When you have to travel with the same people on a near daily basis for eight months out of the year and see them almost around the clock, you become very familiar with one another. That’s not always the best thing though, as it can cause you to become very irritated with some of those people. We’ve seen plenty of teammates fighting across many different sports, but it seems to happen more often in baseball.
That’s because the long schedules that include 162 regular season games, more than a month of Spring Training and constant travel puts the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” into action. Some of the most memorable moments are when teams clear the dugout to fight each other, but even moreso when the fighting is confined to just one dugout, usually as the game is happening.
When the long summer starts to drag on and mistakes are made on the field, it leads to players exchanging harsh words, which quickly results in punches being thrown. Out of the dozens of altercations that have happened in MLB dugouts and clubhouses, here are the 15 most memorable, with some even resulting in season-ending injuries to superstars and career-altering decisions.
15 Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett
Neither pitcher Carlos Zambrano or catcher Michael Barrett were known as the most level-headed players in Major League history, and it showed on June 1, 2007 when they were teammates with the Chicago Cubs. While playing the Braves that day, Zambrano had an awful performance as the Braves pounded hit after hit, ultimately winning the game by a score of 8-5.
What caught everyone’s attention, however, was the televised scuffle that happened in the dugout with Barrett and Zambrano exchanging shoves. After being separated in the dugout and taken out of the game, the two then went to the clubhouse to continue their brawl. Punches were thrown and both players were fined, though they said they smoothed things out after the brawl once Barrett got out of the hospital.
14 Carlos Zambrano and Derrek Lee
Three years after his rumble with Michael Barrett, Carlos Zambrano’s temper would get the best of him once again. While playing their crosstown rivals, the Chicago White Sox, Zambrano got into a heated exchange with first baseman Derrek Lee. Players in the dugout had to intervene, as well as manager Lou Piniella once again. Thankfully for the Cubs, their road game was still in the same town, so sending Zambrano home from the stadium wasn’t a difficult task.
The Cubs played short one man on their 25 man roster as a result of the scuffle, and it was clear that Zambrano’s future was in jeopardy. He did return to the Cubs in 2011, finishing with a 9-7 record and 4.82 ERA before heading to Miami for a year, and hasn’t made an appearance since the 2012 season.
13 James McCann and Jose Iglesias
In an August 2015 contest between the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox, the hometown Tigers had to deal with some internal struggles. When shortstop Jose Iglesias missed out on a ground ball that led to a baserunner and eventually a double to give the Red Sox two runs, catcher James McCann wasn’t too thrilled. McCann got into the shortstop’s face and started questioning his hustle, which caused some pushing between the two players.
Manager Brad Ausmus wasn’t too upset about the situation, saying that it showed that the two players cared about the game and their teammates. The relationship between the two would work out in the end, as Iglesias has said that the two talk a lot and “That’s in the past. Just miscommunication, and things got overheated a little bit.”
12 Prince Fielder and Manny Parra
The 2008 Milwaukee Brewers had some surprising success in 2008, finishing with a record of 90-72 and making the playoffs as the National League’s Wild Card team. That doesn’t mean there weren’t some speed bumps along the way, however, especially in the dog days of August. It was then that pitcher Manny Parra gave up six runs over the course of six innings, and got into a confrontation with Prince Fielder when Parra was pulled from the game.
Fielder immediately attacked Parra without much of a discussion, leading to several teammates pulling Fielder away. Fielder was quick to apologize to his team, though, saying “It’s not like we hate each other. I don’t. It’s just a little disagreement. I apologize for the way it went down, but I don’t apologize for the passion and intensity.”
11 Steve Garvey and Don Sutton
Not many of the fights that we’ve seen were actually on the same day as a team’s victory, but that was the case in August 1978 when Don Sutton and Steve Garvey of the Dodgers had it out. According to sources, the Washington Post ran a story where Sutton had been critical of Garvey, and Garvey wasn’t too happy about the article. Before their game, the two then started going at it in the clubhouse.
Garvey got the best of Sutton in the brawl, pushing the pitcher into a row of lockers on the other side of the clubhouse. For more than two minutes, the Dodgers players were unable to be separated before things finally started to cool down. Garvey and the Dodgers would win that night, but not before they suffered cuts, bruises and hurt egos.
10 Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis
In 2008, the Red Sox were in the middle of defending their World Series title from the year before, though they ran into a big road block in a June game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Kevin Youkilis had been known by teammates as getting a little aggressive when having a bad plate appearance, which usually meant throwing bats and helmets. One player that took exception to Youkilis’s behaviour was Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez and Youkilis had their fight caught on tape, though it wasn’t live television like some of the fights we’ve seen. One source said that many players had talked to Youkilis about his behaviour in the past, but Ramirez was the one that finally stepped in and got physical, though they would quickly put the incident behind them.
9 Mitch Meluskey and Matt Mieske
Not too many people remember either Mitch Meluskey or Matt Mieske, but few Astros fans can forget the conflict that the two had during batting practice on one fateful day. On June 11, 2000, Meluskey had missed his slot for batting practice before a game, and then showed up late and tried to take his turn when Mieske was set to bat. Mieske didn’t want to give the spot up, so the two started going to blows.
Meluskey threw a hard punch that connected with Mieske in the eye socket, leaving him on the ground writhing in pain. Neither player would last long in the Major Leagues, as Meluskey was done by 2003 and Mieske was sent to Arizona, playing his final 11 games of his career with the Diamondbacks.
