The Tampa Bay Rays and Memorable Bench Clearing Brawls


By now, most of us have heard about top Chicago Cubs prospect Jorge Soler charging the Clearwater Threshers dugout with a bat in their Florida State League matchup, following some words with the second baseman. Then, on Thursday, there was the San Deigo Padres  and Los Angeles Dodgers bench clearing brawl, sparked when Zack Greinke hit Carlos Quentin with a 3-2 pitch, then said something as Quentin took a couple of steps to the mound. The result was a broken collarbone for Greinke, and an eight game suspension for Quentin – long, drawn out appeals process pending.

With the recent proliferation of bench clearing antics, it seems like a good time to take a look back over the history of the Rays, or people presently associated with the Rays, and look at some of the memorable tussles in franchise history – most of which involve the Boston Red Sox.

Pedro Martinez v. Gerald Williams – September 6, 2000

There had been bad blood between the Red Sox and the Devil Rays almost from the beginning of the Rays existence. The simmering tensions at this point between the clubs came to a head on September 6th, when Gerald Williams was hit by Pedro Martimez with the fourth pitch of the game. He charged the mound, throwing a right at Martinez before being tackled by Jason Varitek. The Rays responded by drilling Brian Daubach twice and Nomar Garciaparra once, in a game where five Devil Rays players, two coaches, and the manager were ejected. To add insult to injury, the brawl only seemed to get Martinez focused, as he retired the next 24 consecutive batters he faced, and allowed only a John Flaherty single in the ninth in the Red Sox 8-0 victory.

Pedro Martinez v. Don Zimmer – October 11, 2003

Back then, Zimmer was the Yankees bench coach, a sounding board for manager Joe Torre. In what was the third game of the American League Championship Series, chances are that Zimmer never would have figured on becoming part of the storyline in what promised to be a classic matchup between martinez and Roger Clemens. That is, until Pedro hit Karim Garcia with a pitch, then motioned threateningly at Jorge Posada. Garcia took out Sox second baseman Todd Walker with a hard slide on a force out. The following inning, Clemens threw a pitch up and in to Manny Ramirez, who then charged the mound. Zimmer took this opportunity to charge Martinez, and let’s just say that it did not end well for the then 72 year old bench coach. Amazingly, the fighting did not end, as a Red Sox groundkeeper and Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson scuffled later in the game.

Elijah Dukes – November 29, 2007

Oh, Elijah Dukes. So much talent, and so little ability to not be a complete and utter train wreck. As this post is focusing on brawls during a game, we can bypass his extensive arrest record, his behavior issues, and ‘burgeoning’ rap career. Instead, we step into Professor Peabody’s Wayback Machine, and head to November 29, 2007. After being thrown off the Rays following yet another incident, this time involving Dukes texting a picture of a gun to his wife, along with leaving a voice message threatening to kill her and their two children, Dukes had actually been reasonably well behaved as he played for Licey in the Dominican Winter League. That is, until that date, when he erupted, having words with the opposing catcher and the umpire in his first at bat, made suggestive gestures tot he crowd after being hit by a pitch, and was eventually ejected after attempting to attack an umpire. That incident marked the end of Dukes time as a member of the Rays, as he was shipped to the Washington Nationals four days later.

James Shields v. Coco Crisp – June 6, 2008

This incident was carry over from the previous game, when the Rays felt that Crisp attempted to injure second baseman Akinori Iwamura, sliding hard into second base as he was caught stealing. Crisp felt that Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett had tried blocking the bag on a previous stolen base attempt, so he was going into the bag hard regardless. As such, in Crisp’s first at bat of the following game, James Shields drilled him in the hip. Crisp charged the mound, ducking a right before throwing a few punches at Shields. Dioner Navarro tackled Crisp as the benches emptied. Jonny Gomes jumped on top of Crisp, throwing punches as he was pinned under Navarro. Shields, Gomes and Crisp were all ejected for their parts in the altercation, as the Red Sox ended up winning the game 7-1.

There have been several other incidents in Rays history, often with the Red Sox as the foil, when it comes to on the field altercations. The most recent example occurred on March 16th during Spring Training this year, when the combustible Alfredo Aceves hit Sean Rodriguez with a pitch after Rodriguez had hit a home run off him in the previous at bat.the two got into a shouting match, and Rodriguez had to be restrained from going after Aceves as several Rays exited the dugout.

As the Rays face the Red Sox this weekend, the potential of another altercation adds another layer to what has become an intense rivalry. With both teams expecting to make a run at a potential postseason berth, and in what is anticipated to be a hotly contested division, each game takes on an additional level of importance, regardless of when in the season they face off. If nothing else, it helps to make their matchups must watch television.