(Updated March 21, 2016)
An on-field skirmish Aug. 10, 2010, between the Cardinals and Reds in Cincinnati was a humdinger that involved Brandon Phillips, Yadier Molina, Johnny Cueto and Chris Carpenter. It sparked memories of the battle royale that broke out between the same two franchises on July 3, 1967, at St. Louis. Boxscore
The Reds, trying to stay in the 1967 pennant race with the Cardinals and Cubs, were 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, 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.
In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “My first pitch buzzed past Perez’s ear, which should have been an indication that I wasn’t trying to hit him. If a pitcher is trying to hit a batter, the last place he wants to throw the ball is at the head because it’s the easiest thing to move. When I wanted to hit somebody, I threw slightly behind him because a batter will instinctively jump backwards when he sees the ball coming toward him.”
Added Gibson, “The brushback of Perez was merely a message to lay off Brock.’
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,” 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.
“I actually got in some good licks on Rose and Helms,” Gibson said in his book.
Said Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck: “I’ll never forget the sight. There was Gibson in the Reds’ dugout visibly manhandling about three Reds and tossing them bodily out of the dugout and onto the field.”
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.