Last Tuesday, July 24, was a special day in baseball history. Not because on that day in 2010 Dodgers closer Kenley Jensen made his major league debut, or because in 2014 former Red Sox journeyman infielder Marco Scutaro played his final big league game.

July 24 is the anniversary of two of the all-time best moments of baseball insanity. Let’s review.

July 24, 1983. George Brett throws the all-time nutty in the Bronx after he’s called out and has a go-ahead home run wiped away for having too much pine tar on his bat.

July 24, 2004. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is hit by a Bronson Arroyo pitch, and says some bad words to Arroyo and Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. Varitek generously feeds his catcher’s mitt to A-Rod, and the benches clear.

Each was a meme before anybody knew what the heck a meme is.

After minutes of discussion and bat measurement and badgering from Yankees manager Billy Martin, home plate umpire Tim McClelland lit Brett’s fuse with a short stroll toward Kansas City’s dugout. With his left arm, McClelland points the offending bat at Brett in the Royals dugout. McClelland raises his right arm in the out signal, and Brett loses his mind. He charges out of the dugout like a bull that’s stepped on a wasp’s nest. Umpires and teammates hold Brett back.

As it turned out, Brett won. The American League upheld Kansas City’s protest, and the game was completed a few weeks later, a 5-4 Royals win.

At the time of the incident, Brett was arguably the best player in the game and at the peak of his Hall of Fame career. He was a few seasons removed from chasing a .400 batting average. Brett was considered a competitive, yet good-natured, guy.

The Red Sox-Yankees brawl was simmering. A Red Sox-Yankees brawl is always simmering. Some say the July 24, 2004 fight was the catalyst for the Red Sox strong finish, which they carried through the playoffs to their first World Series title since 1918. That 11-10 come-from-behind win over the Yankees did begin a modest three-game win streak for Boston. However, as a friend recently pointed out while we talked about the July 24 brawl, the Red Sox played slightly over .500 baseball for the two weeks following the brouhaha. A win over Toronto on August 16 began a 16-1 streak that propelled Boston into the playoffs. The fight was certainly the defining moment of the 2004 regular season, but history had added to its significance.

As far as baseball brawls go, this wasn’t even the best one between the Red Sox and Yankees of that era. That honor goes to the donnybrook in the American League Championship Series the previous fall, in October 2003. That fight is famous for Pedro Martinez sidestepping out of the way of a charging Don Zimmer, who tumbles like a broken Weeble Wobble or an out-of-shape gymnast.

Some may clutch their pearls and say these events should not be celebrated, that they are an embarrassment to baseball and common decency. That opinion is taking the game too seriously, and taking the game too seriously is what these events are born of in the first place.

Billy Martin knew the pine tar on Brett’s bat had nothing to do with how far he hit that Goose Gossage pitch. Arroyo may have drilled A-Rod on purpose (and if he did, at least he didn’t write a song about it), but A-Rod also should have known sometimes in baseball, you get plunked, and quietly taken his base. Varitek could have offered A-Rod mustard with his leather sandwich.

Each July 24, let’s remember each of these incidents with a smile, as a reminder that often we take our games too seriously. Let’s also be thankful social media didn’t exist in either era, because we know Brett, Varitek, and A-Rod would have broken Twitter.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.