Video: The Armando Benetiz-Tino Martinez brawl happened 17 years ago today


I saw a bunch of people posting about this and it brought back fond memories. Or maybe not fond. Brawls and plunkings are crappy. But you know how the passage of time works. After a few centuries we make jokes about the worst atrocities, after a couple of decades we remember even bad things with some bit of wistful nostalgia and after 17 years we think of big dumb fights between a bunch of baby-men trying to out-macho each other fondly.

As for this one, Orioles reliever Armando Benitez planted a pitch into the back of the Yankees’ Tino Martinez, benches cleared, and the Orioles’ Alan Mills and the Yankees’ Darryl Strawberry, Graeme Lloyd and Jeff Nelson all got suspended.

Most notable about it for me? This story describing the events at the time in which American League President Gene Budig — remember when the leagues had presidents? — articulated the reasoning behind his suspensions, particularly that of Benetiz:

”The severity of the discipline reflects the gravity of the offenses,” Budig said in a statement. ”Mr. Benitez not only intentionally threw at Martinez, but the location of the pitch was extremely dangerous and could have seriously injured the player.”

Budig added: ”This was a highly unfortunate and highly dangerous on-field situation. The events demand swift and stern action. A player’s safety is of utmost importance.”

We never get those kids of specific, disparaging statements about guys throwing at each other these days. We get press releases with announcements of the discipline, but little if any editorializing.

I don’t think the game is more violent now than it was 17, 20 or 30 years ago. Indeed, we have fewer brawls now than we used to. But I do get the sense sometimes that no one inside the game thinks of throwing at guys as a bad thing in the sorts of terms Budig uses here. It’s all thought of as self-policing and part of the game and stuff. Maybe the violence is reduced because people don’t want to risk player health, but the idea that sometimes, well, you gotta throw at someone still lingers. It’s an odd little thing.

Regardless, I do wish people inside the game used the terms Budig used back in 1998 more often to drive the point home.