Posted by Bob Biscigliano
There is nothing more captivating in sports than a great game mixed in there with some heated tension between both teams. If this wasn't the case, then every single Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees series wouldn't be on ESPN like it were a playoff series. The fact of the matter is, that in these types of games, these teams hate each other with a passion, a passion that often leads to some bickering, Jazz chin music, and bench clearing brawls.
Before getting into the real meat of the post, I want to provide some context for the topic:
When signing their kids up for sports at a young age, parents typically look to baseball because their kids won't get hurt tackling the big boned kid on the other team or get their shins kicked in by the ADD kid who can't focus long enough on the ball to kick that. Baseball has long been confused with sports like soccer as being a sissy sport. However, you should already know that is not true at all. Besides the stress one puts on his arm by throwing a baseball everyday and the hustle that comes along with stretching singles into doubles and making diving plays on a playing surface that allows for rocks to fill up Dupree's jockstrap better than his penis does... within the sport of baseball lies a history of codes that every player must abide by. By breaking these 'codes' or committing cardinal sins of baseball, more times than not end up in a player getting his skin cut up from a cleats up slide, or a fastball drilled into his cranium at a speed anywhere from 80-102 mph. As a result, bench clearing brawls tend to take place. Doesn't sound so safe anymore does it, Mom? Today, I would like to speak out on a few bench-clearing brawls, and near bench clearing brawls, I have been a part of during my 1,000 some games in my lifetime. I will try my best to relive these situations, speaking out on my thoughts during the process of these events.
1. Me v. Mark Clugston.
I was about 10 years old, playing for the B.L.L. (Birmingham Little League) Orioles, coached by my Dad and my buddy, C.J.'s Dad. We were the best team in the league and we were playing the 2nd best team, Cubs. Mark Clugston (who, despite his great baseball name, later sold out to play lacrosse in high school) was probably the best player on their team. Anyway, I threw one about ten feet over Mark's head, to the backstop. I had no notion of bench clearing brawls or throwing at guys on purpose at this point in my life. At 10, I was more concerned with getting 5 bucks when I lost a baby tooth. However, Mark's intimidating 10 year old frame stared me down and I heard yelling from their coach (his dad) about me trying to throw at him on purpose. There was no way I was though because all I cared about was finishing with a victory and getting my cherry squeeze it drink after the game.
2. Man Beast v. Me
I was 14 years old, coming into my baseball prime. I was a new member of the Michigan Blackwolf, playing the steroidal NFWB Cobras (Matt Petry played 1B for them). At this point in our lives, the mound was only 54 feet away from home plate-ridiculous for what I had to face this day. I was leading off against a 14 year old who had a full out beard and ripped sleeves from his biceps. From 60 feet, he would probably have been throwing 80 mph (not that slow). From 54 feet, and I'm not a physics major, he was probably throwin 95 mph. Well, I took the first pitch fastball off of my left elbow. I tried to act real hard as I walked slowly to first base. The pitcher started to walk toward me, either for a giant bear hug or to eat me. I wasn't sure. I got half way down the line and realized it hurt really badly, so I clutched my arm, ran to the dugout and iced it for the rest of the game.
3. UNITY v. Andover
This day will go down in history as the most memorable game of my career. We, Detroit Country Day, were riding one of the best regular seasons in school history into the playoffs with one goal in mind: beat Andover and win district finals. It was the most determined, unified, and talented team that I have ever played on. Although there were 3 senior captains by title- I felt like every single player led in some way at some point or another. Ever since early September that year, me and a bunch of the guys on the team, including Chip and Dupree, were hitting every day with former Mr. Baseball and Ohio Univ. Alum, Ryan Kyes in the cages after school to get better. We all got stronger, mentally and physically, thinking only about success as we continuously used our squeezies during classes to add pop to our swings. When the season finally came, it was nothing but business to reach our goals. We had an amazing season, winning the Farmington tournament (Chip won the last game and I threw a no-no in game 2), beat #1 Ann Arbor Pioneer, and #2 Novi. With all of the press our team was getting from local newspapers, the inevitable Andover districts match up was hyped up to a max. Once it came, I steam rolled through Seaholm, again, and Chip threw a shutout gem against Cranbrook to set the infamous match up. DCDS vs. Andover- District Finals- 2004.
