One of the greatest brawls of all time breaks out between the Blue Jays and the Rangers (image via Sports Illustrated)
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One of the greatest brawls of all time breaks out between the Blue Jays and the Rangers (image via Sports Illustrated)

You’ve already seen a couple fights this MLB season, but do they land amongst the best brawls of all time?

Three weeks into the 2018 MLB season, there have already been several bench-clearing baseball fights. The bad blood between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees boiled over in one of their first matchups of the year.

The Colorado Rockies’s superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado charged San Diego Padre pitcher Luis Perdomo after the latter hit him with a pitch. While these brawls definitely added some spice to the first few weeks of the season, where do they stack up against the greatest baseball fights of all time? 

There have been some truly incredible baseball fights over the course of MLB history. Many revolve around rivalries; over the course of several seasons, players have plenty of opportunities to build up bad blood.

Oftentimes, baseball fights spring from personal vendettas and grudges built up over time. Other brawls start from ‘accidents’ on the field; plenty of players have started fights after getting hit by a pitcher who made it incredibly obvious that they intended harm.

Obviously, there is no official ranking for which baseball fights are the best. This list, however, contains six of the most entertaining fights of all time.

6.  St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds, August 10, 2010

Cardinals, Reds engage in wild brawl

This brawl actually started off the diamond, making it somewhat unique. It began as a war of insults; Brandon Phillips of the Reds called the Cardinals “little bitches” that “bitch and moan about everything.” Obviously, the Cardinals players took exception to those comments and catcher Yadier Molina let Phillips know that in his first at bat.

As the benches cleared, the two shouted at each other at the plate.The altercation seemed tame until Cardinals’ manager, Tony La Russa, got in the face of Reds’ manager Dusty Baker. Suddenly the war of insults turned into a fistfight.  

Punches were thrown and ejections were issued, much to the delight of the Cincinnati home crowd. One of the most substantial injuries was in fact caused by friendly fire. As Reds’ pitcher Johnny Cueto kicked his team’s catcher Jason LaRue in the head, LaRue sustained a concussion.

Because of that accidental kick, LaRue was actually forced to retire at season’s end. This was a classic case of rival players holding grudges spilling out in violence on the baseball diamond.

5.  Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers, May 15, 2016

Blue Jays, Rangers get into wild melee

The foundations for this brawl were laid long before it actually began, all the way back in the 2015 postseason. The Blue Jays’s third baseman, José Bautista, hit a three-run homer to give his team the lead in the deciding Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series.

Bautista followed the home run with a bat flip, which the opposing team felt was disrespectful. The Rangers, and particularly second baseman Rougned Odor, did not forget that episode. In the May 16 matchup, they made Bautista pay for his transgressions.

In the eighth inning of a tightly contested game, Bautista made a dangerous slide into second base in an attempt to break up a double play. Instead, however, he managed to ignite Odor’s anger, pent up over months of stewing over the playoff exit at Bautista’s hands.

Odor promptly began to take his anger out on Bautista’s face. He landed a clean right hook on Bautista, knocking his sunglasses off his face and sending the benches into an all-out scrum. By the time order was restored, eight players had to be ejected. Nevertheless, the Rangers were able to cling to the one run lead to win the game 7 – 6.

4.  Texas Rangers vs. Chicago White Sox, August 4, 1993

Robin Ventura, Nolan Ryan duke it out

All the way back in 1993, the Rangers featured in yet another famous baseball brawl, this time against the Chicago White Sox. This battle began between the Rangers’s Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan, and the White Sox’s third baseman, Robin Ventura. Ryan, in the twilight of his MLB career at 46 years old, could still throw 100 mph fastballs with ease.

However, one of those fastballs escaped him, hitting Ventura in the back. Ventura hesitated for a second; then he charged the mound and displayed his inexperience for all the world. Ryan was more than ready for him, wrapping him up in a headlock and giving him a royal beat down. Soon, however, both teams mobbed the mound and put a stop to it. 

3.  Seattle Mariners vs. Baltimore Orioles, June 6, 1993

Wild brawl ensues after Mike Mussina plunks Bill Haselman

Another 1993 fight makes the list here for its sheer longevity. It all started when Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina hit Mariners catcher Bill Haselman, who had homered earlier in the game. Mariners pitcher Chris Bosio, who had recently returned after a broken collarbone, managed to re-break it in the fight. The brawl featured multiple breakouts, delaying the game at hand for a solid 20 minutes. 

At one point, the cops actually had to step in. Baltimore police entered the field of play to try and break up the brawl, but the umpires ordered them away. Pile after pile of fighting players broke out, giving the fans quite the show. This fight also almost cost the Orioles’s Hall of Fame shortstop, Cal Ripken, his consecutive start streak after he twisted his knee in the midst of the brawl. 

2.  Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Yankees, May 19, 1998

Tino Martinez drilled in the back, a wild brawl ensues

The Baltimore Orioles are the second team to appear multiple times on this list, this time against their longtime rivals, the Yankees. After Orioles relief pitcher Armando Benitez gave up a three-run home run in the eighth inning, he decided to drill the next Yankee batter square in the back.

While the batter didn’t charge the mound, the benches cleared, with players and coaches alike yelling back and forth at each other with a less-than-flattering vocabulary. 

Eventually, emotions spilled over and the meet-and-greet at the mound got ugly. Soon, it exploded into a huge brawl that drifted into the dugout. Yankee right fielder Darryl Strawberry landed the cleanest shot of the night; he broke through the lines late in the fight and clocked Benitez straight in the face. Of course, he was far from the only Yankee who wanted a piece of Benitez. 

1.  San Diego Padres vs. Atlanta Braves, August 12, 1984

Tempers flare, benches clear in Atlanta

The top spot on this list goes to a late-season matchup which turned into what many call “the brawl to end all brawls.” The game was absolute mayhem from start to finish. The benches cleared four times; in the end, no less than 13 players were ejected, along with both managers.

It began in the first inning when Braves starter Pascual Perez hit San Diego second baseman Alan Wiggins in the lower back. Insults began flying between the two. Padres starter Ed Whitson then attempted to hit Perez in his first trip to the plate, and Perez was thrown at during every subsequent plate appearance. 

Even fans got involved with some of the fighting, jumping on the field and joining the action, and police at the event had to work hard to make sure the chaos didn’t spread to the stands. Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams of the Padres was given a 10-game suspension for his role in the brawl.

In addition, Braves manager Joe Torre would get three games and call Williams an “idiot” after the game and compare him to Hitler. It truly was the “brawl to end all brawls.”

The list of memorable baseball fights extends far beyond this list, with more brawls starting every season. One of the reasons baseball can be so intriguing to watch is the massive unwritten rulebook that governs the players.

Breaking an unwritten rule can trigger a violent outbreak that nobody truly understands, but that nearly every spectator enjoys. Tempers flare and words fly, with fists (and sometimes a helmet, glove or bat) following soon thereafter. The drama that follows many of baseball’s great rivalries is yet another reason the sport is so interesting to watch.

Writer Profile

Sam Thoma

Wisconsin Lutheran College
Communicative Arts


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