By Scott A. Rowan
For better or worse, brawls are part of the game of baseball. For example, right or wrong, fans loved seeing 46-year-old Nolan Ryan put 26-year-old Robin Ventura into a headlock and rain blows down on his head after the younger player rushed the mound in 1993. (Ryan stayed in the game after the incident and no-hit Ventura’s White Sox to add insult to cranial injury.) The 2003 fight between the Yankees and the Red Sox that led to 32-year-old Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez throwing 72-year-old Yankee coach (and former Cubs manager) Don Zimmer to the ground was also unforgettable to most fans.
We could list a dozen more memorable baseball fights, but one in particular tops the list: the three-sided fight between the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs, and fans at Wrigley Field on May 16, 2000, that ended in a record-setting 19 Dodgers being suspended from play. The incident is known to most fans as “the Rumble in Wrigley.”
The suspensions were especially stunning given that all 19 players were from the same team. The prior record for suspensions in a game (16), which had happened less than a month earlier on May 22, 2000, involved the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. The total of games suspended for all 19 Dodgers players was 84 total games, also a record for an MLB game (82 games combined in the Tigers-White sox battle).
The Cubs-Dodgers fight was eerily reminiscent of the “Malice in the Palace,” on November 19, 2004, an NBA brawl between the visiting Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons at the Palace in Auburn Hills that spilled over into the stands with players fighting fans. Nine players were suspended for a total of 143 games; the incident was the nadir of the NBA’s fan-player relations.
It was during the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 6–5 victory when a fan sitting in the seats behind the visiting pitchers’ bullpen (some of the most expensive seats at Wrigley Field) decided he wanted a souvenir: Dodgers catcher Chad Kreuter’s cap. The fan snatched Kreuter’s cap, apparently hitting him in the head in the process. The Dodgers’ bullpen, both coaches and players, then charged into the stands to retrieve the stolen property.
Anyone who has attended a game at Wrigley Field knows how close the seats are to the bullpen (only a waist-high brick wall separates them). Security was present, as always, but nobody had planned for such an assault, and it took nine minutes to restore order. When the dust cleared, 16 Dodgers players and three Dodgers coaches were suspended, the Cubs dropped charges against the fan who instigated the entire affair, a criminal judge threw out charges against two other fans, and the Dodgers paid another fan $300,000 for injuries sustained in the fight.
While no charges of public intoxication were filed as a result of either the “Rumble in Wrigley” or the “Malice in the Palace,” alcohol was strongly suspected to have played a role in both incidents. Los Angeles coaches and players said the fans were dousing them with beer just prior to the fight. The Cubs changed their alcohol sales policies as a result, moving last call for alcohol sales in the stands to the seventh inning.
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