The burning passion of competition is what gives sports the entertaining edge that fuels fanaticism.You can’t ask for much more than watching your favorite athletes lay it all on the line game in and game out. The type of guys that will do anything to win.
Yet sometimes that fervent attitude can cause toxic relationships within their own clubhouse. Baseball players by far have the most grueling schedule in all pro sports. They are forced to stick it out for a 162-game season packed within a six-month span (not including the possibility of a playoff run). Add in a month long of Spring Training and the hassle of traveling every fourth day and someone is bound to clash heads.
Although the sport of baseball is notorious for epic bench-clearing brawls, memorable scuffles are just as apparent within the same dugout. Whether it’s small mistakes that build up over the course of the season or the battle of egos within the clubhouse, dugout fights are not only inevitable, but highly entertaining.
Let’s take a look at the top 15 dugout bouts in Major League Baseball history.
- Carlos Zambrano vs. Michael Barrett
The Cubs’ 2001 season was off to a dismal start and the highlight of the year came in June during a fight dubbed “The Slugout in the Dugout” by the Chicago Tribune. Amidst a five-game losing streak, Zambrano took to the mound against Atlanta during a day game at Wrigley Field. HIs performance was horrendous and the hot-headed hurler had to take it out somewhere.
The broadcast caught footage of the batterymates getting into a heated verbal exchange before a flurry of punches were thrown. Allegedly, the scuffle continued later on inside the clubhouse and landed Barrett a ticket to the hospital with a busted lip.
- Matt Garza vs. Dioner Navarro
See a common theme here? Pitchers and catchers must develop a close relationship to succeed, but sometimes that relationship can turn a little sour. Exactly was the case for the Rays’ duo in 2008. After Garza had shaken off several pitches then proceeded to serve up a three-run dinger to the No. 9 hitter, Navarro called time and approached the mound.
A shouting match ensued and the two players began shoving their mitts into each other’s face in the middle of the field. Once the inning ended, Garza made the first move in the dugout which induced a major scuffle that eventually carried to the tunnel of the clubhouse. Although it seemed childish at the time, the flaring tempers may have fueled the World Series run for Tampa that year.
- James McCann vs. Jose Iglesias
After a defensive blunder by Iglesias which led to two runs by the Red Sox, the Tigers’ backstop wasn’t exactly happy. During the half-inning, McCann was seen giving Iglesias an earful. The shortstop sternly walked up to McCann and shoved him. Although several teammates were able to hold back each player, the scuffle played out for quite some time.
After the fact, manager Brad Ausmus believed that the exchange represented how badly each one of the players wanted to win. Iglesias would later come out to say that the two were able to talk it out and chalked it up to miscommunication.
- Prince Fielder vs. Manny Parra
During a successful campaign in 2008, the Brewers had captured the N.L. Wild Card spot and reached 90 wins by season’s end. However, their path to success was filled with trials and tribulations as outlined during a game in August.
After Parra gave up six runs through six frames, Fielder immediately confronted the pitcher in the dugout. The exchange quickly escalated and several teammates had to restrain the left-handed power hitter. Fielder was quick to apologize after the game and told the media that his actions were fueled by his passion and intensity for the game.
- Steve Garvey and Don Sutton
Let’s take it back to the late ‘70s for a little old school grit. Even the media during that time had the ability to get under the skin of professional ball players. Before a Dodgers game in August of ‘78, Garvey had read a questionable article that divulged the thoughts of his teammate Steve Garvey.
Prior to the game, Garvey let Sutton know that he wasn’t too happy about his critical comments. For over two minutes, a rough exchange barreled throughout the Los Angeles clubhouse. Although L.A. got the win that night, both players suffered extensive post-brawl injuries.
- Carlos Zambrano vs. Derrek Lee
Just three years after his altercation with Michael Barrett, Carlos Zambrano was at it again with his fellow teammates. During a Chicago showdown against the White Sox, Zambarano was seen throwing an all-out temper tantrum inside the dugout. He stormed from one end to the other before locking in on first baseman Derrek Lee. Manager Lou Piniella immediately sent the hot-headed pitcher home that day. Many believe that this incident was the beginning of the end for Zambrano’s career. Following the 2011 season, Zambrano was shipped off to Miami for one year and never saw the diamond again after 2012.
- Mitch Meluskey vs.Matt Mieske
Although both of these players had very short big-league careers and left absolutely no legacy on the game of baseball, their pre-game scuffle in June of 2000 is worthy of our list. After Meluskey missed his slot and showed up late for batting practice, he attempted to cut in front of Mieske as if nothing happened.
