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Martinez-Zimmer scuffle interrupts ALCS

On October 11, 2003, a bench-clearing brawl between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees interrupts the third game of the American League playoffs in Boston. During the fight, 73-year-old Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer charged out of the dugout and tried to tackle Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, but Martinez dodged the older man’s blows and threw him to the ground. The next day, Martinez tried to apologize to the injured Zimmer, but the coach demurred. “I was the guy who charged him and threw the punch,” he wrote in his memoirs. “To the people who said Pedro beat up an old man I said, ‘No, an old man was dumb enough to try and beat up on Pedro.’”

The Yanks and the Sox were bitter rivals, and tempers flared almost every time they met. Still, nothing prepared spectators for the bizarre melee that erupted in the fourth inning of that championship game. It began after Yankee slugger Hideki Matsui hit an RBI double that put his team up 3-2. The next batter up was outfielder Karim Garcia. Martinez threw a hard pitch behind Garcia’s head that clipped him between his shoulder blades. The ump ruled that Garcia had been beaned, gave him a base and issued a stern warning to both teams.

When the game resumed, Garcia headed for second. He slid hard and late, passing the bag and smacking into Red Sox second baseman Todd Walker. The two players began to scuffle, and the benches cleared—but for the moment, the ump managed to avert a brawl.

As Roger Clemens headed for the mound at the bottom of the inning, the ump warned him again: no inside pitches. Still, Clemens’ first pitch to Manny Ramirez zoomed up and in, right toward the batter’s head. Ramirez considered for a moment, then charged the mound with his bat in the air. The dugouts emptied again, and Zimmer, who had long been irritated by Martinez’s provocative behavior, saw his chance. “I said to myself, ‘Where’s Pedro?’” he remembered. “This is my one shot to take a swipe at him.” And he did. Martinez saw him coming and raised his hands to deflect the blow; Zimmer was knocked to the ground.

The umps managed to get everyone calmed down and returned to their respective dugouts, but tensions were high. Fearing that the crowd would join the riot, Fenway vendors stopped selling beer. But that didn’t prevent the Bombers’ reliever Jeff Nelson from starting a fight with groundskeeper Paul Williams in the visitors’ bullpen—Williams had been rooting for the Sox, Nelson said—and sending him to the hospital with cleat-shaped bruises on his arms and back.

In the end, the league meted out fines all around: $50,000 to Martinez, $25,000 to Ramirez, $10,000 to Garcia and $5,000 to Zimmer. The Yankees won the game and the pennant, but they lost the World Series to the Marlins in six games.

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