Earlier this week the Yankees and Astros almost fought after Joe Girardi took exception to a bat flip from Carlos Gomez on a routine fly ball. Benches cleared and even the bullpen tried to get involved but their half-hearted efforts didn't get them past shallow center field. Ultimately, it was much ado about nothing as there were no punches thrown, suspensions, or even ejections as a result. If this was a dud on the entertainment scale, at the very least it brings back memories of a ridiculous brawl with the Orioles at Yankee Stadium during the magical 1998 season.
On May 19th of that year the Orioles jumped out to a 5-1 lead that the Yankees chipped away at with run scoring hits from Paul O'Neill and Tim Raines in the bottom of the seventh inning. In the bottom of the eighth they mowed through the Oriole bullpen to cut the lead to one when Armando Benitez was brought in to face Bernie Williams with two runners on. Bernie made quick work of the hot-headed Benitez by putting one deep into the right field seats for a two-run lead. Then the fun begins:
There's a lot going on in this video so let's dig right in. The usually cool and calm Tino Martinez looks like a man possessed throughout the whole thing after getting drilled in the back. It's hard to believe he was capable of that kind of anger. It's clear that Jeff Nelson and Graeme Lloyd were there to chew sunflower seeds and kick ass, and they were all out of seeds. They stormed into the fracas throwing haymakers and getting the action started in earnest. Even if they landed exactly zero punches it was still entertaining. Nellie and the Big Aussie may have missed a golden opportunity here to land a professional wrestling gig with Vince McMahon, it has Attitude Era written all over it.
Scott Brosius was no dummy and one only needs to watch this video for proof. He was all for defending his teammates with gusto until he realized he was mano a mano with the very large and very pissed off Armando Benitez. He wisely backed away and decided to gently bear hug 39-year old Harold Baines instead. Later on Darryl Strawberry flies into action with an all-time great sucker punch to the back of Benitez' head. As cheap as it was, you almost don't feel bad for Benitez in that situation as a Yankee fan. It's also no surprise to see Joe Torre take over there, making sure Strawberry didn't lose what little cool he had left. The fringes of the fisticuffs are filled with gems as well. A few highlights include the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Derek Jeter, the still baby-faced Joe Girardi, and the completely clueless Hideki Irabu.
Once the dust settled there was still a game left to finish. Retribution for the Yankees came in the form of Tim Raines depositing the first pitch delivered after the fight into the bleachers to seal the victory. Just one of the many great things the should be Hall of Famer did in his short stay with the Yankees. As far as the fallout from the brawl, five players were suspended including Benitez and Alan Mills from the Orioles as well as Lloyd, Nelson and Strawberry. Still, the Yankees never looked back from this point in the season, eventually winning an AL record 114 games. Maybe a scuffle with the Astros could have been the wake-up call the Yankees needed as they limp into September.