Mieske wasn’t having it as the two began exchanging heavy punches. Eventually, Meluskey connected with a devastating blow to Mieske’s eye, leaving him helpless on the ground. Both players soon fizzled and were out of the league by 2003.
- Goose Gossage vs. Cliff Johnson
This baseball beef had been brewing for quite some time before it boiled over. To make matters worse, Gossage ended up with a sprained right thumb that caused the Hall of Famer to miss several games. Rumor has it that the situation started after Gossage had thrown a ball of tape at Johnson just to get him going.
Teammates within the clubhouse had no clue as to why the two had any grievance in the first place. Johnson sternly alerted the media by stating he did not want to talk about the incident at all. Needless to say, times were much different back then.
- Barry Bonds vs. Jeff Kent
Although Bonds had a legendary career, his legacy within the dugout was a bit skewed, especially with teammate Jeff Kent. The two had several discrepancies over the course of the several seasons they spent together in San Francisco during the early 2000’s. In a June 2002 matchup against the Padres, Bonds grabbed Kent by the neck and threw him up against the wall.
It was said that Bonds was standing up for a teammate who made an error earlier that day, but neither went into detail about the scuffle with reporters. On the bright side, both players hit home runs that day despite the team’s loss.
- Billy Martin vs. Reggie Jackson
It’s very rare to see a manager completely chew out a player on live television. Although it probably happens all the time behind cameras, seeing it play out on the field is a totally different experience. The two Yankee greats clashed in a shouting and finger pointing match one day in 1977.
The ego-driven Jackson was pulled from the game in a humiliating fashion. Martin could care less about Jackson’s precious ego and definitely let him know about it. Although no physical fighting ensued, Martin had to be restrained by other players. If anything, the exchange was a testament to how badly the Bombers wanted to win during that time. Which they did… a lot.
- ELMER FLICK AND NAP LAJOIE
Time to take it back two centuries to an era where baseball was developing into America’s Pastime. Hall of Famer members, Elmer Flick and Nap Lajoie had gotten into a conflict during the 1899 season that stemmed from an incident during the prior year. Lajoie was said to have taken fly balls in Flick’s territory which didn’t sit well with the latter.
During the following season, an altercation came about after the two couldn’t decide on which player a particular bat belonged to. After several punches were thrown, Flick managed to dodge a jab which resulted in Lajoie breaking his thumb after connecting with a solid object. Lajoie would miss the next five weeks and the team’s record dropped significantly.
- Jorge Posada vs. Orlando Hernandez
A surprising dugout clash occurred during the back end of the Yankees’ dominant dynasty in 2002. Core Four member Jorge Posada was never labeled as a hot-head in the clubhouse, making this altercation that much more confusing.
“El Duque” had confronted the catcher prior to a game and connected with a punch to Posada’s head. The two were able to brush off the quarrel after Posada stated that they had taken care of it. Manager Joe Torre admitted that players are not always going to get along and that communication is the only way to get through such a situation.
- Reggie Jackson vs. Billy North
Another memorable altercation occurred in Oakland a few years prior to Jackson’s storied career in the Bronx. Mr. October and Billy North went at it in the dugout after Jackson tackled North before punches started flying. Catcher Ray Fosse, who attempted to break up the scuffle, ended getting injured in the process and missing the rest of the season with a neck injury. Jackson and North continued their bout before it was finally broken up by several teammates. Further reports stated that Jackson had been involved with several other scuffles including one several years prior with Mike Epstein.
- Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez
Sometimes ball clubs can’t get started on the right foot in the beginning of the season. For the 1989 Mets, the squad wasn’t able to see eye-to-eye even on picture day. As camera flashes were going off, Strawberry was heard complaining about his contract with the organization.
Hernandez wasn’t happy about the situation and let Strawberry hear it. After a verbal argument, Strawberry threw a punch that didn’t find its target and the scuffle was broken up. Strawberry eventually got what he wanted as the Mets let him go by the end of the season. Hernandez would eventually move on to the Indians and finish out his career in Cleveland
- Bryce Harper vs. Jonathan Papelbon
Topping our list is baseball’s most physical dugout brawl in recent years. After Bryce Harper skied a fly ball to shallow left field, Papelbon gave the young superstar an earful for not running the ball out. After a short yelling match, Papelbon exploded and shoved Harper into the corner of the dugout.
After teammates were able to quickly break up the scene, Harper and the relief pitcher took to opposite sides of the dugout. Apparently, the two had squashed the beef but Papelbon was released by Washington the following year.