Today, Tony La Russa manages the Cardinals with an intensity that gets turned up to maximum levels when matched against longtime rival and Reds manager Dusty Baker. A quarter-century ago, the same held true when Whitey Herzog of the Cardinals faced Roger Craig and the Giants.
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the on-field scuffle between the Cardinals and Giants, followed by a war of words between Herzog and Craig, on July 22, 1986, in St. Louis.
The Cardinals, powered by an eight-run fourth inning, led San Francisco, 10-2, in the bottom of the fifth with Vince Coleman on first base and two out. Coleman swiped second, then third.
After a walk to Ozzie Smith, reliever Juan Berenguer delivered a pitch to Willie McGee that sailed out of the reach of catcher Bob Melvin. As Coleman broke for home plate, Melvin recovered the ball and threw to Berenguer, who applied a hard tag in time to retire Coleman. Words were exchanged as Berenguer voiced his displeasure with Coleman for stealing bases with his team ahead by eight runs.
When Coleman next batted in the seventh, reliever Frank Williams spun him away from the plate with an inside pitch. Umpire Bob Davidson issued a warning to both teams. With his next delivery, Williams hit Coleman in the left leg. Both dugouts emptied.
Herzog and Craig had a heated exchange at home plate. Giants pitcher Mike Krukow butted Coleman with his head and Coleman wrestled him to the ground, according to The Sporting News. When Herzog noticed Giants utility player Joel Youngblood had Cardinals pitcher Rick Horton in a wrestling grip, the magazine reported, Herzog grabbed Youngblood by the neck. As Giants infielder Randy Kutcher tried to pry Herzog off Youngblood, Herzog tangled with Kutcher.
Someone spiked Cardinals second baseman Tommy Herr in the face and neck. He needed eight stitches to close the wound.
Craig, Williams and Giants third baseman Chris Brown were ejected.
“It’s an outrage,” Herzog told the Associated Press. “I’m talking about Roger Craig. It’s bush league. If he wants us to stop running, he can send over a note promising to stop trying to hit home runs.”
Replied Craig: “I’m glad it happened. It showed me what (the Giants) are made of.”
The players followed the lead of their managers.
“Vince is going to run regardless of what point of the game we’re in,” Herr said to the Associated Press. “That’s his game.”
Said Youngblood: “I’m from the old school. I’ve been in this game for 17 years. You never want to humiliate your opponent. If you do, you have to be prepared to accept the consequences. It’s almost like an unwritten rule. It’s baseball.”
The fracas seemed to inspire the Giants. After pulling to within three runs, 10-7, San Francisco had two runners on base with two out in the ninth before Todd Worrell got Candy Maldonado on a flyout to right. Boxscore
“They had the tying run at the plate in the ninth,” Herzog told The Sporting News. “That’s why we run.”