The Blood Feud: Red Sox
It was business as usual last weekend as the
Yankees of New York and the Red Sox of Boston went at it. Cussing,
shoving, headlocking and behaving like immature adolescents not prime
time major leaguers. But that has been the theme song of relations
between the two franchises for a long, long time.
Jimmy Piersall of Boston was a rookie in 1952. He would later go on to
write a book "The Truth Hurts" and say: "Probably the best thing that
ever happened to me was going nuts. Whoever heard of Jimmy Piersall,
until that happened?
But he was "heard of" as a result of what
happened that season.
"Hey, the Red Sox outfielder had the
audacity, some said, the ignorance, to shout out during a game to Billy
Martin of the Yankees: "Hey, Pinocchio!" It was an overt and obnoxious
reference to the size and contours of the Yankee second baseman's nose."
Too damn yellow to fight?"
"Put up," snarled Martin, "or shut up your
damn ass. Let's settle this under the stands right now!"
The hyper Marin entered the Yankee dugout. Piersall sped into the Sox
dugout, and then circled under the stands lusting for the violent
rendezvous. Martin was trailed after by Yankee coach Bill Dickey. Ellis
Kinder, a Boston hurler, ran after Piersall.
The two hot-headed athletes faced off, both full of fury. There were
some more unprintable words that spewed forth from Martin and Piersall.
Then, Martin jabbed two powerful shots to Piersall's face. Bleeding
profusely from the nose, the Boston outfielder dropped quickly to the
ground. The one-sided battle ended as Dickey and Kinder moved between
the two combatants.
A relaxed Casey Stengel in the Yankee dugout, was informed as to what
had taken place. "That was all right, all right" said the sagacious
pilot who regarded Martin as a son. "I'm happy as long as he starts with
the other teams and doesn't start with any players on the Yankees."
That moment in Yankee-Red Sox history
underscored the "bad blood" that existed. But it was not the most famous
of the on the field altercations. Not by a long shot. The one that
qualifies for that title took place on August 1, 1973.
Both teams were battling for the lead in the American League East. Two
nights before in the opening game of a series the Yankees had scored
twice in the ninth inning to tie the game. But the Sox scored once in
the home half of the ninth to win. New York scored three times in the
ninth inning of the second game of the series to notch its first Fenway
park victory in a year.
What happened the next day epitomized the
frenzy of the rivalry and underscored the raging debate over the
relative abilities of Boston catcher Carlton Fisk and Yankee backstop
Fisk, that summer of 1973, had led in the American League All Star
balloting for catcher. Munson was voted runner-up. "That was part of the
conflict," explained the late Yankee broadcaster of that era Frank
Messer. "And there was even some personality conflict between the two of
"Fisk hated Munson," said Don Zimmer who was
on the scene back then. "Munson hated Fisk, and everyone hated Bill
The August 1 game was tied, 2-2, as the ninth inning began. Sparky Lyle
was the Yankee pitcher. John Curtis was on the mound for Boston. Munson
opened the New York ninth with a double down the left-field line. An
infield groundout by Nettles moved him to third base. Gene Michael
missed a squeeze bunt, but the solidly built Munson came tearing down
the line attempting to score. He slammed into Fisk who had the baseball
and was blocking the plate. The two catchers collided, but Fisk held
onto the ball. Munson was out. Fisk shoved the Yankee catcher off his
body and Munson punched the Sox catcher in the face, bruising his left
Then the two get into a clinching, clawing
encounter. Michael, who was Munson's roommate, managed to get in a few
punches of his own. The next thing that happened was that the
61-year-old Fenway Park was swarming with players - pushing, shoving,
cursing. The playing field erupted with anger. More than 60 players and
coaches, even those from the bullpen 350 away, were full of fury and out
on the field.
When order was finally restored, Carlton Fisk
and Thurman Munson were ejected from the game. "There's no question,"
Munson said later, "I threw the first punch but he started it and then
my roomie got into it. Fisk was lucky that he didn't get into a fight
the night before the way he blocked the plate on Roy White."
"Munson and I were just bumping chests," Fisk explained later. "I
flipped him off, but the big thing started when Michael got into it."
Oddly enough, Michael was allowed to remain in the game, and this
triggered another lengthy delay as the Red Sox protested loudly and
their partisan fans screamed out their rage.
When Boston finally came to bat in the bottom
of the ninth inning, Mario Guerrero singled in Bob Montgomery who had
replaced Fisk as the Sox catcher. The home team a 3-2 triumph, and the
Yankees dropped out of first place. Ironically, Guerrero was the
player-named-later in the 1972 Sparky Lyle for Red Sox first baseman
Danny Cater deal.
# # #
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Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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