7 most brutal brawls in the Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry

Yankees vs. Red Sox brawl, Apr 11, 2018

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For more than 100 years, the intense Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry has been a key attraction for baseball fans. Since their first game in 1907 until now, they have faced each other in challenging and exciting matchups.

Often the intense and tough ambiance in the ballpark has degenerated into brawls when the Yankees and the Red Sox face other. Here are the most infamous of those Yankees vs. Red Sox brawls.

The first brawl, May 30, 1938

During the Memorial Day doubleheader at Old Yankee Stadium, a remarkable crowd of over 83,500 enthusiastic fans gathered to witness the timeless rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox. In the fourth inning of the first game, the Yankees were dominating with a 7-0 lead. However, a pivotal moment occurred when Red Sox pitcher Archie McKain accidentally struck Yankees outfielder Jake Powell in the head with a fastball. Although his aim was off, McKain didn’t give up and threw another pitch, this time hitting Powell on the thigh. This intense episode was the first brawl in the long-standing intensity and competitiveness of the Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry.

In a sudden burst of emotion, Powell swiftly sprinted toward the pitcher’s mound, seizing McKain before Joe Cronin could intervene. Even individuals known for their patience, like Powell, can reach a breaking point. Acting swiftly, the Boston manager deftly moved his pitcher out of harm’s way while simultaneously throwing a punch at Powell. It was a coordinated maneuver that effectively protected his player and delivered a counterattack.

After a collective effort from players and umpires, Cronin and Powell were ejected from the game, putting an end to the fight. However, there was an oversight when the police allowed the troublemakers to depart without any accompanying security guards for their walk back to the locker rooms. It was a mistake to trust that they would behave without supervision.

After the initial altercation, Powell instigated another fight with Cronin on their way to the clubhouses. The joint task force promptly intervened to restore peace. Despite the heated incident, the Yankees emerged victorious with a 1-0 win over the Red Sox. This victory set the stage for a fierce, passionate, and occasionally contentious rivalry between the Yankees vs. Red Sox.

Yankees vs. Red Sox tunnel fight, May 24, 1952

Just before Boston’s 5-2 victory, the fiery Yankee player Billy Martin couldn’t contain himself. He attacked Jimmy Piersall, the Red Sox outfielder, in the tunnel beneath the Fenway stands. Their previous exchange of heated words in the Bronx fueled Martin’s desire to settle the score right then and there.

After the incident, Piersall explained that there wasn’t much he could say about it. He remarked that Martin had a hot-headed nature, and Piersall himself was frustrated due to lack of playing time. He mentioned that anyone in his position would have felt the same way. Piersall also noted that Martin had been particularly critical of him during their previous encounter in New York, although he didn’t understand the reasons behind it.

The catchers’ brawl, Aug 1, 1973

The Yankees and Red Sox rivalry came alive again when talented young catchers Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk joined their respective teams. Munson, who won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1970, and Fisk, who received the same honor in 1972, brought a new level of excitement to the rivalry. Their skills and performances added even more intensity to this particular day.

In the ninth inning of the game at Fenway Park, with the score tied at 2-2, Thurman Munson, who was at third base, sprinted toward home plate during a squeeze play. However, Gene Michael failed to make contact with the bunt, causing Munson to collide with Carlton Fisk. Munson stayed on top of Fisk for a bit longer than Fisk would have preferred.

During a heated moment in the game, Gene Michael of the New York Yankees grabbed Carlton Fisk, the catcher for the Boston Red Sox, around the head. The altercation occurred when Thurman Munson and Fisk got into a fight. As a result, players from both teams rushed onto the field, and even Yankee manager Ralph Houk tried to separate Fisk from Munson by prying his arms off.

Munson cynically inquired about Fisk’s physical state, if he had sustained any scratches. The Yankees player then expressed his frustration, stating “What a f—ing shame.”

The punching day, May 20, 1976

In a game where the Yankees were winning 1-0 against the Red Sox, Lou Piniella made a wide turn around third base after Otto Velez hit a single with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. The throw from the outfield reached home before Piniella, so the determined Yankee outfielder used his shoulder to collide with Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, causing Fisk to fall backward onto the ground. Piniella grabbed onto the back strap of Fisk’s chest protector as they both wrestled in the dirt in front of home plate. Before their teammates could intervene, Fisk managed to land a punch on Piniella.

After the fight had paused for a moment, Boston pitcher Bill Lee, who was clearly in pain and clutching his left pitching arm tightly, said something angrily to Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles. In response, Nettles swung a powerful right punch that landed on the side of Lee’s head.

Lee’s arm was injured, which meant he couldn’t play until August. Even when he returned to the Red Sox rotation in September, he wasn’t as good as before, and his career never recovered from that injury.

The Yankees vs. Red Sox war, Oct 11, 2003

In the 2003 ALCS, there was a notable incident that remains unforgettable, primarily because one of the individuals involved was relatively young.

During Game 3 of the Yankees-Red Sox matchup, there was a moment when Pedro Martinez, a pitcher for the Red Sox, hit one of the Yankees’ batters. This led to a fight breaking out between the teams, but fortunately, it was quickly brought under control before it became too chaotic.

