The 11 most intense brawls in MLB history

May 17, 2016

Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor has received an eight-game suspension for blasting Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista in the face on Sunday in one of the most eye-popping brawls in recent MLB history.

The Rangers and Jays are not division-mates but the seeds of animosity from Bautista's 2015 ALDS bat flip sprouted in colorful fashion.

Perhaps this is recency bias but, aided by Odor's crushing right hook, it may go down as one of the most memorable brawls of all time. We already reviewed the worst punches in basebrawl history, so now let's take a look at the 11 most intense brawls (in no particular order), where tempers flared far and wide and bad blood spilled over.

The infamous "bean brawl" game. This fire got sparked with the first pitch when Braves righty Pascual Perez plunked Alan Wiggins. The Padres threw at Perez during his subsequent at-bat and Perez wielded his bat like a weapon, appearing poised to swing it at someone. Benches cleared and they brawled. The Padres threw at Perez again in the eighth inning. Benches cleared and they brawled.


Guess what happened in the ninth inning? Braves pitcher Donnie Moore plunked Padres third baseman Graig Nettles, benches cleared and they brawled! Only this time, fans got involved when the fighting spilled over to the dugout and Braves pitcher Bob Horner (who was on the DL with an arm injury) blocked a charging Champ Summers and helped take him to the ground. In total, 13 players got ejected and many of them fined. Padres manager Dick Williams was suspended 10 games and fined $10,000 and Braves manager Joe Torre was suspended three games. It was truly a [expletive]-show.

The White Sox and Rangers developed a healthy distaste for each other over the prior few seasons when it reached a head in '93. Ventura's head. Ryan was 46 years old at the time when he hit Ventura in the elbow with a heater in the third inning, prompting the 26-year-old third baseman to charge at Ryan. He ended up in a headlock and at the receiving end of Ryan's mythical old man power. "If you don't think he [pegged me] on purpose, you don't know the game," Ventura said. He gave me a couple of noogies on my head and that's about all."

It looks a bit worse than that but you be the judge. Said Ryan: "I've had a couple of confrontations in my career, but nothing of that nature." Several players walked away bloodied and Ryan actually got to stay in the game, giving up just two runs over seven innings.

The National League rivals have a history of bad blood. Late in a July 22, 1986 contest, Giants pitcher Frank Williams threw at Vince Coleman twice -- and hit him once. Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog and Giants manager Roger Craig nearly came to blows before the teams erupted in a full-fledged beatdown in which Herzog threw some fists himself.

This is Part One of the combo pack when the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry reached peak animosity in the new millenium. First, the astonishing Pedro Martinez-Don Zimmer battle during Game 3 of the ALCS when the Yankees believed Pedro was throwing at batters. The inning after Martinez sailed one behind Karim Garcia, Roger Clemens threw a pitch high and inside to Manny Ramirez, incensing Manny, causing the benches to empty. Pedro walked onto the field during the scuffle when the late Yankees bench coach approached him. The two briefly exchanged words when Martinez shoved the 72-year-old Zimmer to the ground.  

As Pedro told the New York Daily News:

Zimmer took the blame for the ugly altercation.

This summertime altercation and the widely-circulated photo of Red Sox captain Jason Varitek raking the detested Rodriguez's face perfectly encapsulates the rivalry. Rodriguez invited the contact with some vulgar words and Varitek didn't hesitate to engage. The benches emptied, multiple piles of fights formed and about four months later, the Red Sox went through the Yankees in epic fashion to break their World Series curse.

This might be the single ugliest scene in MLB history. The National League rivals met before a packed crowd of over 42,000 at Candlestick Park on Aug. 22, 1965, jockeying for the position in the home stretch before the playoffs. During a heated game, Hall of Fame pitchers Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers and Juan Marichal of the Giants took turns pegging opposing players until hell broke loose in the third inning when Marichal was batting.

Dodgers catcher John Roseboro took a dropped ball and whipped it right past Marichal's head (Marichal said it grazed his ear), triggering a 14-minute melee. Marichal raised his bat and struck Roseboro in the head, opening a wound that required 14 stitches. Giants infielder Tito Fuentes also raised his bat in the fracas but didn't strike anyone.

About 25 years after the incident, Marichal and Roseboro put it behind them and actually became friends.

Back in the day when base runners and catchers could collide at the plate, Yankees DH Lou Piniella crashed into Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk at home plate. The two locked up and shoved when Fisk threw a haymaker and the benches emptied. The tension was diffused when all of a sudden Red Sox starting pitcher Bill Lee approached the Yankees with some more words, and willing fighter Graig Nettles popped Lee in the face. It spiraled out of control from there as players from both sides took some cuts and others tried to play peacemaker. As for Bill Lee, he tore a ligament in his shoulder during the brawl and ended up missing eight weeks of action.

This brawl may have spanned more outfield square feet than any other on this list. A whopping 25 players got fined and 16 suspended in the widespread throwdown that had two acts. The first fight broke out in the seventh inning after Tigers pitcher Jim Parque pegged White Sox third baseman Dean Palmer, who charged the mound. The ensuing fight lasted 13 minutes. Eventually that cooled down but then in the ninth inning, two Tigers batters got hit, causing another bench-clearing brawl that took nearly 10 minutes to untangle.

Division rivals: familiarity breeds contempt. This one looked like a garden variety barking match until the 1:00 mark in the video when the Reds' (and former Cardinal) Scott Rolen led the way and Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter ended up plastered against the backstop.  

Let's get one more look at the money (and suspension) shot:

Warnings will follow the next time they meet, but I suspect we haven't seen the last of this budding rivalry.