Steve Carlton pitching during the 1986 season.
If you’re like me, you judge sports books strictly by the number of stories about drinking, drugging, sex, and fighting contained in a given volume. Which is why I was delighted today to stumble across a story in Philly Sports Daily about the legendary 1972 brawl between the Phillies and the Montreal Expos. It’s excerpted from a new book about that Phillies season, called Drinking Coffee with a Fork, by authors Steve Bucci and Dave Brown. Go and read the excerpt now. You won’t be disappointed, especially after tidbits such as this:
The Phillies used teamwork -- in the first round of the melee, (Jim) Nash held (Expos manager) Mauch so that Money could take some jabs. The umpires were finally able to restore some order and untangle the bodies. On the bottom of the pile was a badly beaten-up Mauch. His face looked like a tomato, bruised and bloody. His shirt was unbuttoned and splattered with blood. As if he were not feeling bad enough after getting the crap kicked out of him, as soon as he was able to get on his feet with the assistance of his players and coaches, home plate umpire Dick Stello broke the news to him that he had been ejected from the game.
The brawl started when legendarily temperamental Phillies starter Steve Carlton took exception to Expos pitcher Ernie McAnally (GREAT last name) throwing inside and nailed an Expos batter in the head the following half inning. That led to the benches clearing and Gene Mauch getting held down and beaten like a rag doll. So, so awesome.
Despite starting the brawl, Carlton was never ejected or fined for the beanball. In fact, the total punishments stemming from the brawl were two ejections and fines totaling $50. That’s right. Fifty bucks.
Imagine if a brawl like that broke out today. It would stay in the news cycle for weeks. It would be spliced with footage of the Artest brawl in Detroit and people on ESPN would be debating whether or not to put chicken wire on the front of the dugout. Everyone would be suspended for eight years. Mike Lupica would write eight columns about it, each containing a dozen one-sentence paragraphs.
Oh, how I miss the days of yore, when players used to openly smoke and drink and swallow very small green pills and openly beat the stuffing out of each other and frighten children at the stadium. That was REAL BASEBALL, I tell you. Maybe one day, we’ll see the likes of this kind of ugly brawl again, but I’m not getting my hopes up.