The fights that changed sports

Fights dot and sometimes litter sports history. Here are some game-changers.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields, right, takes a swing at Boston Red Sox's Coco Crisp after Crisp was hit by a pitch and charged the mound in the second inning of a 2008 game. The altercation is credited with setting the tone for the Rays run to the World Series. TIME FILES/AP
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields, right, takes a swing at Boston Red Sox's Coco Crisp after Crisp was hit by a pitch and charged the mound in the second inning of a 2008 game. The altercation is credited with setting the tone for the Rays run to the World Series. TIME FILES/AP
Published February 16
Updated February 16

With NASCAR commemorating — really it’s celebrating — the 40th anniversary of the epic fight between the Allison Brothers and Cale Yarborough, we thought it would be good to make note of sports’ other notable brawls.

Malice at the Palace (2004)) The Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons engaged in the most infamous brawl in NBA history at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons center Ben Wallace was fouled hard by Pacers forward Ron Artest. A fight broke out between several players. After the fight was broken up, a fan threw a drink from the stands at Artest, who charged into the stands after the fan, igniting a brawl between players and spectators

The NBA suspended nine players for a total of 146 games. Artest was suspended for the rest of the regular season (73 games) and the playoffs. Five players also were charged with assault and eventually sentenced to a year of probation. Five fans also faced criminal charges and were banned from attending Pistons home games for life. The NBA also increased security between players and limited alcohol sales in games. Artest would go on to legally change his name to Metta World Peace.

Johnny and Juan (1965) During yet another heated Dodgers-Giants pennant race, enraged San Francisco pitcher Juan Marichal, thinking he had been buzzed by Los Angeles catcher Johnny Roseboro’s return throw to Sandy Koufax on the mound, Marichal raised his bat and Roseboro, leaving him bleeding, igniting a melee. Baseball threw the book at Marichal. Some book: an eight-day suspension, $1,750 fine. Marichal and Roseboro eventually made up and became friends. When Roseboro died in 2002, Marichal was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral.

If the shoe fits (1979) In one of the most bizarre NHL altercations, which is saying something, Boston Bruins players climbed over the glass and into the stands at Madison Square Garden after a Rangers fan reached down and hit Bruins player Stan Jonathan. The highlight: Bruins defenseman and future coach and TV color analyst Mike Milbury pulled the shoe off a Rangers fan and proceeded to beat him with it. It led the NHL to ban fighting on the ice. Not.

‘Fan Man’ vs. the world (1993): The Las Vegas heavyweight fight between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield was interrupted by stuntman James Miller, who parachuted into the side of the ring at Caesar’s Palace as Bowe and Holyfield slugged it out. As the two fighters watched, surrounded by heavy security, as fans and security pummeled Miller into unconsciousness. “It was a heavyweight fight and I was the only one who got knocked out,” Miller joked. He received death threats for the stunt, and moved to Alaska. In 2002, faced with declining health and heavily in debt, he walked off into the Alaskan wilderness, where his body was found.

FIU-Miami (2006): A donnybrook broke out at the Orange Bowl during the game between the Panthers and Hurricanes. The Florida Highway Patrol and FIU police had to storm the field to break it up. Thirteen players were ejected and 31 were suspended for a game. Meanhwile, in true U fashion, former Miami (and Bucs) receiver Lamar Thomas, then a TV analyst, said, “Now, that’s what I’m talking about. You come into our house, you should get your behind kicked.”

Battle of Agincourt (1415): Though it did not make SportsCenter, both benches cleared during one of England’s biggest wins of the Hundred Years’ War. Henry V’s underdog team, that band of brothers, upset the deeper, favored French roster under Charles VI.

You can’t shoot Old Yeller! (2003): During Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox and Yankees went at it again. During the fight, beloved baseball Kewpie Doll Don Zimmer charged Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martine, who threw Zima to the ground with a flourish. Zimmer, who later coached and consulted for the Rays, made a tearful apology the next day, and later wrote “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.” Who doesn’t miss Zima?

Hello, world (2008): The Rays, no more Devil, announced their presence with authority in their 2008 breakaway, astounding World Series season with a fight at Fenway Park after Rays pitcher James Shields hit Boston outfield Coco Crisp. Rays catcher Diner Navarro tackled Crisp and Jumping’ Jonny Gomes charged from the Rays dugout and landed a few punches on Crisp. The Rays never looked back.

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