Baseball’s 10 Best Bench-Clearing Brawls

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista (19) gets hit by Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor (12) after Bautista slid into second in the 8th inning at Globe Life Park on May 15, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. Richard W. Rodriguez / Fort Worth Star-Telegram /Getty Images

The baseball world was given a gift this past weekend when Rougned Odor hit Jose Bautista with a punch GIF’d ‘round the world in what was a truly excellent baseball fight. Given that they don’t happen every game, and introduce some shocking violence and intensity to what’s usually a relatively laidback sport, there’s rarely such a thing as a bad baseball fight. But the Rangers/Jays fight from this weekend is undoubtedly one of the best, and can take its place along with these other highlights of the genre:

White Sox vs Rangers, August 4, 1993 

Poor Robin Ventura. Here’s a man who hit almost 300 home runs, was a multiple-time Gold Glove winner, is the owner of one of baseball’s only “grand slam singles,” yet one of his moment iconic moments for a lot of people is probably when his attempt to charge the mound and take on 45-year-old Nolan Ryan ended in disgrace. After being nailed by a Nolan Ryan fastball, Ventura charged the mound, only to slow down as he seemed to realize that Ryan wasn’t going make any kind of retreat. As you watch Ventura realize he might have made a terrible mistake and then halfheartedly try to tackle Ryan, Nolan Ryan put him in a solid big brother headlock and proceeded to just wail away on Ventura’s noggin.

Watch it here.

Yankees vs Orioles, May 19,1998

While the early 2000s saw the Red Sox and Yankees fight (sometimes literally) for the American League East crown, the Yankees and Orioles spent a couple years fighting it out at the top in the late '90s. In 1998, that rivalry went nuclear after Orioles reliever Armando Benitez drilled Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez in the back with a fastball. While at first the fight started slowly and looked like it would just be some jawing at the mound, things got absolutely out of control, with players calming down only to fight again, culminating in the surreal sight of players from both teams pounding the hell out of each other in the Orioles dugout.

Watch it here.

Red Sox vs Yankees, October 11, 2003

Speaking of the Red Sox and Yankees, their early 2000s battles provided a few fights to choose from, but for pure insanity, nothing can beat this October 2003 fight between the teams. For starters, it took place during the playoffs, the last time you want to lose anyone to suspensions or fight-related injuries. Second, it featured Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez trying to go after the Yankees’ Roger Clemens while still holding his bat. Third, the Yankees’ 70+-year-old bench coach Don Zimmer decided to make an ill-advised bull rush at Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, resulting in the endlessly GIF-able moment of Martinez casually throwing Zimmer to the ground. And finally, it led to one of the great Pedro Martinez quotes of all time, in which he defended himself against the charge of throwing at Garcia by rhetorically asking, “Who are you, Karim Garcia, to question Pedro Martinez?” 

Watch it here

Braves vs Padres (vs fans), August 12, 1984

Braves pitcher Pascual Perez was a target all game, after starting the afternoon by hitting the Padres’ Alan Wiggins with a pitch, but he wasn’t actually beaned until his fourth trip to the plate. Once he was though, there was a brawl that had everything. The benches cleared, side fights broke out between players not in the dog pile, an umpire was dragged down into a pile of fighting players. The Padres' Champ Summers made a lone, mad dash across the field toward the Braves’ dugout attempting to reach Perez, but was cut off by the Braves’ Bob Horner. That’s when some fans decided that they wanted in on the action, throwing beer and jumping onto the field to join the fight. The players briefly made peace, united by the opportunity to pound on some fans, but quickly went back to jawing with and shoving each other. Finally, in a moment that could only happen in the 1980s, the camera found police leading away a man wearing a light pink collared shirt and mustard yellow pants. Was it because he jumped onto the field or was it because of his fashion crime? The answer has been forgotten by history.