It was the Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees match up of Michigan HS Baseball. We waited anxiously for two hours in our school's common room for the other game to finish so the buses could take us back to the field. When we got there and I was warming up to pitch, I remember a huge wave of emotion hitting me as the fans poured into the ballpark stands. I was nervous, but I was so excited to take the ball and help lead my team. Most kids dream of pitching in the MLB or winning the world series. My dream was to play baseball with my friends, UNITY, and win THIS game.
When I took the mound in the first inning, I recall there being more fans at this game than any other game I have ever played in. Even now, after pitching in college at South Carolina, North Carolina, Auburn, and at the Citadel in a Minor League ballpark, I still feel like there was more fans packed in at this high school district game. It was amazing. Fans who couldn't sit in the bleachers provided, filled the upper rows of the football bleachers that hung over the first base dugout. As soon as the game started, I did what Kevin Costner taught me: I cleared the mechanism and started to pitch.
After striking out the first hitter on 3 pitches, and hearing the crowd erupt for us, the mechanism became unclear. I started to feel the hype and the atmosphere more than I wanted to. I started to struggle and wound up giving up a couple first inning runs. I came into the dugout, cussing myself out on the inside, but yelling to my teammates that they wouldn't score anymore- get me 3 runs and we're going to win. I remember my co-captain, C.J. coming up to me and telling me that it was going to be alright, that we got this game.
When we were held scoreless the first couple innings by cheating transfer, Chris Marshall, I couldn't take the frustration anymore. Looing back, it wasn't because we hated their players personally. We just hated their arrogance, their swagger. We had the same exact arrogance and swagger, but of course, we were allowed to, right? They were extra chatty, and pretty bush in terms of celebrating big plays. In addition to that, they had this transfer who was RECRUITED solely to beat us in this game. We hated them. Well, the second time Marshall came to the plate after doubling off me in the first, I decided to use my frustration and take out our hate against them in another fashion. I threw at him. When it landed square in the middle of his back, I acted like the ball got away from me, but the "OOOOO"s coming from the crowd told me I didn't sell it well enough. He stared at me and I ignored him and looked straight at the umpire for another ball. They got extra chirpy from the dugout and we started to hate them even more.
The frustration grew to the maximum in the later innings as I was struggling to get outs. I remember that they had a bunch of cheap hits mixed in with a solid hit that would score the cheapies. We trailed 5-0 I think at this point, and Marshall was up again with the bases loaded. This time, I wanted nothing more than to strike him out and pimp it Zumaya style back to the dugout. Unfortunately, a curve ball got away from me and I hit him in the helmet. Real knowledgeable baseball fans know that hitting a guy with the bases loaded, especially with an offspeed pitch, is not done on purpose. However, Chris and his fans were not that smart. He stopped 2 steps on his way to first and stared at me, yelling, "Was that on purpose???" Normally, I would have pointed out the situation to him, defending the pitch's purpose. However, I was so frustrated that I just let him believe it was on purpose. After all, the first HBP was. I started walking toward him with my 150 lb frame and yelled, "Get to first. Keep walking." The umpire had to come out from behind my brother catching and get between us so we wouldn't attack. At third base, one of their players screamed obscenities while Chip tried to calm him down from 2B. Chip and him started yelling at eachother as I was getting back on the rubber. I remember stepping off and yelling to their player to shutup. I remember wanting him to snap and come at me, wanting to brawl. I was SO frustrated, I remember thinking, that if we were going to lose this game, then we are not going down without a real fight. We were immature high school kids finishing up our illustrious season as a real good team, and more importantly, really good friends. Of course it was frustrating.
Unfortunately, all the hype got to us. We were not able to rebound from the deficit and we wound up getting shutout to lose the game. However, the 45 minutes after the game are the minutes I will never forget as long as I live. I remember Andover's coach coming up to me trying to say how good I was and to just think about all the good teams I had beaten that year and what an amazing career I had. I didn't care about all that. All I could say to him was, "Good luck. I hope you guys can win with a little more class the rest of the way." When we returned to the dugout after the post game speech by our coach, the seniors started to receive hugs from the underclassmen- saying that they would miss us or 'great season' or 'career, man.' That's when we lost it. We all started bawling our eyes out, not because we had lost, but because UNITY was over. Our coaches hugged us with tears in their eyes too, saying we were one of the best TEAMS the school ever had. We sat in the dugout, best friends, teammates, UNITY forever, crying until we had no more tears left. When we gave each other one last hug, we exited the dugout, almost an hour after the game had ended. Behind the enclosed dugout, every single one of our fans, parents, and friends, stood their waiting. As we came around the corner, out of the dugout, our eyes squinting back the tears and the setting sun- all of them gave us a huge ovation. With the tears crusting dry on our cheeks, we forgot about the almost brawl that was DCDS v Andover. Instead, we embraced our loving fans and will never forget and will forever live as UNITY. 2004 Seniors of UNITY
