Around the Horn with Paul Ghiglieri: 19th Edition

Welcome to the 19th edition of Around the Horn, a recurring op-ed with a satirical slant that riffs on whatever’s recently noteworthy in baseball. Think of it as a stripped-down Last Week Tonight or The Daily Show in a column format with recurring segments about the good, bad, and ugly in the world of America’s pastime. Additionally, as often as possible, we’ll end with an interview as well.

There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get right to our first segment:

 

The Rundown

 

Our Main Story

 

A few weeks ago, I spoke about moments that occur during a baseball game that we can call defining or iconic. As I mentioned, no-hitters, perfect games, and hitting for the cycle occupy that rare space at the top of the list of the most thrilling, while others such as walk-off homers, triple plays, and even the fabled suicide squeeze continue to amaze and enthrall. However, in the spirit of satire, I argued that the most special and time-honored tradition of baseball will always be a manager’s ejection.

This week, we’re going to look at a darker underbelly of the game. No, I’m not talking about steroids or gambling.

I’m talking about the most barbaric of baseball events: the base-brawl.

Unlike manager ejections, which are somehow comforting marvels of the game that comprise suspense, spectacle, and a unique opportunity to provide all fans something they can truly identify with on a basic human level … baseball brawls are the stuff of bloodlust. They bring us back to a time of the Colosseum, where Rome’s citizens would distract themselves from the abuses of their own empire by taking in a savage spectacle.

Have we evolved much as a civilization since then? In many ways, unquestionably, yes we have. I won’t bore you in a baseball column by enumerating many of those ways now, but you’re definitely living a better life today than you probably would be living under the cruel tyranny of Caligula in ancient Rome. I mean, just imagine something like this being how you spent your Sundays with the family:

 

 

OK, fine, maybe it didn’t look quite like that, but it might have. In a galaxy far, far away, it definitely might have!

In any case, there is something operating on a primal level that makes it almost impossible to look away when a baseball brawl happens. Take, for example, this:

 

 

Now, admittedly, Leeroy Jenkins was not actually the one who charged the Pittsburgh dugout, and I’m probably doing my own social commentary a disservice by presenting the clip as such, but sometimes, the internet leaves you a gift and one should never look a gift horse in the mouth. For posterity’s sake, here’s the actual clip of Amir Garrett’s maniacal attempt to take on the entire Pirates team by himself:

 

 

Lest you think that brawl occurred without consequence and its perpetrators acted with impunity, know the MLB took it seriously.

 

 

Anyway, I’m really not sure why two great sports towns such as Cincinnatti and Pittsburgh can’t seem to play civil with each other, but it appears they simply just can’t.

 

 

Perhaps the most fascinating part of this wildly unnecessary violent confrontation is the fact that Yasiel Puig was traded to the Cleveland Indians while it was happening. I can only imagine everyone in the Cincinnatti front office holding his or her breath as Puig charged like a raging bull into the melee. Luckily, no one was overly worse for wear after all that madness.

Nonetheless, all of that chaos did get me thinking about some of the most memorable brawls in baseball history, so let’s take a look back as we embrace the worst in ourselves and see if we can learn anything in the process.

 

 

This one always stood out to me for the lack of pretense. White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski had a reputation for being one of the dirtiest, most hated players in the game, and when he plowed through Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, you were just expecting things to go south in a hurry. Watching Barrett land a punch so squarely is what makes this so memorable to me, as most brawls feature players wildly flailing at each other with errant haymakers and gloves thrown for good measure. It wouldn’t be until Rougned Odor’s right hook on Jose Bautista that you’d really see something so savage.

 

 

It’s Yankees and Red Sox. It’s a true testament to the goodness in human nature that this kind of thing doesn’t happen every time these two teams play, or when the Giants and Dodgers play each other for that matter. When it does come to fisticuffs, it’s always memorable. More than anything though, it’s still bizarre to think that a guy known more for playing Goo Goo Dolls covers would be at the center of a baseball brawl.

 

 

I can just imagine Arroyo saying, “Not the mouth, I have to play a benefit during our next homestand,” then slipping a little jab in there at the end.

This next one, I never actually saw, but I had heard about it and read about it even more.

