They’re called the Bronx Bombers but they’re pretty good at brawlin’, too. In fact, the Yankees have had some classic throwdowns in their history, including on Thursday in Detroit.
Here’s a list of some of the most notable Yankee fights in history, most of which came against a certain rival:
Knock Your Sox Off (May 20, 1976)
Lou Piniella took a wide turn around third on a single by Otto Velez with two outs in the bottom of the sixth and the Yankees leading the Red Sox 1-0 at the Stadium. The throw home from right beat Piniella by plenty, so the intense Yankee outfielder lowered his shoulder and barreled into Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, who fell backwards into the dirt. Piniella took hold of the back strap of Fisk’s chest protector as the two wrestled in the dirt in front of home, Fisk getting a right hook in before the players were met by frantic teammates.
The fight stalled for about a minute before Boston pitcher Bill Lee — holding his left pitching arm tight to his body in obvious pain — barked something at Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles, who threw a right hook that connected with the side of Lee’s head.
Lee’s arm injury kept him out until August and he didn’t rejoin the Red Sox rotation until September.
Monster Mash (August 2, 1973)
That classic brawl may have had its roots in this one. With the game tied at 2-2 in the top of the ninth at Fenway Park, Thurman Munson charged home from third on what was supposed to be a squeeze play. But Gene Michael missed the bunt attempt and Munson crushed Fisk, laying on top of his Boston counterpart a little too long for his liking. Benches cleared and Yankee manager Ralph Houk even got involved, trying to pry Fisk’s arms off of Munson.
Later, Munson sarcastically asked about Fisk’s well-being: “Is he scratched up?” Munson said. “What a f—ing shame.”
A-Rod, Of Course (July 24, 2004)
Like Fisk in the 70s, the Yankees had their own antagonizer in the 2000s: Alex Rodriguez, who did not appreciate being plunked by Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo. As A-Rod walked toward first, he jawed at Arroyo as he removed his elbow pad and could clearly be seen mouthing the words “f— you!” Boston catcher Jason Varitek intervened, shoving A-Rod in the face with both hands and soon he and the Yankee slugger were wrestling to the ground as teammates charged toward them from both sides of the diamond. The scrum broke off into several micro-brawls, but A-Rod-Varitek was the main event.
A-Rod, who was in his first season in pinstripes after nearly being traded to the Red Sox, had beaten Boston the night before with a single off the Green Monster. That hit and this fight were considered his first real Yankee moments.
“I think when you come in in the first year, it’s important for all your teammates to know that no matter what situation goes down, you’re going to be there for them,” A-Rod later said.
An Oldie But Goodie (October 11, 2003)
Talk about a throwdown! After Pedro Martinez beaned Karim Garcia earlier in the game, Roger Clemens threw a high and not-so-tight heater that Manny Ramirez didn’t like, throwing a temper tantrum and leading the benches to clear. As most players gathered in a scrum near the mound, Martinez, wearing his Red Sox jacket, was met by a very angry Yankee coach Don Zimmer.
A rather fragile 72 years old at the time, Zimmer charged the pitcher, who grabbed the old man by the head and tossed him aside. A Fenway Park cop tended to Zimmer as Martinez’s teammates looked on in apparent shock. Zimmer was shaken up and escorted off the field by Yankee trainers and players.
Martinez, a Hall of Famer, later wrote in his autobiography: “In my entire baseball career, my reaction to Zimmer’s charge is my only regret.”
The Yankees got the ultimate revenge, winning the 2003 pennant on a walk-off homer by Aaron Boone in Game 7 at the Stadium.
O’, This Was A Good One! (May 19, 1998)
It may not have involved the Red Sox, but there has never been a more intense, more violent or dangerous brawl in Yankee history.
Baltimore closer Armando Benitez plunked Tino Martinez square in the back with a fastball that just happened to be the first pitch after Bernie Williams had hit a three-run, go-ahead homer off Benitez in the bottom of the eighth.
Benitez was immediately tossed, but that didn’t satisfy Yankees like Darryl Strawberry, Chad Curtis, Graeme Lloyd and Jeff Nelson. As players from the bullpen rushed toward the infield, Strawberry was being restrained near the mound when Benitez was rushed by Lloyd, a tall Yankee reliever, as well as Nelson and third baseman Scott Brosius.
Benitez back-tracked as he threw punches and almost ended up falling into the Orioles dugout. Moments later, players did spill into the dugout, before the brawl hit a brief lull, with players mostly grabbing at each other’s jerseys.
That’s when it really got good, with bodies literally piling onto the Orioles bench, fists flying. Joe Torre had to forcibly escort Strawberry out of the opposing dugout and walk him from one side of the field to the other. Nearly 20 years later, this goes down as one of the all-time great MLB fights.
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