Tired of Del Unser pounding his pitches, Lynn McGlothen decided to pound Unser with a pitch. In doing so, McGlothen triggered a beanball battle, a melee and a war of words between the Mets and Cardinals.
Forty years ago, on April 20, 1976, the Mets hit three two-run home runs off McGlothen in the first two innings at St. Louis and led 6-0.
The home runs were hit by Felix Millan and by Unser in the first inning and by John Milner in the second. The shot by Unser, the Mets’ center fielder, peeved McGlothen.
A left-handed batter, Unser wasn’t a power hitter. He would hit 87 home runs in his 15 seasons in the major leagues.
Against McGlothen, though, Unser was swinging like Babe Ruth.
In 1975, Unser had hit two home runs for the Mets off McGlothen, a Cardinals right-hander.
Now, in their first matchup in 1976, Unser had connected with his third career home run off McGlothen.
When Unser batted again in the third inning, McGlothen nailed him in the left elbow with a pitch.
Enough is enough
Here were the reactions as reported by the Associated Press:
McGlothen: “There are game situations where a pitcher goes out to hit a batter. This was one. He hit two home runs off me last year … I didn’t want to see it happen again.”
Unser: “If he’s upset because I hit a hanging curve, that’s his problem.”
McGlothen: “I’m a big-league pitcher and I want to be around a while. I just think a pitcher has a right to try to contain the hitters. If a pitcher feels like he’s been intimidated, he has to do something.”
Unser: “I knew it was intentional.”
On that, McGlothen agreed.
“I felt like I had a right to retaliate,” McGlothen told United Press International. “I threw that baseball to hit Unser. Let me make that perfectly clear.”
Storm the field
When McGlothen batted in the Cardinals’ half of the third, Mets starter Jon Matlack threw a brushback pitch.
In the fourth, Matlack led off. McGlothen threw two pitches near Matlack. The third struck Matlack in the hip.
Dave Kingman, the Mets’ 6-foot-6 right fielder, charged out of the dugout and rushed toward McGlothen, who tossed down his glove and prepared to defend himself. Players from both dugouts stormed onto the field.
Before Kingman could reach McGlothen, he was tackled by Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez.
McGlothen told The Sporting News he was punched from behind by his former Cardinals teammate, Mets first baseman Joe Torre.
Cardinals left fielder Lou Brock said several Cardinals connected with shots to Kingman.
McGlothen and Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst were ejected. So was Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson.
Matlack on McGlothen: “I think it’s bush. I really think I have no respect for the man.”
McGlothen: “I don’t think either one of us was trying to hurt anyone. I was throwing below the waist. If you want to mark a guy, you throw from the ribs up.”
Matlack: “Everybody’s got to pitch inside … but not a foot and a half inside.”
Schoendienst: “(McGlothen) was wild all night. I’m surprised he hit anybody if he was trying.”
Not done yet
The Mets won, 8-0. McGlothen was fined $300 and given a five-day suspension by National League president Chub Feeney, according to The Sporting News. Boxscore
Five months later, on Sept. 19, 1976, Unser, who had been traded by the Mets to the Expos in July, faced McGlothen in Montreal and hit a solo home run that tied the score in the seventh inning. Boxscore
Unser’s four total home runs off McGlothen were the most he hit against any pitcher in his career.
McGlothen led the 1976 Cardinals in wins (13), complete games (10) and shutouts (four). After the season, he was traded to the Giants in a deal in which the Cardinals reacquired third baseman Ken Reitz.
Previously: Why Cardinals gave 6 intentional walks to Giants