Fight Night round 1

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With all of the bean balls thrown in this year’s World Series, you would think that we would have had at least one bench clearing brawl at this point. I mean, really, do the Yankee players dislike Alex Rodriguez that much? He’s been hit harder than Dustin Diamond on Celebrity Boxing so far this series and never has a teammate backed him up, either with some chin music (hitting Victorino on the hand doesn’t count) or at least a few shouted words across the field. My point is this: there’s no way you can let one of your best players get beaned over and over without some sort of retribution; eventually you have to stand up and protect your teammates.

it turns out I do condone fighting…  

There’s no way that any of these Phillie hitters would have to worry about that, not with Pedro Martinez pitching on Wednesday.  (sidenote: Phillies 5 Yankees 2 for Wednesday’s game). Call it barbaric, call it childish, or whatever you will, but I love the way that Pedro backs up his teammates. Be it a fastball into the ribs or a threatening point to the head during a confrontation;  you know, as one of his teammates, that he’s got your back. You can’t help but love playing with a guy like that.
With all that said, I really wanna see these two teams throw down during this series. Nothing spices up a series like a little bit of violence and bad blood between teams, a la Yankees/Red Sox in 2003. You can’t tell me that the possibility of Pedro and A-Rod squaring off on one side of the field while Texiera and Howard duke it out on the other doesn’t get you a little bit excited. Go ahead…. Admit it…we all wanna see it, there’s no shame in that. Throw in the possibility of a Derek Jeter/Robinson Cano tag match against Rollins and Utley, and this brawl could have all the makings of a classic…. Right down to a crazed Nick Swisher shanking players in the kneecaps with a broken bat as  he runs by, followed by  him bashing a steel chair across the head of a stunned Joe Girardi… (maybe I shouldn’t watch Monday Night Raw after all…. Nah.) Regardless, these teams need to man up and throw down.

All this talk about fighting makes me wonder about some of the best sports fights of all time (not including hockey, where so many happen that the talent pool is drained).  Also, it’s hard to properly evaluate fights in the NBA 20 years ago. It was just a part of the game. Get into a fight, get ejected, come back for the next game: wash, rinse, repeat.

So without further ado, here’s my top six favorite sports fights. (Editor’s note: these aren‘t the best, or most memorable in history, just my favorites, for various reasons.)

6.  Cubs v. White Sox 2006:

Jealousy is never pretty.

The further away from this one I get, the more I appreciate it. The White Sox were coming off a World Series winning season (still feels good), and they were absolutely tooling the Cubs in this matchup.  We have A.J. Pierzynski, a douche bag in his own  right, making a clean play and plowing Michael Barrett over at home on a sacrifice fly. Then for some reason (I don’t now what, maybe it was Barrett’s time of the month) Barrett responded by taking a cheap shot at A.J.’s face like the big girl that he is (even Cub’s fans can’t deny that Michael Barrett is a jerk.), the benches cleared, all hell broke loose, and we got to see the  immortal Brian Anderson throwing massive uppercuts into John Mabry’s face. Classic. This one makes the list because it’s the first time I realized, wow, I can’t stand that team, I want them to lose for all eternity. All in all, one of the best fights I’ve seen in my lifetime, made better by the fact that these teams really hate each other, and God hates the Cubs.

Final damage done: 10 game suspension for Michael Barrett, 5 games for Brian Anderson. Complete loss of momentum for both teams for the rest of the year.

5. Kyle Farnsworth v. Paul Wilson, 2003:
With the rampant steroid use in the 1990’s and the early 2000’s, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that these two players were involved in my favorite pre-White Sox championship baseball moment. In a league full of wasted talent, Kyle Farnsworth is the poster boy  for this generation of pitchers, like a 2003 version of Joel Zumaya. Great fastball, no secondary pitch, and absolutely no baseball IQ. The one thing he did have was some darn perfect tackling form, and when he buzzed Reds pitcher Paul Wilson with a fastball, the whole world got to see what he was made of. On a shortsightedness scale of 1 to 10, I’d give Wilson’s mound charge about a 15. What the heck could he have been thinking? Maybe he got his jollies off of being beaten by other men, or maybe he was picked on too much as a child. I don’t know what it was, but he definitely should have found a better outlet for his frustrations. 30 seconds and one memorable butt-kicking into the “fight” Farnsworth had solidified himself as the game’s best tackler, as well as somebody no one wanted to mess with.
Final damage done: 2 game suspension for Kyle Farnsworth (worth it)  along with a lifelong “bad-ass” title. A 5 game suspension for Paul Wilson, along with a busted up face and his tail between his legs.

Why would you think charging the mound is a good idea?

4.   Juan Marichal v. John Roseboro 1965:
This goes down as one of the best baseball fights in the history of sports. It was a game on August 22, 1965, a game in the middle of a classic pennant race between the Giants (featuring Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, and Willie McCovey) and the Dodgers (with Sandy Koufax, and Maury Wills). Early in the game, Marichal had beaned Wills with a fastball, and in retaliation, Koufax (who was 21-5 at the time, 21-5 in the middle of August!!) threw a high and tight fastball, just missing Marichal. On the return throw to the pitcher, Roseboro nicked Marichal’s ear. Like anyone else, this ticked Marichal off. He proceeded to turn around and savagely beat Roseboro in the head with his bat, opening up a giant gash across his forehead and splattering both men’s uniforms with blood….. Let’s recap here… He beat him with a freaking bat!?!?!! If that happened today, he would be suspended for life and spend a year in prison. But this was 1965, so things were handled a little differently.
Final damage done: 8 day suspension and  a 1,750 dollar fine for Marichal, as well as a 7,500 dollar court settlement with Roseboro and being black-balled from the Hall of Fame for years. (Only Roseboro publicly campaigning for Marichal’s induction got him into the Hall.) Insane.