Watch it here

Mets vs Reds, July 22, 1986

The 1986 Mets were an incredibly well-rounded team that dominated the National League on the way to 108 wins. They could pitch, they could hit, they could field, and it also turned out they could fight, leading the league with four bench-clearing brawls and one off-hours Houston bar fight. The best of the bunch (since we’ve never seen footage of the bar fight) was this one halfway through the season, when Mets’ third baseman Ray Knight and Reds’ outfielder Eric Davis had a disagreement after Davis stole third base. Rather than solving things diplomatically, Knight hit Davis with a right cross. The benches emptied, and while Knight didn’t get another good shot in at Davis, fellow Met Kevin Mitchell did some damage before he was taken down by two Reds players, while the play-by-play team finally had some context to share the fact that Reds pitcher John Denny was a karate expert.

Watch it here

Pawtucket Red Sox vs Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons, July 3, 2001

Izzy Alcantara never was able to have an impact in the major leagues, but that didn’t stop him from delivering one of pro baseball’s more memorable moments. Taking offense at a pitch he deemed too far inside, Alcantara took the law into his own hands. Before charging the mound, though, Alcantara delivered a surprise superkick to the Red Barons’ catcher that would make Shawn Michaels himself proud, an act of such stunning violence that by the time he reached the mound, no one there wanted a piece of him.

Watch it here

Braves vs Brewers, September 25, 2013

The endless, numbing argument over bat flip etiquette and respect and “playing the game the right way” got a superpowered shot in the arm thanks to this Braves versus Brewers fight late in the season. Multiple Braves took exception to Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez admiring his (impressive) home run, but none more so than Braves catcher Brian McCann, whose no-fun streak ran so deep he prevented Gomez from finishing his home run trot by standing in front of home plate and screaming in Gomez’ face, leading to the benches clearing and punches being thrown.

Watch it here

Cubs vs White Sox, May 20, 2006

There was a time in his career that well-traveled catcher A.J. Pierzynski was one of the most hated players in baseball, by opposing fans and his peers. For an example of why that might be, witness him emphatically (or obnoxiously) slapping home plate running over the Cubs’ Michael Barrett. Home plate collisions are a fact of life for catchers, but maybe because of the violence of it, maybe because it was a cross-town rivalry game, or maybe just because it was A.J. Pierzynski, Barrett immediately got up and hit Pierzynski with a solid punch straight to the jaw, sparking a bench-clearing brawl. The highlight, though, was definitely the moment just before Barrett landed his punch, thankfully captured for eternity in an iconic photograph.

Watch it here

Marlins vs Nationals, September 2, 2010

Is there such a thing as getting to the mound too fast when you charge at the pitcher? Ask the Nationals’ Nyjer Morgan, who reacted to a pitch being thrown behind him after a previous beaning in the same game by running full speed at the Marlins’ Chris Volstad. Morgan got there so quickly that there was no one but a third base coach to back him up after he was taken out with a brutal clothesline by first baseman Gaby Sanchez and covered by the rest of the Marlins’ infield. Morgan would emerge from the dogpile, holding his arms up triumphantly to taunt the crowd, but did so looking absolutely worse for the wear.

Watch it here

White Sox vs Disco, July 12, 1979

Who could have predicted that charging 98 cents for a pre-game ceremony in which a lunatic DJ set off a bomb in centerfield could have turned into a drunken, flame-filled disaster? Well the White Sox certainly couldn’t have predicted that, because if they had, the spectacle of Disco Demolition Night would never have graced our nation. What was supposed to be an innocent blowing up of a crate of disco records turned into something out of Mad Maxas thousands of fans stormed the field and decided to have a booze-fueled party. While contemporary accounts claimed that Disco Demolition Night “killed disco,” you could argue that the music genre won in the long run. Not only did the White Sox have to forfeit their game against the Tigers, but disco and dance music found whole new audiences in the 21st century thanks to the popularity of genres like dance punk and EDM.

Watch it here. 

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