Some fans think the most exciting play in baseball is an inside-the-park home run. Our vote goes to the bench-clearing brawl (OK, so that’s technically not a “play,” but you get the point). Every now and then something happens, usually a hit batter or hard slide, which sparks a skirmish on the field. Most of these incidents look remarkably similar, with players rushing onto the field to exchange words and shoves. Fans cheer wildly before umpires finally restore order. But some of these scenes escalate into brawls. A rare few of those transcend that status to become classics, producing unforgettable scenes everyone remembers years later.
10. Phillies vs. Mets (1989)
Gregg Jefferies grounds out to end the game, and immediately charges Phillies closer Roger McDowell. Jefferies seems to get the upper hand, slamming McDowell to the ground, but the pitcher unleashes a quick flurry of punches, almost like a video-game character.
9. Cardinals vs. Reds (2010)
Here’s a brawl that started before a pitch was even thrown. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina has some words for Brandon Phillips at the plate, which quickly clears the benches. (Phillips had told a reporter that he hated the Cardinals; this incident probably did not change his mind.) The fans behind the home-plate netting find themselves literally inches away from the action.
8. Angels vs. Twins (1978)
Bobby Grich is furious after Roger Erickson throws a pitch behind him. After charging the mound Grich starts seeking other targets, leading the broadcaster to say, “Grich is hittin’ anybody in sight!” And then other players start beating on Grich like a piñata.
7. Braves vs. Reds (1984)
Braves outfielder Claudell Washington homered off Mario Soto in the first inning; Soto responded by knocking down Washington with a pitch in the third. So in the fifth inning, Washington flings his bat wildly toward the right side of the infield. Surely, he didn’t hurl the bat on purpose so he could leisurely walk out to the pitcher’s mound to ambush Soto, right? When an umpire intervenes, Washington charges at Soto.
6. Athletics vs. Angels (1995)
You only need to know one of the key figures in this brawl — Athletics manager Tony La Russa. He is involved in the middle of the action from the start, and watch just after the 1:20 mark here, where his eyes go psycho as he stares down an opponent. The La Russa Brawl Face would make a terrifying Halloween mask.
5. Red Sox vs. Yankees (2003)
We hate to make light of a 72-year-old man being thrown to the ground in a brawl, but that happened here in Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox. Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez knocks down Yankees coach Don Zimmer (around the 1:10 mark). Incidents such as these are why the two teams have one of the fiercest rivalries in American sports.
4. Blue Jays vs. Rangers (2016)
Jose Bautista slides hard into second baseman Rougned Odor, who then shoves Bautista. When Bautista moves to respond, Odor lands a hard right punch that sends Bautista’s glasses and helmet flying. It’s possibly the most epic punch ever landed in an MLB brawl. (Bautista had a classic response in a post-game interview: “It takes a little bit of a bigger man to knock me down”).
3. Yankees vs. Red Sox (1976)
Lou Piniella runs over Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, who immediately comes up swinging. Incredibly, within three or four seconds players from both sides are throwing punches — almost as if the bitter rivals were waiting for a reason to fight.
2. White Sox vs. Rangers (1993)
Two-time All-Star Robin Ventura played 16 seasons in the majors, had almost 1,900 hits and later went on to manage the White Sox. Yet many fans remember him primarily for this 1993 incident where he charged Nolan Ryan … and got pummeled by the Ryan Express, who was almost twice his age.
1. Braves vs. Padres (1984)
Depending upon your perspective, this is often regarded as the worst (or most awesome) brawl in modern baseball history. Braves hurler Pascual Perez hit Alan Wiggins with the game’s first pitch, and became a target for Padres pitchers. This beanball war led to three separate brawls during the game. During one incident (1:10 mark in video), San Diego’s Champ Summers charges the dugout to confront Perez, but Braves slugger Bob Horner steps out to block the way. At that point, fans start climbing out of the stands to get involved.