3. Indiana Pacers  v. the city of Detroit 2005:
I’m sure Jake can give you more details on this one. (It did single-handedly destroy one of the best franchises in pro basketball, along with the title dreams of the Pacers and Reggie Miller’s career; other than that…. Not much damage done.) But I do remember watching this happen and being absolutely flabbergasted. For those of you who don’t remember, here’s the recap: One year after losing to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Indiana Pacers started off the 2004 season absolutely on fire. They were the best team in the league, hands-down. They had the best defensive player (Ron Artest) a top-5 player (Jermaine O’Neal) and the deepest bench in the league.  Even mentally challenged Piston’s fans can’t deny that. Up by fifteen points with 45 seconds to go, Ben Wallace

Who ruined your franchise? This guy!!!

drove down the lane and was fouled hard by Ron Artest. A good foul. A we don’t like you, you hate us foul. Very appropriate. Then things got more than a little bit crazy.
After the foul, Ben Wallace delivered a man-sized shove into the chest of Ron-Ron, and then threw his sweatband at Artest amid some taunting on both sides. I’m not gonna go into details, (you can see the whole thing here) but to make a long story short, the Pacers had their top 3 players suspended for a total of 137 games, effectively screwing the Pacer’s season and sending the franchise down the crapper…. Indiana fans and the franchise have never recovered. The Pacers, decimated by the suspensions somehow made the playoffs and put a scare into the defending champion Pistons. Detroit lost in the finals and may finally be getting their karmic payback by having Ben Gordon on their roster for the foreseeable future. Karma works in mysterious ways…
Final damage done: Full season suspension for Ron Artest,  (86 games including the playoffs) 15 games for Jermaine O’Neal, and 30 games for Stepen Jackson. A mere 6 games for Ben Wallace. Basketball purgatory for the Indiana franchise.

I know what you’re wondering right now: how can anything beat out a 10-person melee and one player beating another in the head with a bat? Well, as bizarre and incredible as those two were, these next two are remarkable for the impressive pugilistic abilities of the players involved:

2. Nolan Ryan v. Robin Ventura 1993:
Nolan Ryan is without question one of the top-5 pitchers in Major League history. The all-time leader in no-hitters (7 no-no’s) and strikeouts ( over 5,700), he also gave us the most astonishing butt-kicking in big league history. In an August game against the Chicago White Sox, in the final year of his career, Ryan punctuated his legacy of intimidation with one final statement. In the fifth inning, Ryan beaned White Sox 3rd baseman Robin Ventura prompting the 26 year old Ventura to charge the mound for revenge. This would be like Robinson Cano charging the mound on Jamie Moyer…. You just know how it’s going to end, right? Wrong. While Ventura had revenge on his mind, Ole Nolan had other ideas. Using a method he described as “how he prepared steers for branding back home” he grabbed Ventura by the head using his left hand before throwing six hard punches directly at Ventura’s head. Absolutely kicked his butt. Here’s the best part of this story: Ventura and manager Gene

damn.

LaMont were immediately ejected, but Ryan was allowed to stay in the game!!! If that happened today, both players and both managers would get fined and suspended out the wazoo. Back then, Ryan stayed in and pitched no-hit ball the rest of the way. Fantastic.
Final damage done: Ventura’s reputation never recovered, and Ryan’s career had the perfect cherry on top.

1. Rudy Tomjanavich v. Kermit Washington 1977:

This story has a lot of sadness involved, there’s not quite as much entertainment value involved.  Like I said earlier, the NBA used to be a much more violent game. Today, if you throw a wild elbow you’re suspended for a game, playoffs or not. God forbid you punch another player, that could have you out for a week, or even a full season (see Artest, Ron). Back then, everyone just cleaned up the mess, shook hands, and did it all over again the next night. This happened with every fight: except this one.
During a 1977 game between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers,  words were exchanged, pushing ensued, and a fight broke out on the court: like I said, all standard fare for the time. Then Kermit Washington intervened. According to Washington, he saw Rudy running toward the melee to get involved,  and he threw a vicious blind side punch on Rudy T, upper-cutting him in the face, shattering his jaw and cheekbones, and inflicting life threatening head-injuries. This was “Million Dollar Baby” , Ron Artest, and Mike Tyson level cheap shots all mixed into one.  More or less ruined his career, could have ended his life…Absolutely despicable. However, Rudy T, who was one of the classiest men in sports, said in an interview recently “I wish the best for him (Washington). He made a mistake, and everyone deserves another chance.” Class at it’s finest.

Final damage done: The league office, tired of the constant in-game fighting, used this incident as a  springboard to clean up the league, mandating stricter penalties for fighting and throwing punches.  Washington was suspended for 26 games, and took a permanent hit to his reputation. Tomjanovich went on to be one of the top coaches in the NBA during the 1990’s, leading the Houston Rockets to back-to-back championships.  (side note: during the 1994 finals, Tomjanovich delivered one of the most inspirational speeches to his team, we’re talking Jim Valvano level inspiration here.) Also, I admit it, I’m guilty, I’m a Rudy T fan. If only he never coached the Lakers…

After all of this, I guess I have to admit that fighting does occasionally have it’s downsides, but I still want to see the World Series have at least Royal Rumble. Please, it’s for the kids.

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