Friday, May 9, 2008
The Irony of a Baseball Brawl...
It was a random summer baseball game in the magical season of 1998. Bernie Williams had just hit one of his billion clutch homeruns. The next batter was one of my favorite all time players, Tino Martinez. Armando Benitez, clearly miffed at the fact that he sucks, drilled Tino square between the shoulder blades with a 98 mph fastball. Tino immediately looked up at Benitez and then it happened; a HUGE fight broke out between the Orioles and the Yankees. Darryl Strawberry jumped into the Baltimore dugout and started throwing punches. Graham Lloyd tackled like 6 players.
I was reminded of this classic Yankees brawl when I woke up this morning to see highlights of Richie Sexson going nuts about pitch the was “too high.” It reminded me that no matter how stupid fights are in baseball, they make incredible highlights. I love baseball brawls.
The moment when the ball leaves the pitchers hand when you know its going to be up and in, the reaction of the player when he’s hit, the hitter charging the mound, the catcher running after him, the pitcher throwing his glove down, clenching his fists, and getting into a stance to brace himself. The five seconds or so between the hitter sprinting and reaching the pitcher are some of the tensest seconds in sports. The dugouts emptying, the bullpen guys running in, random players fighting each other for no reason at all, it’s fantastic!
The fight last night also made me realize the irony in that perhaps the most individualistic of all sports, baseball, has the most team oriented fights…
Hockey by far has the most fights of any professional sport; there are usually at least two a game. The game stops and players look on as two guys punch the crap out of each other until the refs finally stop it. Hockey is a team sport. You can’t win without your teammates and yet rarely do you see other players step in during a fight. Players let the two guys go at it like men; it’s been this way for years. Hockey fights end with each guy going to the penalty box for a few minutes and then playing again.
Basketball is as much of a team, if not more, than hockey, and fights are very rare. The NBA has rules that constitute instant suspensions as soon as a player leaves the bench during a fight. Because of this, even the rare fights that do happen are usually between 2 or 3 guys. For the most part, players would rather let the two guys fight, than lose the money they would get fined for leaving the bench.
Football is the most ironic of all. Football is the roughest, most physical, and the most team oriented of all sports. Yet, there is almost never a fight in football. The NFL has the lowest class of athlete of all sports, but they are satisfied with tackling instead of fighting. There are countless incidences where players “talk shit,” but nothing ever happens.
Baseball doesn’t have fights, they have brawls. This is because if two players do start to scuffle, the dugouts and bullpens empty. EVERY player gets involved. In last night’s fight, why was Felix Hernandez running around like an idiot when he was not involved in the fight at all? In the 1998 Yankees brawl, why was Darryl Strawberry throwing punches in the Orioles dug out? Why do baseball fights always involve every player? Is it because baseball players are bored, and any type of drama excites them? Baseball, the most individualistic of all sports, has the most team oriented fights. Go figure.
Either way, I love to watch baseball brawls. I can’t wait for some random pitcher to throw inside at Melky Cabrera…because you know that Shelley Duncan will power bomb the other team’s left fielder!