 

 

What makes it so iconic is the fact that two Hall of Famers, Juan Marichal and Sandy Koufax, were right in the thick of it, and the fact that Marichal swung his bat at Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro because he felt the backstop was tossing balls back to Koufax too close to Marichal’s head remains one of the more stunning acts of savagery in baseball history. Gloves and punches are one thing, but when you start swinging the Louisville around, it gets real.

 

 

Growing up, this is the brawl that defined baseball brawls for me. It encapsulated so much. The generational gap between a 46-year-old Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura, 20 years his junior, was like a metaphor for the disconnect we so often see between one generation and the next. It was almost as if Ryan’s Baby Boomer generation was trying to wake up Ventura’s Generation X, or perhaps Ryan just wanted to teach him a lesson. Either way, it was a conflict for the ages, and Ryan’s headlock on Ventura remains one of the most unforgettable images when it comes to baseball brawls. Watching at the time, I remember bracing myself thinking Ventura was going to obliterate this old man. Instead, that old man took Ventura to the woodshed, and the rest is history.

There are other brawls that I’m sure are memorable to you because of the team you root for or the era you grew up watching baseball. It might be the figures involved as well. For example, Will Clark was my favorite player growing up as a kid, and I can’t unsee this:

 

 

What this should teach us is that ritualistic fighting is part of the fabric of the game, which at its core, will always be a competition where there are winners and losers. It’s not life and death like the Colosseum, but it’s also walking a fine line as well. After all, consider what could easily have been the darkest moment in the history of the game …

 

 

The Indians, the home team at the time, left their dugout carrying bats to defend the Texas Rangers from their own fans. Had they not done so, tragedy almost certainly would have ensued as a literal drunken and angry mob had descended onto the field and unleashed violence.

No matter the game, whether baseball, hockey or otherwise, there will always be an element of aggression. Such is the nature of competition.

We should always remember that in the spirit of that competition, winning will always be the best form of revenge.

 

Out of the Park

 

A Look Beyond the Boxscores for the Best in Baseball This Week

 

I mentioned earlier that Yasiel Puig had been traded to the Indians during that brawl with the Pirates. The player coming back to Cincinnati in the deal was Trevor Bauer. It’s rather touching to watch the way in which Bauer said goodbye to Cleveland.

 

 

It’s easy to understand what a player means to a city. If you’re reading this, you’re likely a fan of some baseball team somewhere. The players on that team mean something to you. You root for them, cheer for them when they succeed, feel for them when they fail. We don’t often think about what it means for a player to perform in front of fans, and what it means for them when they get traded to a new team and fanbase.

While we’re here, take a look at Hunter Pence sitting with Bauer, talking about the advent of Twitter in baseball, how it caused a strange dynamic between generational gaps of players, and how sometimes, change can be scary.

 

 

Backdoor Sliders

 

Where Baseball Got Caught Looking

 

So you know that brawl we were just talking about with Amir Garrett and the Pirates? Guess who thought the entire affair was praise worthy:

 

 

If you aren’t sure who Rob Dibble is, he’s on the same “most hated” list Pierzynski is and was part of a trio of relievers (Norm Charlton and Randy Myers were the other two) for the Reds in 1990 called “The Nasty Boys” that led part of the Reds’ charge to the World Series that year. On some level, the 44 saves and 351 strikeouts had a lot to do with the moniker. However, Dibble’s personality did too.

This clip about sums him up:

 

 

While you’re at it, check out Dibble slouching like an arrogant, jockish heel while he engages in a pissing match he couldn’t help himself diving into years ago a few starts into Stephen Strasburg’s young career,

 

 

Still not convinced? OK, this should just about have you covered:

WARNING: Clip contains language NSFW.

 

 

Yeah, that’s right. He assaulted his own manger. The guy is … let’s just say he’s a unique individual. And the last thing Amir Garrett should want is to join a “boys” club like that. After all, that would be nasty, wouldn’t it?

 

Extra Bags

 

Bauer goes full soul stealer here:

 

 

Speaking of sliders, is there anything better than seeing a hitter wince like he’s about to get hit only for the ball to slip into the strike zone?

 

 

Nope, probably not.

That’s the ballgame for this week!

(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

Paul Ghiglieri

Paul Ghiglieri has written fantasy analysis and hardball columns for PitcherList and FantasyPros. A lifelong Giants fan living in LA, he spends his free time writing screenplays with metaphors for life only half as good as baseball.

sdf

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published.