Fights, Intra-Team Fights

Mariners Confrontation Nothing New In Clubhouse Annals

Reggie 'n Billy

Given the clubhouse confrontation between teammates Dee Gordon and Jean Segura in Seattle earlier this week—apparently over a dropped flyball in a game the Mariners eventually won—it’s only appropriate to reference the greatest group of brawlers that baseball has ever seen, for whom I hold a particular affinity (and for which this post is in no way related to the fact that the paperback was just released on Monday).

I’ve already disseminated, via Deadspin, the passage from Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic detailing Reggie Jackson’s 1972 fight with Mike Epstein. So here’s a different fight story about the Swingin’ A’s, from the book, about the culmination of a weeks-long feud between Jackson and outfielder Billy North in 1974:

Jackson spent the afternoon of June 5 at a hotel in downtown Detroit with NBA players Archie Clark, Charlie Scott and Lucius Allen. There are at least two versions of what happened next. In one, a lady called for one of the basketball players, and when she found out that Reggie was there, asked to speak to him. She was North’s girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend), who may or may not have been an airline stewardess, and, having heard that he and Reggie weren’t getting along, took the opportunity to prod Jackson for details. In another version the girl came on to Reggie at a bar some weeks earlier when North was not around, only to be rebuffed by the ballplayer. Both versions were told by Jackson at different times.

The way North reacted, there may well have been a third option. He arrived at Tiger Stadium a bit later than the rest of the team, already afire. At that point, the clubhouse—a tiny space, with lockers consisting of mesh metal frames sticking out at right angles from the white-tiled wall every three feet or so—was sedate. The scant area in the middle of the room contained a table where the team’s regular bridge players—Holtzman, Fingers, Green and Knowles—were mid-game. Ray Fosse sat nearby, looking on. Reggie, naked save for a towel, entered the clubhouse from the adjacent trainer’s room just as North arrived. The center fielder started in on him as soon as he walked through the doorway. “Superstar, my ass!” he shouted, striding toward Jackson. “You’re a fucking jerk, you know that?” When North got close enough, he reared back and punched Reggie in the face, twice. Jackson was stunned, but absorbed the blows without falling. Then he lowered his shoulder and charged. “It was surreal, like, ‘Is this shit really happening?’ ” said Herb Washington, who, having spent the afternoon with an increasingly irritated North, had a good idea of what was about to go down.

North and Jackson scuffled up one side of the room and down the other, ultimately falling hard to the concrete floor. The men playing bridge in the center of the room looked up disinterestedly and returned to their card game. “I had a slam bid I wanted to play, and damned if people were fighting,” said Green. “I still played it.” Fingers was even more blasé, saying, “They’re just going to fight later anyway if we break it up now.”

That meant that the only peacemakers on the scene were Blue Moon Odom and Vida Blue (the same Odom and Blue who nearly fought each other in the same clubhouse following a playoff game two seasons earlier). With Blue scheduled to pitch that night, collateral damage became a real concern, so Fosse jumped up to help. By that time North was on top of Jackson. Blue pulled on North, Fosse pulled on Blue, and everybody fell backward, Fosse crashing into a locker divider on his way down.

Everything stopped. Fosse shakily picked himself up. Jackson and North scrambled to their feet, took some deep breaths, and eyed each other warily. The peace lasted about three minutes, until North began shouting (according to Reggie), “You know damn well what this is about! You’re trying to steal my girl from me is what this is about!”

Reggie did his best to settle his teammate. “Hey man, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” he said. “I talked to a girl … that’s all. I didn’t ask her for a date. I didn’t ask for anything. I don’t want anything from her. I don’t want your girl. I don’t want anything from you.”

The only reason Reggie didn’t want her, taunted North, was because his sexual proclivities did not lean toward her gender. Jackson flashed and, still naked, went after him again. Again the pair stumbled across the floor. Reggie clipped a locker with his shoulder and fell awkwardly, and North leapt atop him and began swinging.

Across the room, Bando looked at Tenace. “What are you doing?” he said.

“What do you mean, what am I doing?” asked Tenace.

“Why are we letting it go on like this?” asked Bando.

“Did you see what happened to the last guy who tried to break it up?” said Tenace, referring to the still-woozy Fosse. “I ain’t going to be a stinking statistic.”

“Get over here,” said Bando, pulling his teammate toward the players. Bando grabbed North, Tenace grabbed Reggie. Alou, Campaneris and Washington raced in for damage control.

Once the fisticuffs ended, Jackson decamped to find ice for his aching shoulder and North stomped off to change into his uniform. Bando looked around and clapped his hands in mock satisfaction. “Well, that’s it,” he said. “We’re definitely going to win big tonight.”

The A’s did win that night, 9-1 over the Tigers, but Jackson hurt his shoulder in the scuffle, precipitating a protracted slump. Hurt even worse was catcher Ray Fosse, who in an effort to break things up injured two vertebrae and ended up missing most of the rest of the season.

By all accounts, things weren’t that bad between Gordon and Segura in Seattle (or between broadcasters Mario Impemba and Rod Allen in Detroit).

Then again, the A’s went on to win the World Series that year, something that seems decidedly unlikely for the Mariners or Tigers.

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Carlos Quentin, Carlos Quentin, Fights, Retaliation, Zack Greinke

Know Thy Situation, Vol. 219: Quentin Charges Greinke for Reasons That Nobody Else can Quite Fathom, Yet

Quentin-Greinke IIIThe primary question after Carlos Quentin charged Zack Greinke yesterday was one of situational awareness: Was it incumbent upon Quentin to take action in response to a circumstance in which no right-thinking pitcher would intentionally drill an opponent?

