Baseball brawls are in the news this week after San Diego's plate-crowding Carlos Quentin was hit by a pitch and charged the mound. The result was a broken collarbone for Zack Greinke, the Dodgers' high-priced righthander, that could keep out of action for two months.
The wildest baseball brawl that I've witnessed came on July 16, 1974 _ Twins vs. Brewers on a Tuesday night at Met Stadium.
The Brewers were leading 5-2 entering the seventh. Ray Corbin relieved Dave Goltz to start the inning. He struck out Robin Yount and Don Money. That brought up outfielder Bobby Coluccio, who was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI.
Corbin's first pitch was a fastball that struck Coluccio's batting helmet near his left temple. Coluccio fell into the batter's box, picked himself up and made two strides toward the mound, and then collapsed in front of the plate.
"It looked like he froze,'' Corbin said. "I was just trying to brush him back. And he had been hitting us pretty good.''
The Brewers were convinced that was the reason Coluccio had been hit: the three hits earlier in the game that had put him in the middle of three scoring rallies.
Coluccio was still on the ground as players from both teams started to congregate. The angriest of the Brewers appeared to be veterans John Briggs and George Scott.
Rod Carew stepped between Corbin and the two Brewers. "Briggs and Scott were swearing quite a bit, but I didn't think they wanted to hit anyone,'' Carew said.
He was wrong. Twins manager Frank Quilici and Brewers pitcher Clyde Wright arrived on that scene. Wright was screaming at Quilci, who said: "It wasn't ordered.''
To which Scott was reported to say, "You guys have been throwing at me the whole series,'' and flicked a punch in Quilici's direction.
And with that, all Hades broke loose.
Scott, a large man, went toward Corbin. And Craig Kusick, a larger man for the Twins, pushed away Scott. Darrell Porter, Milwaukee's catcher, tried to put Kusick (affectionately known to teammates as "Mongo'') in a headlock. Big mistake.
"I felt sorry for Porter,'' Twins pitching coach Bob Rodgers said. " ... Craig was whaling on him.''
Kusick would later claim innocence for any fisticuffs. He was following a long-held baseball tradition: Admit nothing.
Mongo was only the co-champion of the brawl when it came to the Twins. He had to share honors with Bobby Darwin, the muscular outfielder.
Darwin wasn't in the lineup that night and was said to be up in the home clubhouse when the fight started. And when he heard what was going on, he came flying through the tunnel and into the fray.
He spotted teammate Vic Albury and Milwaukee's Charlie Moore "shadow boxing'' near the visitors dugout. Darwin intended to get Albury out of this pending altercation, but then Milwaukee's Ken Berry tried to put Bobby in a headlock. To repeat: Big mistake.
My lasting memory of the night is Darwin chasing Berry, and Berry running and veering like a punt returner to escape Darwin. Asked if Berry was much of a fighter, Darwin said:
"No, but he can run pretty good.''
Amazing fact: Best I can tell, there were no ejections. And Corbin, slinger of the fastball that beaned Coluccio, finished the game ... getting the final seven outs for the Twins in a 5-4 loss.
And Coluccio, still in a clump in front of the plate during most of the brawl, was back in Milwaukee's lineup two days later.
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