Besides the trade deadline, baseball is abuzz today with talk about the Pirates-Reds brawl last night. That one featured something a little unusual, as Reds pitcher Amir Garrett left the pitcher’s mound with the intent to take on the entire Pirates dugout.
Unusual, but not original. I know of at least one other time a player decided he was going to fight the other team, rather than taking on the pitcher or batter like you see in 99.9% of these situations.
On July 29, 1993, Brian McRae came to bat in the eighth inning. The game was all but decided, with the Royals holding a 9-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth. This was a Thursday day game, and the final game of a five-game series (originally a four-game series, with a makeup game added for a rainout in May). This series was important to both teams. As the series began, Chicago led the AL West with a 52-45 mark. The Royals were in second, two games back at 50-47, and Texas was 2.5 games out with a 49-47 mark. The Royals swept the doubleheader on Monday by 12-3 and 6-5 scores, but Texas won the next two, 1-0 and 10-3.
Perhaps familiarity over the longer-than-normal series had bred contempt. In both games of the Monday doubleheader, a Royals player (Gary Gaetti in the first game, George Brett in the second) was hit by a pitch. Both were early in the respective games so there was most likely no intent, but that didn’t take away from the fact both batters were nailed. That 1-0 game Texas won on Tuesday is a rather famous one in Royals history. Kevin Appier allowed one hit–and lost, because the one hit was a Rafael Palmeiro home run, and his teammates couldn’t figure out Kenny Rogers.
In the Wednesday night game, Palmeiro hit two more home runs. When he came to bat in the ninth, with Texas ahead 7-3, the fireworks started. Royals reliever Rick Reed hit Palmeiro in the knee with a 1-0 fastball. As Palmeiro writhed on the ground, Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy ran out to home plate to check on his player, then began pointing and yelling at Reed.
If you know anything about Royals manager Hal McRae, you know he wasn’t standing for that. Soon, McRae was face-to-face with Kennedy. The benches and bullpens emptied, but nothing happened. After the game, though, Kennedy was still hot.
“The guy threw at our guy. Three home runs and we beat them in two games. We all know that game…I’m not going to take it anymore. I’m serious. Don’t (mess) with me. I’m not intimidated by anybody in this league.”–Kennedy, quoted by Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star, July 29, 1993
Hal McRae maintained he was defending his pitcher, understandably objecting to an opposing manager yelling at his player. Reed contended he was innocent of intentionally hitting Palmeiro.
“This guy’s been killing us. I’m not going to throw the ball right over the plate. I don’t throw 100 miles per hour. I can’t do that. I have to throw inside.”–Reed, quoted by Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star, July 29, 1993
Palmeiro wasn’t sure after the Wednesday game if he would play Thursday, but he was in the lineup when Royals starter Tom Gordon uncorked the first pitch at 1:35 pm. Palmeiro even drove in the Rangers’ second run, this one on a sacrifice fly in the second inning. But the Royals came back to score a run in the fourth, two more in the fifth, and two more in the sixth. All five runs were charged to former Royal Charlie Leibrandt, who had also hit Mike Macfarlane with a pitch in the second inning, without incident.
Kansas City put the game out of reach when Greg Gagne hit a grand slam off Bob Patterson in the seventh. Although that would normally be cause for celebration, in this case it may have made the ensuing upheaval possible now that the game was out of reach. Although Texas scored two runs in the eighth, for all intents and purposes, the game was over.
Patterson retired the last man in the seventh, then got two outs in the eighth. Now the time was ripe to send the Royals a message, with the manager’s son at the plate. The first pitch hit the younger McRae right in the backside, and he was off. To the Rangers’ dugout, that is, where several Rangers grabbed him before he could get within swinging distance of Kennedy.
“I was just trying to prove a point. He was the guy who did all the talking last night. I wanted to get at him if I could. It wasn’t going to do me any good to charge the mound. Nothing was said. I just tried to go over there and get a piece of him.”–Brian McRae, quoted by Bob Dutton, Kansas City Star, July 30, 1993
“I’ve never seen it. He surprised me. But when you tell everybody what you’re going to do, you force people to do things they don’t normally do. He (Kennedy) told the world he was going to hit Brian so Brian did what he had to do.”–Hal McRae, quoted by Dick Kaegel, Kansas City Star, July 30, 1993
Since this was the same Rangers team that featured Nolan Ryan (who less than a week later would get Robin Ventura in a headlock and punch him several times), known sourpusses like Rogers and Kevin Brown, and beefy fellows like Juan Gonzalez and Palmeiro, McRae’s charge was probably ill-considered, as he admitted later.
“If you think about it, then you won’t do it. I knew my only chance, if I wanted to get to him, was to go straight to the dugout. If I got a chance to hit him, I would have.”–Brian McRae, quoted by Jonathan Rand, Kansas City Star, July 30, 1993
In fact, Rogers and Brown were among the first Rangers to stop McRae. The Royals’ dugout followed their teammate over there, but again, nothing else occurred besides some yelling and a few shoves. Kennedy seemed willing to let everything go after the game.
“I’d like it to be over. I caught all my life. I know what pitching inside is, and I know what throwing at people is. Obviously, we felt that Rafael was intentionally hit. I even heard that from one of their players who used to play for me. He told our guys. So I know it was intentional.”–Kennedy, quoted by Bob Dutton, Kansas City Star, July 30, 1993
The player Kennedy referred to is almost certainly Chris Gwynn, who was managed by Kennedy in the Dodgers’ system. Anyway, the Royals seemed more upset by Kennedy’s proclamation than by McRae actually being hit by the pitch.
“They hit two guys the other night, and we didn’t do anything. Then he comes out (Wednesday) night and makes a big stink out of nothing when Rafael gets hit in the knee. We figured someone was going to get plunked today.”–Hal McRae, quoted by Bob Dutton, Kansas City Star, July 30, 1993
Brian McRae apparently expected to be a target, according to one teammate.
“Brian said, ‘If anybody’s going to be drilled today, it’s going to me. And if it’s me, I’m going after him and not the pitcher.'”–George Brett, quoted by Dick Kaegel, Kansas City Star, July 30, 1993
Although there was some worry the teams might continue battling down the road, happily that was not the case. The two teams did not face off again until the last series of the year, in Arlington. By then, the AL West race was over with Chicago having clinched the title. With the final three games serving as a goodbye to Ryan and Brett, who were ending their Hall of Fame careers, and Arlington Stadium, which was giving way to a new ballpark, the final weekend was more of a relaxed celebration of the past.
The next time a player decides that the pitcher who hit him isn’t as worthy a target as the opposing team’s manager, remember Brian McRae.