Punch lines

Gibbons, Lilly come up short of landing an all-time manager-player knockout blow

The Kickoff

August 23, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

When Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons and starting pitcher Ted Lilly charged into the home dugout tunnel Monday night, they also walked into a peculiar area of baseball history.

It doesn't happen too often - at least not publicly - but physical skirmishes between a manager and one of his players have dotted baseball's landscape for decades.

The altercation between Gibbons and Lilly - which happened after Gibbons removed his pitcher in a seven-run inning and Lilly complained and then cursed at his manager while walking off the field - was not an all-timer.

For one, it happened inside the tunnel, outside the eye of the television cameras. And Gibbons and Lilly have downplayed the altercation, saying no punches were thrown.

Although it's news this week, it won't stand the test of time. Here are some of the most memorable manager-player scuffles.

1. New York Yankees manager Billy Martin vs. Reggie Jackson, 1977.

It was barely physical, but this is atop the list simply because of star power and the public stage. It was a nationally televised Saturday afternoon game between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park when Jackson loafed after Jim Rice's double. Martin pulled the pitcher and then he pulled Jackson from the outfield - in the middle of the inning. The burly star and scrappy manager had words, and Martin lunged toward Jackson before coaches separated them.

2. Texas Rangers manager Frank Lucchesi vs. Len Randle, 1977.

Randle was upset at the end of spring training that he had lost his second base job to rookie Bump Wills. So, after allegedly being called a punk by Lucchesi, Randle, 28, punched his 49-year-old manager in the face, broke his cheekbone and sent him to the hospital. He was fined, suspended and, by late April, traded to the New York Mets.

3. Cincinnati Reds manager Lou Piniella vs. Rob Dibble, 1992.

Everyone remembers the footage of this one: Piniella screaming at his Nasty Boy reliever that Dibble didn't want to be treated like a man; Dibble and Piniella wrestling on the clubhouse floor. The argument may have stemmed from comments Piniella made to the media about Dibble's shoulder injury, but Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo was there and, to this day, he won't publicly comment on exactly what happened to set off the two nuclear personalities. With constant replaying, it has become a made-for-TV standard.

4. Yankees' Martin vs. Ed Whitson, 1985.

This one was significant because Martin had his arm and a couple ribs broken in the tussle with Whitson, a Yankees starter. The brawl took place at the Cross Keys Inn in Baltimore in September of that year while the Yankees were here visiting. A Yankees-led investigation into what happened was 58 pages long.

5. Yankees manager Yogi Berra vs. Phil Linz, 1964.

On a bus ride after the Yankees had lost four straight, Linz decided to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on his harmonica. Berra, sitting at the front of the bus, yelled for whoever was playing the harmonica to cut it out. Legend has it that Linz didn't hear Berra and asked superstar Mickey Mantle what the manager had said. Mantle reportedly told Linz that Berra wanted him to play it louder and Linz cranked it up. Berra eventually ran to the back of the bus, screaming profanities at his player. An angry Linz then threw the harmonica, which hit Yankee Joe Pepitone and cut his leg. Linz was fined for the incident, but received a $20,000 endorsement with a harmonica manufacturer.

6. St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog vs. Garry Templeton, 1981.

The fiery Herzog snapped when he saw Templeton make obscene gestures to the Busch Stadium crowd in an August game. When Templeton got to the dugout, Herzog grabbed him and pulled him down the dugout steps before being separated by several Cardinals. Templeton was traded to San Diego - for future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith - that offseason.

7. Chicago White Sox manager Lena Blackburne vs. Art Shires, 1929.

Shires, an aspiring boxer, paired off against Blackburne on at least two occasions, including once in a hotel room. One time, Blackburne was knocked unconscious. Shires also boxed in the offseason, until Major League Baseball outlawed the pairing of boxing and baseball for fear its players may get involved with gamblers.

8. Minnesota Twins' Martin vs. Dave Boswell, 1969.

Yep, Billy Martin again - and this doesn't even count the time he punched out a marshmallow salesman. Again, this one happened in a bar. Boswell was one of the Twins' best pitchers; he won 20 games that year. But Martin apparently didn't care. He reportedly beat his ace while Boswell was being held by a couple of bar patrons.

9. Cleveland Indians manager Ossie Vitt vs. all of the Indians, 1940.

Vitt was so reviled by his players that writers referred to that team as the "Cry Baby Indians" for all of their moaning to the front office and media about Vitt. Legend has it that the Indians players would fake fights among themselves to lure Vitt in to break up the scuffles, just so they could land anonymous blows on their manager. He never managed after that season.

10. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda vs. Rick Sutcliffe, 1981.

This conflict was more with Lasorda's office furniture than the manager himself. Enraged that he was left off the team's postseason roster, Sutcliffe went off on Lasorda's office. He overturned his manager's desk and busted a chair or two before leaving. He was traded to Cleveland that offseason.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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