over the years, from Billy Martin jumping Jimmy Piersall in a tunnel before a game in 1952 to Machine Gun Joe Kelly beckoning Tyler Austin to join him on the mound in 2018.
This list was originally going to be top five, but there were too many memorable options and no shortage of worthy candidates the ended up on the cutting room floor — David Ortiz vs. the Orioles' Kevin Gregg was a good one, for instance. So enjoy this list and don't be surprised when a number of entries are accompanied by a jolt of adrenaline.
10. Kevin Youkilis vs. Rick Porcello
August 11, 2009
Poor Porcello. Only 20 years old and a wide-eyed rookie, he had a host of family and friends up from New Jersey when he found himself in a lousy position. Because the Red Sox had hit superstar Miguel Cabrera twice in two days, Porcello knew it would fall on him to retaliate. He knocked down Victor Martinez in the first and then hit the combustible Youkilis with the first pitch of the second.
Youkilis had already been hit nine times at that point, and he decided he had had enough, so he charged Porcello like a bull, throwing his helmet errantly and then wrapping up the rapidly retreating right-hander practically at the first base bag. Porcello used Youkilis's momentum to hip-toss him to the grass and a pileup ensued.
9. Roger Clemens vs. John Shelby
July 6, 1991
A forgotten gem, this one came after the Rocket had allowed back-to-back homers — he entered the game having served up only three — and so the big Texan decided to remind Shelby's Tigers that they shouldn't get too comfortable in the box. As Shelby charged at the franchise right-hander, Fenway Park held its collective breath.
But catcher John Marzano recognized the severity of the situation and made like Adam Vinatieri chasing down Herschel Walker, catching Shelby from behind and tackling him just as he reached the mound, but before he could do real damage to the Cy Young Award winner. Shelby was ejected and Clemens ended up throwing eight innings and earning the win when the Red Sox rallied for a 7-4 victory.
8. Aaron Sele vs. George Bell
September 6, 1993
Wait for it, wait for it … POW! Say hello to Mo Vaughn. There's defending your pitcher and then there's how Vaughn took care of Sele in Chicago after he dusted Bell with one fastball and buzzed the next one behind his head. Bell raced to the mound cocking a roundhouse right, which a retreating Sele easily dodged.
Bell never had a chance to reload, because Vaughn, a former high school linebacker, raced into the frame and laid him out with a cross body block before standing over Bell's corpse in an offensive crouch, ready to take on all challengers. The White Sox thought better of tussling with the 6-foot-1, 250-pound future MVP and the Red Sox went on to win the game.
It should be noted that Bell nearly made this list twice, thanks to his flying karate kick at Bruce Kison in 1985.
7. Joe Kelly vs. Tyler Austin
April 11, 2018
Two words: Let's go. That simple motion from Kelly, the flighty reliever with a penchant for becoming unhittable in October, galvanized the Red Sox at just the moment when their 2018 season was taking off. Kelly drilled Austin with a 98 mph fastball late in a 10-6 game, and the hot-headed outfielder responded by slamming his bat, hesitating for a beat, and then accepting Kelly's invitation to join him on the mound.
The two took each other to the ground without really throwing a punch, but the benches cleared and Austin did land a solid right to the jaw of Red Sox third base coach Carlos Febles, who didn't even buckle. The Red Sox lost that night, but then won their next eight en route to a 17-2 start and the 108-win juggernaut never looked back.
6. Coco Crisp vs. James Shields
June 5, 2008
If there's an underrated blood feud over the last 20 years, it's Red Sox-Rays. There are multiple Tampa-Boston confrontations that didn't make this list, including Matt Joyce vs. John Lackey, Trot Nixon flinging his bat at Ryan Rupe, and David Ortiz vs. Lance Carter. But for sheer slow-motion replayability, Crisp charging Shields might be the best of the bunch.
