The on-field skirmish Aug. 10 between the Cardinals and Reds in Cincinnati was a humdinger. It sparked memories of the battle royale that broke out between the same two clubs on July 3, 1967, at St. Louis. Boxscore
The Reds, trying to stay in the 1967 pennant race with the Cardinals and Cubs, were stunned, humiliated, as St. Louis built a 7-0 lead in the first inning in support of Bob Gibson.
With two out, Lou Brock attempted to steal second.
He was unsuccessful. But, to the Reds, it was unnecessary, piling on.
When Brock next came to bat, leading off the fourth with St. Louis still ahead 7-0, Reds reliever Don Nottebart drilled him with a pitch.
Gibson knew what to do next. Tony Perez led off the Cincinnati fifth. Gibson unleashed a fastball that sailed toward Perez’s ear. He dived to the dirt to avoid being hit.
On the next pitch, Perez flied out to right. On his way to the dugout, he crossed in front of the mound and said something to Gibson that the pitcher later described as “uncharacteristically nasty.”
Gibson took a few steps toward Perez. So did Cardinals first baseman Orlando Cepeda. This star-studded convergence of future Hall of Famers caused both benches to empty.
No punches were thrown. Just when it appeared order was being restored, the Reds relievers came storming onto the field from the bullpen. They were led by Bob Lee, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound hulk who made a beeline for Cepeda.
Fights erupted. According to the book “El Birdos” (Doug Feldman, 2007 McFarland & Co.), Cepeda punched Pete Rose three times in the back of the head. Gibson wrestled with Reds second baseman Tommy Helms as the fight spilled into a dugout. When Rose and others went to Helms’ rescue, Gibson began grabbing Reds players off the dugout floor and hurled them, one by one, onto the field. Cardinals outfielder Bobby Tolan, watching from the top dugout step, dived into the pile of brawlers to help Gibson.
According to multiple published accounts, it took 20 St. Louis policemen 12 minutes to break up the fights. One policeman, Robert Casey, suffered a dislocated jaw in the fracas.
About 25 players and coaches were treated for wounds, mostly cuts and bruises. Among the injured: Gibson (jammed right thumb), Helms (chipped tooth), Nottebart (facial cuts) and Reds manager Dave Bristol (gashed leg).
Gibson, who was crafting a perfect game (the first 13 batters were retired, nine on strikeouts) before the fights began, stayed in, lasted 7.2 innings and got the win in a 7-3 Cardinals victory.
Gibson said the fight “lit a fire” in the Cardinals and helped propel them to the pennant and the World Series championship that season.
This year’s Cardinals, who swept the three-game series in Cincinnati this week and took sole possession of first place in the Central, surely hope their slugfest with the Reds will do the same.