Unless the primary question had to do with motivation: Was there something in the history between hitter and pitcher to inspire action in a situation which did not otherwise appear to call for it?

That is, unless the question we’re asking was one of provocation: Was it Greinke’s post-drilling stance—glove tossed, epithets hurled—that actually served as Quentin’s impetus?

In the end, because Greinke’s broken collarbone will extend the ramifications of this brawl for months, all these questions—and more—will continue to be asked for the forseeable future.

Pertinent details: Quentin, leading off the sixth inning of yesterday’s game in San Diego, was hit in the bicep with a Greinke pitch, dropped his bat, had a brief word with the pitcher, then charged. He threw Greinke to the ground; once the ensuing dogpile broke up, Greinke emerged with a broken collarbone. (Watch it here.)

More details: It was a full-count pitch, with the Dodgers holding a one-run lead, and, had Greinke not left the game, would have forced him to face San Diego’s four-five-six hitters from the stretch. Under no circumstances was this an appropriate situation for vendetta enforcement. (The closest thing to a response-worthy situation earlier in the game was the 0-2 pitch Padres starter Jason Marquis sent toward the head of Matt Kemp in the first inning, but it was easily avoided and tempers did not appear to flare.)

“We’re in a 2-1 game and on a 3-2 pitch to a guy that I see on the [score]board set a record for the Padres by getting hit, a guy who basically dives into the plate,” said irate Dodgers manager Don Mattingly after the game, in an MLB.com report. “In a 2-1 game, we’re trying to hit him, 3-2? It’s just stupid is what it is.”

Another pertinent detail pertains to what Greinke said between his pitch connecting and the batter charging. Quentin did not appear ready to head toward the mound until the pitcher responded to his bristling with what appears to be, based on the video, a solid “fuck you.” Regardless of Greinke’s innocence when it comes to the pitch itself, verbally provoking a guy who outweighs you by 45 lbs. is rarely somebody’s best option.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” said Quentin. “Myself and Greinke have a history. It dates back a few years. You guys can look it up. It’s documented. It could have been avoided. You can ask Zack about that. For me, I’ve been hit by many pitches in my career. I think you guys know that. I can tell you I’ve never responded in that fashion, so you guys can do your homework on that.”

Because Quentin left the details vague, we can only assume that he’s talking about opening day in 2009, when Greinke, then with Kansas City, hit Quentin, then with the White Sox, in the back. Combined with a pitch earlier in the game that nearly hit Quentin in the head, it inspired the batter to step toward the mound, though not much came of it—until yesterday.

Greinke has hit Quentin three times, more than any other player, but Quentin is generally hit more than any other player—he led the National League in HBPs each of the last two seasons, with six top-5 finishes in his career. (From ESPN: Quentin has also been hit four times by Nick Blackburn, and three times each by Erik Bedard and Jon Lester. He’s also been hit twice by 18 guys. ) He didn’t quite lean into Greinke’s pitch, the topic should be well within his comfort zone.

“I’ve never hit him on purpose,” Greinke said. “I never thought of hitting him on purpose. He always seems to think that I’m hitting him on purpose, but, I mean, that’s not the case. I actually thought it was just a ploy to get people to not throw inside to him. I just feel like he’s trying to intimidate people to throw away. But I don’t know anyone who has hit him on purpose. I know I haven’t. Like I said, I hadn’t even thought about hitting him on purpose before.”

This isn’t the first time a pitcher has been injured in such a fashion. Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee was seriously injured after Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles dropped him on his shoulder during a brawl in 1976. (Lee didn’t even spark the fight—Lou Piniella did, by attempting to kick the ball out of Carlton Fisk’s glove in a play at the plate. Fisk responded by tagging the runner again, this time hard on the head, and things escalated from there.) Nettles picked up the pitcher on the outside of the scrum, but unlike Greinke’s injury it was Lee’s pitching shoulder that was injured; it took him years to recover fully. (Nettles was drilled by the Red Sox two days later, but because he was leading off the 10th inning of a scoreless game, it’d hard to think it was intentional.)

Tommy John suffered a similar injury while trying to fend off a charging Dick McAuliffe in 1968. John’s tweaked shoulder forced an alteration in his delivery that eventually led to an elbow blowout—which resulted in the pioneering surgery that still informally bears his name.

Details from Thursday’s fight—Quentin’s body slam, the Dodgers’ drawn-out anger, Kemp going after Quentin in the players’ parking lot after the game—are incidental.

What matters most to the Dodgers is the amount of time they’ll be without one of the game’s best pitchers, signed in the off-season to a six-year, $147 million contract. Mattingly suggested that Quentin be suspended for the duration of Greinke’s DL stay, but that almost certainly won’t happen. (A six-game suspension is likely, especially considering that Greinke’s injury could just as well have been triggered by the scrum of Padres on top of him in the aftermath as by Quentin’s initial throw-down).

The other question is how long this will linger, and to what extent. Quentin said that “for me, the situation is done,” but MLB is bound to have something to say on the matter.

So will the Dodgers. “There probably is [bad blood] now,” said Greinke. “I don’t know if there was before.” This despite the fact that numerous Padres players reportedly apologized to their Dodgers counterparts as the field cleared.

Also in the crosshair is San Diego’s backup catcher, John Baker, whose verbal delight following Greinke’s injury helped cause the skirmish to re-flare before all the players had even left the field.

San Diego visits the Dodgers on Monday for the first of what will be 15 more games between the teams this season.

Update (4-13): Quentin has drawn an eight-game suspension for his inability to read a game situation, or some such.