Everyone loves a good BaseBrawl, right? When tempers flare and the benches clear, it usually revs up everyone in the ballpark. But they’re typically duds. They include a lot of jawing and not a ton of action. That didn’t happen on May 19, 1998 during a game at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and Orioles.
Manager Joe Torre’s club was on its way to winning a then-AL record 114 games before securing New York’s second World Series title in three years. At this point in the season, the Yankees were doing their best 2023 Tampa Bay Rays impression. The Bombers entered this matchup with a 28-9 record, while the O’s were struggling. They came to the Bronx with a 20-23 record, which already had them 11 games out of first place.
The Orioles had what they thought was a commanding 5-1 lead heading into the seventh inning. New York scored two in the seventh before erupting for a six-run eighth to take the lead and eventually win. There were some extra fireworks, though.
Armando Benitez was brought in with two outs in the eighth to try and preserve a 5-4 lead. He faced Bernie Williams, who took him to the upper tank for a three-run shot. The reliever then took out his frustrations on Tino Martinez, hitting him with the very next pitch between his numbers in the back.
That’s when all hell broke loose and this became one of the all-time great baseball brawls. The video I found with the entire ordeal is age-restricted on YouTube (which is bogus). So, if you’d like to see this in its entirety, check it out here.
The next best thing I could find was Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen covering it the next day on an old-school episode of Sportscenter. They catch all the pertinent highlights, including Graeme Lloyd taking things up a notch, Darryl Strawberry getting the punch in that he desperately wanted, Martinez being irate that this was the second time Benitez hit him for no good reason, Tim Raines homering on the first pitch once things settled down, and more.
An added bonus here? Comments from The Boss himself, George Steinbrenner. As usual, he didn’t mince his words, and it even ended with him suggesting he and Orioles owner Peter Angelos should settle the score by fighting one another. He claimed to be ready because he’s been “working out three times a week”.
Outside of Steinbrenner’s remarks, it was interesting to hear Lenny Webster, the Orioles’ catcher, essentially defend the Yankees and Martinez, while not backing up his pitcher (which was the right thing to do).
What was also interesting was how Baltimore manager Ray Miller felt that this ordeal would hopefully serve as a “coming together” for his club. Yea, I’ll take “Things that would never be said in 2023 for $300” on that one. It ultimately didn’t work for the Orioles, as they finished 79-83, which was 35 games behind the Yankees and 13 games behind the AL Wild Card spot.
It’s hard to believe this brawl happened 25 years ago. We can be certain that it won’t be forgotten, though — not with the way everything went down.
You can reach Matt Musico at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.