A Brief History Of Mound Charges – Part 2

Picking up where we left off in part one, here are three more mound charging episodes that we all secretly enjoyed whilst pretending outwardly that it has no place in the game.   This time we have two Venturas for the price of one, and AL East rivalry and something a bit different from Cuba.

Manny Machado (Orioles) vs Yordano Ventura (Royals) June 7th 2016

The background: The untimely death of Yordano Ventura was a devastating loss of a young man in his prime who was loved by his friends and family, and any losses to the sport of Baseball pale into infinitesimal insignificance next to this; however, the sport did lose a man with an outstanding talent for pitching that was possibly matched by his ability to incite a brawl (Has anyone else ever managed to get vanilla Mike Trout to display emotion?).  In the second inning Ventura pitched a couple of balls inside nearly hitting Machado.  The all-star third baseman eventually flew out to left and shared some choice words with his opponent on the way back to the dugout.  Next time up, bottom of the 5th Ventura’s first ball to Machado plunks him in the hip.

The Charge: You can tell Machado was expecting it as he’d seemingly already made up his mind to go if the ball came anywhere near him.  He makes a very controlled approach from, possibly partly by necessity as a 99mph fastball had just smashed into his hip.  The helmet isn’t even considered as a weapon and is whipped away with a quick flick of the wrist.  Ventura stands his ground and even throws the first punch which misses. Machado, the much bigger man clobbers the Royals’ pitcher with a meaty right paw throwing him off balance.

The brawl:  Catcher Salvador Perez hurries after Machado to the mound and attempts to haul him off the falling Ventura.  Royals Shortstop Alcides Escobar, Orioles 2nd Baseman Jonathan Schoop and a bizarrely speedy Ned Yost are next to reach the melee.  The onrushing line of Oriole players appear to flatten their own Schoop before they are all are consumed in the frenzy of limbs that ensues.  Orioles Manager Buck Showalter manages to call off a number of Orioles in the main scrum but his right fielder Mark Trumbo has some afters with Royals bench-staff and with 1st Baseman Drew Butera.

The fallout: Whilst everyone is finishing off with their pushing and shoving Machado and Ventura are pulled away from the group still looking to go back at each other like a pair of rutting stags.  Machado got a 4 game suspension and Ventura got 9 which is probably fair.

Coco Crisp (Red Sox) vs James Shields (Tampa Bay Rays) June 5th 2008

The Background: The Rays and the Red Sox had a rivalry of sorts in the early 00s.  Nothing to do with talent, the Rays couldn’t touch the Red Sox until 2008, but for some reason the two teams liked to fight at every given opportunity with little provocation. Shields throws an iffy pitch too far inside catching Crisp’s back hip and it’s time to go.

The Charge: After he’s plunked Crisp portrays the eternal battle between good and evil in the space of two steps.  Is he going to first?  Is he making something of this?  Luckily for us, evil wins out.  With a flick of the wrist his helmet is off and he’s charging.  Shields drops his hat and steadies himself for the opening volley. It’s probably a good thing for both men that Crisp was an amateur boxer and able to dodge the first punch.  Shields throws a wild haymaker that would likely have broken his pitching hand as well as taking Crisp’s head off. Coco comes back instantly with an expert jab to the Rays’ pitcher’s jaw, nudging him beyond his onrushing teammates.

The brawl:  Catcher Dioner Navarro and 3rd Baseman Evan Longoria reach the fracas first and engage in a spot of spooning with Crisp.  As Longoria switches his affections and has a quick cuddle with middle infielder Julio Lugo, the door is opened for DH Jonny Gomes who flies into the melee and deals a brutal pummelling to Crisp.  Whilst bodies pile on the Gomes/Crisp altercation 1st Baseman Sean Casey takes his chance to launch himself upon Shields.  It’s an ugly fight with more knees and elbows thrown in from both sides even as the management attempt to re-establish order.

The Fallout: Crisp, Shields and Gomes were all ejected, several others were lucky not to be.  Upon review 3 Red Sox and 5 Rays received suspensions combining to a total of 38 days for their parts in the brawl.  The Red Sox and the Rays continued to beat seven shades out of each other on several further occasions until as recently as 2014 when everyone’s least favourite gobby homophobe Yunel Escobar mouthed off at the Sox bench.

Robin Ventura (White Sox) vs Nolan Ryan (Rangers) August 4st 1993

The Background: The Rangers and the White Sox had something of a rivalry in the early 90s occasionally exchanging words, beanballings and scuffles.  Some point to an overly admired home run hit in 1990 as the start of it all, but there was oddly little to trigger this fight that has become the stuff of legends.  Ventura had singled in the first inning but to no particular controversy, next time up Ryan lets loose a fastball that strikes Ventura on the back of his arm.

The Charge:  Ventura makes three steps towards first carefully considering the ramifications of reacting to the plunking.  What’s the worst that could happen?  A suspension?  A fine?  A minor footnote on his career?  If he’d taken another step he may have considered the possibility that he could have his arse handed to him and be forever remembered for 30 seconds of grainy video rather than 6 gold gloves and 2 all-star appearances.  However, he doesn’t take a 4th step, he drops his bat and helmet and glides over to the 46 year old Nolan Ryan (20 years his senior) completely unprepared for his imminent pasting.

The brawl:  Rather than throw a punch or tackle his opponent the White Sox 3rd Baseman chooses to lean in and push Ryan gently in the chest.  Sadly for Ventura it only got worse.  Ryan takes advantage of the off balance 26 year-old and grips him in a vice-like headlock.  In these situations it’s more often the on-charging batter that has the upper hand which usually allows the defending party’s teammates time to assist quickly as they’re fielding. Unfortunately for Ventura he’s a single piece of pale hosiery in a field of Chuck Norrisi (I assume that’s the pluralisation). The few extra seconds Ryan has unchallenged possession of his opponent’s head allows the veteran pitcher to unleash pummelling.  When additional troops finally converge on the clash the standard handbags seem to take on a feistier quality than we are used to.  Somehow Ventura escapes the pile-up and watches on looking slightly shell-shocked whilst the likes of John Russell are still baying for blood.

The Fallout: Ventura and White Sox Manager Gene Lamont were ejected but Ryan was allowed to continue and in fact earned the win.  Ventura took a 2 game suspension and was fined $1,500 which was nothing compared to the bragging rights he lost.

Up for a bonus charge?  Here’s something a bit worrying from Cuba…

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