However, things got heated in the same inning when Roger Clemens, a pitcher for the Yankees, threw a high and not-so-accurate fastball that upset Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox. Ramirez became angry and started causing a scene, which led to both teams rushing onto the field. While most players were involved in a chaotic group near the pitcher’s mound, Pedro Martinez, wearing his Red Sox jacket, found himself face-to-face with an enraged Yankees coach named Don Zimmer.

During the incident, Don Zimmer, who was 72 years old and not very strong, rushed toward Pedro Martinez. However, Martinez grabbed Zimmer by the head and threw him aside. A police officer at Fenway Park came to Zimmer’s aid while Martinez’s teammates watched, seemingly surprised by what had happened. Zimmer was shaken up and was helped off the field by trainers and players from the Yankees.

Martinez, reflecting on the incident with Zimmer, expressed remorse for his actions, considering it as the only regret in his entire baseball career.

In a remarkable turn of events, the Yankees achieved the ultimate revenge by securing the 2003 pennant. The decisive moment came in Game 7 at their home stadium, when Aaron Boone delivered a walk-off home run, sealing the victory for the team.

A-Rod became enemy No. 1, Jul 24, 2004

The 2004 season had a defining moment that changed everything for the Boston Red Sox and played a crucial role in their World Series triumph. Throughout the season, they were considered the lesser-favored team, but their spirit and determination were evident in a pivotal fight. This incident showcased their passion, dedication, and love for the game, setting the stage for their remarkable journey to victory.

In the 2000s, the Yankees had their own troublemaker, Alex Rodriguez, just like Fisk was for the Red Sox in the ’70s. During a game, Rodriguez was hit by a pitch from Bronson Arroyo, and he didn’t take it lightly. As he walked to first base, he exchanged heated words with Arroyo, even using inappropriate language. 

Boston’s catcher, Jason Varitek, stepped in and forcefully pushed Rodriguez in the face with both hands. It quickly escalated into a physical altercation, with both players wrestling each other to the ground while their teammates rushed in from all directions. The incident led to multiple smaller fights, but the showdown between A-Rod and Varitek stole the spotlight.

A-Rod, who had just joined the Yankees and narrowly missed being traded to the Red Sox, had a memorable game the previous night when he hit a single off the Green Monster to help the team win. This hit, along with the fight that followed, was seen as his first major moment as a Yankee.

Benches cleared twice, Apr 11, 2018

In the Yankees’ 10-7 victory, there were two instances where the benches cleared. The first one happened when the Red Sox got upset about a slide by Yankees DH Tyler Austin that seemed questionable. Austin accidentally clipped shortstop Brock Holt while trying to prevent a double play. As a result, in the seventh inning, Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly intentionally hit Austin with a pitch, leading to a major altercation involving both teams.

A violent scene that exemplifies Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry.
Bronx Pinstripes

Earlier in the game, during the third inning, there was a brief bench-clearing incident after Austin’s spikes made contact with Holt’s leg during a slide into second base. Holt didn’t appreciate the contact and exchanged words with Austin before they were separated.

In the seventh inning of the game, things took a chaotic turn resembling a WWE Smackdown when Tyler Austin stepped up to bat. This reminded Joe Kelly of Austin’s earlier slide in the third inning, where he spiked Brock Holt and caused the first bench-clearing incident. Although the umpires deemed the slide as legal, Holt and Red Sox manager Alex Cora believed it was both late and dirty, leading to their disagreement with the ruling.

After getting hit by a pitch from the Red Sox reliever, Tyler Austin charged toward the mound, causing a brawl that cleared both benches. Earlier in the third inning, Austin had slid into second base with his spikes leading, making contact with shortstop Brock Holt. As expected, the two teams had differing perspectives on the incident.

In the seventh inning, with the Yankees holding a 10-6 lead, Joe Kelly, the Red Sox pitcher, came close to hitting Tyler Austin with an 0-1 pitch. Just two pitches later, Kelly’s 98 mph fastball struck Austin on the side. Frustrated, Austin reacted by forcefully slamming his bat on the plate, then threw it down. He took a few steps towards the mound, shouting. In response, Kelly gestured for Austin to come closer, and that’s when the situation escalated quickly.

During the altercation, Joe Kelly managed to hit Tyler Austin multiple times, resulting in Austin having a swollen lip. In his attempt to retaliate against Kelly, Austin accidentally tagged Red Sox third base coach Carlos Febles instead.

The fight spread out onto the field and eventually settled in front of the Boston dugout on the first base side. Aaron Judge, who stands at 6-foot-7, and Giancarlo Stanton, who stands at 6-foot-6, were among the Yankees players pushing and separating the players involved. Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames forcefully pushed Austin across the infield towards the New York dugout, using both hands to do so.

After the game, Kelly had noticeable red marks on his neck. Both Austin and Kelly, as well as Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle and third base coach Phil Nevin, were ejected from the game.

Do you have any other brawl to add? Name that one in your comment below.

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