Karpin: Yanks and Red Sox Renew Ol’ Acquaintances

Baseball is buzzin’ over the latest Yankees/Red Sox bench clearing brawl last night.

In the third inning, Tyler Austin slid into second to try and break up a potential double play. Red Sox shortstop Brock Holt took exception to the slide. Austin clipped Holt’s leg but I don’t think the intent to injure was there. By rule, Holt has to keep his foot on the bag so that contributed to the situation.

In the seventh, it came to a head. Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly missed Austin with a first attempt at retaliation. Two pitches after that, Kelly hit Austin in his left arm. Austin tossed his bat to the ground in disgust and then made his way towards the Red Sox pitcher as both benches emptied. Aaron Judge was among those who played peacemaker, but you can expect suspensions to be handed out. Most baseball brawls are categorized with “nothing ever happens” but this was nasty and it has been going on between the Yankees and Red Sox for a long time.

Go all the way back to June 1967 when the Yankees hosted the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were going nowhere while the Red Sox were in the midst of their “Impossible Dream” season.

In the second inning, Yankee pitcher Thad Tillotson hit Red Sox third baseman Joe Foy in the head to light the fuse for what was to come. There was no DH in those days so when Tillotson came to bat in the bottom of the second, Red Sox starter and the eventual winner of the Cy Young Award, Jim Lonborg, retaliated by hitting the Yankee pitcher. Tillotson began walking to first but he pointed at Lonborg and that’s when the benches emptied.

Six years later, Thurman Munson tried to bowl over Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk after a missed squeeze bunt attempt by Gene Michael and that sparked a brawl. A rivalry between the two best catchers in the American League was already in play and this incident merely intensified it.

Fisk was in the middle of another incident three years later. In June 1976, Lou Piniella to knock the ball loose on a play at the plate. Fisk didn’t take too kindly to the gesture and started throwing punches as both benches emptied onto the field. Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee injured his shoulder after he was hit by Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles.

Fast forward to game 3 of the 2003 American League Championship Series when Pedro Martinez tossed Yankee coach Don Zimmer to the ground during an on the field melee between the two teams.

One year later, it was Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez getting into a fracas that many felt was a turning point of Boston’s season.

In four out of those five bench clearing brawls of the past, either the Yankees or the Red Sox went to the World Series. Did Boston wake up a Yankee sleeping dog? Stay tuned.

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