8 Goose Gossage and Cliff Johnson
In one of the rare fights that actually led to a player missing time due to injury, this altercation between Yankees players Goose Gossage and Cliff Johnson actually goes back to 1979. While in the clubhouse, the two players went at it, leading to Gossage falling and spraining his right thumb, causing him to miss action. Players at the time were very mum on why the two even started fighting in the first place.
7 Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent
Despite all of his accolades, Barry Bonds had several teammates that weren’t fond of the slugger, and that included second baseman Jeff Kent. Kent and Bonds had never been friendly to each other after playing for several seasons in San Francisco, and things really came to blows in 2002. During a June loss to the Padres, Kent and Bonds were screaming at each other in the dugout, which escalated into pushing, including Kent being pushed into a wall.
Bonds had been standing up for a teammate that made an error earlier in the game, which is what caused the fighting to begin with. Bonds didn’t speak about it with reporters, but Kent would say that people could “Add this to the half dozen times we’ve done it before.”
6 Elmer Flick and Nap Lajoie
Two players that would eventually become Hall of Fame members, Elmer Flick and Nap Lajoie weren’t the closest of teammates while with the Philadelphia Phillies. Their problems started in 1899 when Flick became upset with Lajoie for taking fly balls in his territory that he was able to catch, and they would really go at it the next year. The two players couldn’t decide who a particular bat belonged to, leading to the conflict.
Though Lajoie was much larger than Flick, Flick didn’t back down and the two were trading blows. Flick was able to get out of the way of one of the punches, causing Lajoie to connect with a solid object and break his thumb. Lajoie would go on to miss the next five weeks while the Athletics fell in the standings, meaning that this fight had some big implications.
5 Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez
Zambrano wasn’t the only Cubs pitcher named Carlos that developed a bad reputation in the Chicago dugout. Silva had just wrapped up his first season with the Cubs, and in 2011 was back for Spring Training. However, Silva wouldn’t make it to the regular season, and never appeared in another MLB game following his fight with third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Silva had given up six runs in the first inning on the heels of three errors, setting him off.
The fight didn’t last for very long as teammates separated the two players, but it had big ramifications for Silva’s career. Silva was cut by the Cubs before Spring Training came to a close, and he would end up on Minor League deals with the Yankees and Red Sox before moving on from baseball in 2012.
4 Jorge Posada and Orlando Hernandez
Jorge Posada didn’t really have a big reputation for being too heated, though he did have an altercation with one of his former teammates, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. Back in 2002, the catcher and pitcher had an exchange, which then-manager Joe Torre said was the first he’d seen at Yankee Stadium in his time there. It happened before a game against the White Sox, and it caught those in the clubhouse by surprise.
Reports said that Hernandez connected on a punch to Posada’s head, but didn’t cause any injury. The players tried to brush the altercation aside, saying that there was only pushing with no punches thrown. Posada said that “We’re good, we’re friends. We took care of it,” and neither of the players received any disciplinary actions, as Joe Torre said “You talk it out, you move on. You’re not going to get along all the time.”
3 Reggie Jackson and Billy North
Reggie Jackson has had some memorable altercations in the past, including with former Yankees manager Billy Martin. When it came to fighting teammates, though, his most famous fight came against Oakland Athletics outfielder Billy North. In 1974, the Athletics were on the road in Detroit when Jackson and North started trash talking one another in the clubhouse, leading to Jackson charging at North and taking him down.
The two rolled around on the ground and threw punches, as teammates tried to break them apart. Catcher Ray Fosse was one of the players that tried to pull them away, and ended up getting injured in the process. Within moments, the two went at it again with fists flying. Just a couple of years before that, Jackson had gotten into a fight with first baseman Mike Epstein, who reportedly pummelled the slugger.
2 Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez
Team photo day usually isn’t the most stressful day for a baseball team, but the 1989 New York Mets didn’t get that memo. Strawberry had threatened to leave the team due to a contract dispute, which didn’t sit well with Hernandez. In the photo session, they started arguing, leading to Strawberry throwing a punch that didn’t land. While scuffling, Strawberry shouted out that “I have been tired of you for years.”
After the fight, Strawberry had said that “I’m not going to be playing much longer for this organization,” and he was right. The Mets let him walk after the season, and Hernandez had already called it quits by the time that Strawberry was out the door. Regarding the fight that they had, third baseman Howard Johnson joked “Some team picture, guys.”
1 Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon
Jonathan Papelbon has a knack for rubbing people the wrong way, even if they happen to be his own teammates. When superstar outfielder Bryce Harper didn’t seem to give maximum effort in running out a fly ball, Papelbon took exception, shouting at Harper as he returned to the dugout. When they started arguing, Papelbon lunged at Harper and grabbed his throat, making things get very physical.
Members of the Nationals team had to pull them apart, and the teammates said that the heat was quick to die down. “It’s squashed and it’s good, we’ve moved on,” Papelbon said after the game. Harper said “He apologized, so whatever, I really don’t care...It’s like brothers fighting. That’s what happens.” Harper, of course, is still with the team while Papelbon hasn’t been on a Major League roster since August 2016.
Sources: would end up saying that the two were exchanging words for quite some time, and that Gossage reportedly threw a ball of tape at Johnson to get him riled up. Johnson didn’t want to talk to reporters afterwards, saying “Don’t come ask me any bull. If it’s about baseball, fine. Baseball brought me here. If it’s baseball you want to talk about, fine.”
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