First, Ted Simmons decked a Cubs player. Then, he delivered a knockout punch to the entire Chicago team.
Forty years ago, on Sept. 22, 1974, at St. Louis, Simmons slugged Cubs batter Bill Madlock, setting off a melee. An inning later, Simmons got the game-winning hit, carrying the Cardinals to a crucial victory over their archrival.
In the ninth inning, with the score tied at 5-5, Madlock led off against reliever Al Hrabosky. When the Cardinals closer stepped off the mound, turned his back on the batter and went into his routine of psyching himself for the confrontation, Madlock backed away and walked toward the on-deck circle.
After Madlock returned to the batter’s box, Hrabosky exited the mound again. Madlock responded by walking back to the on-deck circle.
“I know what they were doing,” Hrabosky said to the Associated Press. “They were trying to out-psyche me.”
Irritated, Shag Crawford, the home plate umpire, walked toward Madlock and ordered him to return to the batter’s box.
Cubs manager Jim Marshall and Jose Cardenal, the Cubs’ on-deck batter, rushed toward the umpire, protesting what they considered delay tactics by Hrabosky.
“The pitcher walked off the mound and just stood there,” Marshall said. “The pitcher is the one who should have been told to come in with the ball.”
Whirling away from Marshall and Cardenal, Crawford strode back toward the plate. With Marshall and Cardenal in pursuit, the umpire positioned himself behind the catcher, Simmons, and motioned to Hrabosky to make a pitch.
Hrabosky obliged and, with no one in the batter’s box, fired a high fastball that was called a strike.
Simmons rifled the ball back to Hrabosky and the pitcher quickly prepared to make another delivery.
Alarmed, Cardenal waved frantically to Madlock to get into the batter’s box.
Cardenal, fearing Madlock wouldn’t arrive in time, took a batting stance at the far end of the box. As he did, Madlock rushed into the box and took his stance in front of Cardenal.
Now, the Cubs had two batters in the box, both with bats cocked, prepared to swing.
In his haste, Madlock brushed Simmons with the bat as Hrabosky’s fastball crossed the plate.
“I looked up and he (Madlock) was standing there with his bat, looking at me,” Simmons told reporters. “I said, ‘What are you looking at?’ And he said, ‘Get lost.’
“Then I hit him.”
Simmons landed a punch to Madlock’s chin. The benches emptied and fighting ensued. You can see a video of the incident by playing the first 1:05 of this You Tube clip.
When order was restored, only Marshall was ejected.
Madlock struck out, Cardenal popped out to Simmons and pitcher Dave LaRoche struck out.
In the bottom of the ninth, Lou Brock singled and advanced to second when Reggie Smith walked.
With two outs, Simmons stepped to the plate.
Batting right-handed, Simmons laced a single to center, scoring Brock and giving the Cardinals a 6-5 victory. Boxscore
The emotional triumph gave the division-leading Cardinals a 1.5-game advantage over the second-place Pirates with nine games remaining.
Basking in the afterglow of victory, Hrabosky said, “I really don’t intend to make people or players mad at me with what I’m doing. I’m just doing it for myself. But, if it makes them mad, it’s just serving my purpose all the more.”
Previously: Bert Blyleven: Mighty matchups versus Cardinals