Yesterday Buster Olney had Hall of Famer Tom Glavine on his podcast. One of the things they talked about was when Glavine threw at former teammate Dale Murphy, who was by then playing for the Phillies. You can listen to it here. The game took place on Sunday June 19, 1991. If you can’t listen to a podcast, go read the contemporaneous story about it in the Philly Inquirer. Or, if you want to, watch the video of the incident, which I’ve embedded below.
As the article notes, Roger McDowell had been ejected from the game for hitting Otis Nixon in the shoulder with a pitch earlier (Glavine says on the podcast it was his first pitch, but he had been in for more than an inning by then). The hit on Nixon was retaliation for something that Nixon did a week prior (Glavine doesn’t elaborate and I can’t remember, but it probably involved sliding spikes up or trash talk). So plunk goes the ball off of Nixon.
From the podcast we learn, definitively, that manager Bobby Cox ordered Glavine to hit Murphy, despite the fact that hitting Nixon was itself retaliation. If things were even, why hit Murphy? Because this was the Sunday game of a three-game series, and the Braves had expected the Phillies to hit Nixon before then. “Because you should’ve handled that earlier,” Glavine says now, “now it’s a problem again.” So put that in your big book of unwritten rules: you get the right to retaliate, but you have to do it quickly. You might recall that the Blue Jays were a bit mad at that when Matt Bush hit Jose Bautista a couple of weeks ago too. Dumb unwritten rules never die, I guess.
From the story you learn that it wasn’t easy for Glavine to hit Murphy, given that Murphy was the Braves’ undisputed leader when Glavine came up and was a friend. Glavine asked Cox if he could hit the second guy as opposed to Murphy. “No, you gotta hit Murph,” Glavine says Cox told him. Watch the video below and you can see how softly and half-heartedly those purpose pitches, none of which ever hit their target, were thrown. Glavine was nonetheless ejected. Here he is talking about it in 1991:
“When I had some tough times in my first few seasons, Dale was always there with advice and some consolation,” Glavine said. “He’s a great guy, a consummate pro. He’s a positive force in any clubhouse, an upbeat guy.
“But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to protect your teammates.”
Tough talk, but Glavine’s actions spoke louder.
Glavine says now that he got hate mail about it from Murphy fans in Atlanta for a couple of months after that.
A pitcher obeyed his manager’s dumb order, made an at bat in a baseball game kind of a joke and put everyone in an uncomfortable position. But hey, stupid unwritten rules — hastily edited to suit the purposes of the moment and not really having anything to do with anyone protecting anyone — were served.