Yesterday in baseball: A brawl to remember

Baseball fights are usually rather tedious, but last night’s bout between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates was an exception. It featured something I don’t recall seeing before — one player attacking opposing players in front of the opposing team’s dugout. (I understand that Brian McRae of the Kansas City Royals charged the Texas Rangers’ dugout in the 1990s.)

Trouble has been brewing between the Reds and Pirates all season. There was a skirmish between the two clubs earlier in the year.

Last night, a Pittsburgh pitcher, Keone Kela, threw at the head of Derek Dietrich, one of baseball’s more irritating players. These two had clashed earlier in the season, after Dietrich took too long admiring a home run.

Last night, no fight followed Kela’s shot at Dietrich, and the umpire apparently issued no warning to the pitcher. The two teams chirped at each other, more pitches were thrown at batters, and there were some theatrics (mainly involving Yassiel Puig, another very annoying player). However, the game reached the ninth inning with no fisticuffs.

By then, Amir Garrett, pitching in relief for the Reds, had had enough of the chirping. Following a conference on the mound, he charged straight towards the Pirates’ dugout, prepared to take on all comers. He missed with his first punch (a good thing, because it could have caused real damage), but seemed to connect with a second and a third. Meanwhile, the Pirates swarmed him.

During the mound conference that preceded his charge, Garrett may have tipped the team off about his intentions, because his mates were very quick to join the battle. Reds manager David Bell, who had been ejected, was among the first to engage.

He went after Clint Hurdle, manager of the Pirates. Both ended up on the ground.

The fight was deescalating when Puig, always a loose cannon, went crazy. The Reds had traded Puig to Cleveland a few minutes earlier, though he apparently didn’t know this. It probably would have made no difference if he had.

Nor was Puig finished when the fight finally was over. He seemed to rage at his own teammates (or rather ex-teammates) for not fighting hard enough.

Presumably, he exempted Garrett.

For his part, Garrett seems to have come out of his one-man invasion unscathed. As he left the field, he flexed his muscles. In a post game interview, his face was unmarked.

During the interview, Garrett was mostly apologetic. He said:

I don’t condone what I did. It’s not in the game for something like that to happen. Sometimes, you let emotions get the best of you. I don’t condone that.

I don’t like for kids to see that in the baseball environment. Baseball is fun. The violence shouldn’t be in there.

At the end of the day, it about protecting your teammates, protecting yourself. Emotions got the best of me.

Garrett’s emotions must really have run strong for him to have taken on a whole baseball team. I must say, though, that I admire his courage. He could have retaliated against the Bucs by throwing at one of their batters. Instead, he stood up for his teammates by putting himself in harm’s way.

By doing so he generated something rare — a memorable baseball fight.