4. Birmingham Barons v. Immigrants of Washington, D.C.
The following summer, the Birmingham Barons merged with the Michigan Blackwolf for a tournament at Penn State University. Although we only had 10 players, we were probably the 7th best group of 10 players to ever get together on the diamond at the same time. We were playing in a night game against this team from D.C. that was full of hispanics and black kids. I'm mean FULL. There were like 30 Danny Almontes vs. a random assortment of 10 friends who happened to play baseball too. Anyway, I was pitching and this game was a real nail biter. We were playing really well, because friends tend to play better together in team situations. It's science. The game was tied for the majority of the game and they were getting pretty bush league. Their entire team was standing outside of the dugout, singing softball and Celine Dion songs, in addition to yelling at my Dad, our coach, for wanting them back in the dugout. My dad is normally pretty quiet and reserved as a coach, but for some reason, this night he couldn't stand their antics and kept demanding the umpire to do something about it. The umpire was a coward and told my Dad to settle down. Their fans asked my dad if he wanted cheese with his wine. It could have grown uglier. However, having learned from my mistakes when I pitched against Andover, I tried not to get distracted by the hype. I just wanted to pitch well for my team and win the game. I did not want their female bush league talk to get in the way of that for my team. Although some of my teammates probably wanted me to throw at someone, I wasn't going to. I was too focused. Me about to steal 2B and 3B
It's okay Dupree. Chip will pick you up.
Chip gets a really good high five from Dupree in our game 1 victory at Penn State Tournament
This game was definitely a near brawl though. It was one pitch over Benito Santiago's head or one Kenny Chesney comment away from punches being thrown.
5. Davidson Copperheads v. Morganton AggiesThis post is getting way too long so this will be short. This past summer, the Morganton Aggies decided to lay down a bunt when they were up an absurd amount of runs. Our pitcher was not happy and started walking toward the hitter asking him why he was bunting. The next inning, one of our best hitters got thrown at. Everyone in the dugout, including me, jumped up from our seats and started to walk out of the dugout. Unfortunately, our coach stopped us about 2 feet from the steps. There was a whole lot of talk about brawling, but nothing actually happened. I'm really glad a brawl didn't happen because I had been working out hardcore that summer and taking NoXplode. I could have killed someone.
Sitting here today, I look back at my baseball career and think, a bench clearing brawl is the one thing missing from it. I've given up 5000 foot home runs to future MLB players, I've striked out big time hitters, I've thrown a no-hitter, I won a championship in Little League, I've thrown a guy out at first from right field, I pitched 2 innings and got an RBI double at Comerica Park in a HS All-Star game but I never was involved in a bench clearing brawl. Hopefully, I can change that in my upcoming softball career when everyone is all hopped up on alcohol and steroids because there's no drug testing.
Anyway, I will end you with a bench clearing brawl that I was a part of... as a fan. On July 17th, 2005 I was at the Tigers/Royals game watching my boy Mike Maroth pitch. He had trouble with his command and hit a few batters, forcing the umpire to give the two team's a warning. Well when Guillen was up after the warnings were issued- Hernandez 'threw that ball right at this boy's head.' Actually, just watch it for yourself.
http://reid.mlblogs.com/archives/2006/03/johnny_damon_ya.html The video is about halfway down the page. Sorry I couldn't get it embedded. Anyway, listen to Mario and Rod's commentary during this. It is worthy of an ESPY (I'm referring to Mario calling Hernandez a 'joke', Rod saying 'that's weak' more than once and then 'get in the dugout!' to Hernandez with Mario continuing by saying "Get offffff the field...." and then after the spearing, Rod saying, "You don't mess with Farnsworth, Farnsworth's no joke.") This was well deserving of Farnsworth's spearing of Affeldt (probably an innocent bystander) because it is a cardinal sin to throw at a hitter's head...even when purposefully throwing at them.
Had this happened after 2002, this would definitely have been a part of the top 10 video I have provided for you below. (As would have Farnsworth's other spearing incident against the Reds a couple years before.)
enjoy the video and remember... make love, not war.
Okay the video is not working... so go here to watch it: http://www.tv.com/uservideos/?action=video_player&id=dSFnnjus5bkKuDLX#comments