Watching in real time, it's clear that Crisp ducks and then counterpunches. Only in slo-mo do we get the full Matrix-style quality of the sequence, which requires him to lean back like Neo dodging bullets before confidently firing back in a move befitting his days as an amateur boxer. Shields had drilled him over a hard slide at second, and the young Rays sent a message that they were done being pushed around. These two teams would meet again in an epic ALCS won by Tampa in seven games.
5. Pedro Martinez vs. Don Zimmer
October 11, 2003
Postseason Red Sox-Yankees brawl? Postseason Red Sox-Yankees brawl. The rivalry had everything else, so why not one of the more regrettable moments of Martinez's Hall of Fame career? It was Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS and the Red Sox were still four games away from being Aaron Booned when Martinez grazed Karim Garcia near the helmet. Garcia didn't like it, and Martinez pointed at his own head as if to say, "If I want to hit you here, I won't miss."
An inning later, Roger Clemens threw one high and frankly not that tight to Manny Ramirez, who started towards the mound while waving his bat, causing both benches to empty. The 72-year-old Zimmer confronted Martinez in front of the Red Sox dugout, and the ace right-hander tossed the septuagenarian to the ground. The Yankees got the last laugh with a 4-3 victory.
4. Pedro Martinez vs. Gerald Williams
August 29, 2000
Martinez was so good in 2000, posting a 1.74 ERA en route to his third Cy Young Award, that he only failed to reach the fifth inning once all season. It came on Aug. 14 vs. the Rays, when he allowed three runs in four innings while striking out a season-low six. He seemed intent on sending the young upstarts a message when he drilled Williams leading off the bottom of the first in their next meeting.
Williams took exception, however, and charged the mound, knocking Martinez on his behind. What followed was vintage Pedro. He dusted himself off and proceeded to no-hit the Rays through eight innings. John Flaherty led off the ninth with a clean single to center, and Martinez settled for a one-hit, 13-strikeout shutout. Williams was very Zen when asked about it later.
"Peace," he said, "in this land of confusion."
3. Carlton Fisk vs. Thurman Munson
August 1, 1973
The tragedy is there's no video. But witnesses describe it as a seminal moment in Red Sox-Yankees lore. It's no surprise it featured the two catchers and former Rookies of the Year, because they hated each other. The game was tied 2-2 in the ninth at Fenway Park when Munson tried to score on a suicide squeeze. Gene Michael missed the bunt, however, and then obstructed Fisk, who threw him out of the way as Munson arrived.
The two stout catchers collided and when Munson spent an extra second on top of Fisk after being tagged out, the brawl was on, with Michael throwing sucker punches and Red Sox left-hander Bill Lee comparing the Yankees to a bunch of hookers fighting on 45th Street, words he would come to regret three years later . . .
2. Bill Lee vs. Graig Nettles
May 20, 1976
This was really two brawls in one. It started, like so many Red Sox-Yankees contretemps in those days, with a collision at home plate when Lou Piniella tried to score from second on a single to right, bowling over Carlton Fisk. Fisk applied the tag as the two somersaulted and then applied his fist to Piniella's head.
The benches emptied before Nettles, remembering Lee's less-than-kind description of the brawlers in 1973, dropped the left-hander on his pitching shoulder at precisely the moment when things seemed to be calming down. A clearly injured Lee shouted at Nettles and got decked, with Mickey Rivers throwing haymakers. Lee's career was never the same, and the simmering white-hot intensity of the rivalry exploded.
1. Jason Varitek vs. Alex Rodriguez
July 24, 2004
The granddaddy of them all started the Red Sox on the road to ending the Curse, once and for all. It's easy to forget that the Red Sox started the day 9.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, fumbling towards what felt like another disappointing finish. They weren't even supposed to play because of bad weather, but the players demanded to take the field and the result was an all-timer.
In the third inning, Bronson Arroyo drilled Rodriguez, whom Red Sox fans resented over the failed courtship of the previous winter, and when A-Rod objected, catcher Jason Varitek let him have it with a mitt to the face. The Red Sox unleashed a season's worth of frustration, and then won it 11-10 on Bill Mueller's walk-off two-run homer off of Mariano Rivera.