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Violence in Baseball. Richard Bough PED 4761 July 9, 2006. Violence in Baseball.

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Violence in Baseball

Richard Bough

PED 4761

July 9, 2006


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Violence in Baseball

  • Incidents of violence in baseball, including brawls, attacks by fans, and other violent activities involving baseball players are on the rise. The pages that follow will detail some of the past examples of violence in America’s pastime and will also attempt to provide some ideas for resolving the issues the game is now facing.


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Baseball Violence Prior to the Modern Era (1800s – 1980s)

  • Brushback pitches – pitchers used an inside pitch to send a message to batters that they were too close to the plate

  • Bean Balls – these were used by pitchers who had given up a home run to a previous hitter to re-establish their control of the game

  • Spikes high – base runners were know to slide into bases with their spikes up to discourage fielders from making a tag

  • Brawls – Occurred fairly infrequently, but when they did occur they were actual fights


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A Sampling of Violent Incidents Prior to the Modern Era

  • During a game in August of 1965, Giants pitcher Juan Marichal attacked Dodger catcher John Roseboro with a bat after Roseboro threw close to Marichal’s head on throws back to the pitcher. Marichal was suspended for eight games in the heat of the pennant race.


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Sampling of Violent Incidents Prior to the Modern Era

  • On July 4, 1932 Yankee’s catcher Bill Dickey punched and broke the jaw of Senator’s outfielder Carl Reynolds after Reynolds ran over him on a play at the plate. Dickey was suspended for 30 days.

  • During the 1973 National League Championship Series, there was a 10-minute brawl between the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets after Pete Rose slid hard into second base, taking out Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson. The game was almost forfeited after Mets fans threw objects at Rose when he took his position in left field after the altercation.


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Baseball Violence in the Modern Era (1980s – today)

  • Brushback pitches – thrown more frequently to send a message to a player for a number of reasons, e.g. showing up a pitcher by watching a home run for too long, crowding the plate, the pitcher from his team may have thrown at, or hit, a player on the pitcher’s team

  • Bean Balls – less common because the rules now call for ejection of a pitcher who throws at or hits a player on the other team intentionally

  • Spikes high – not as common for fear of retaliation by the opponent

  • Brawls – Occur much more frequently than in the past, but less actively violent and more about posturing than brawls of the past


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Sampling of Violent Incidents in the Modern Era

  • Kansas City Royals coach Tom Gamboa was attacked by two fans while coaching first base during a game at Comiskey Park in September of 2002. The fans ran onto the field and tackled Gamboa, punching him repeatedly before they were drug off of him and arrested.

  • Former collegiate pitcher Ben Christensen threw a pitch at a batter in the on deck circle that he thought was timing his pitches. The batter, Anthony Molina, was hit in the eye by Christensen’s throw and now suffers from permanent vision damage despite operations to attempt to repair the damage. Christensen went on to be drafted in the first round of the MLB draft.


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A Sampling of Violent Incidents in the Modern Era

  • In a game earlier this year between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox, Cub’s catcher Michael Barrett punched White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski following a collision at the plate. Barrett was suspended for 10 days for his actions.

  • During a minor league game earlier this year, Delmon Young, a former #1 overall pick in the draft and the reigning Minor League Baseball Player of the Year, received a 50-game suspension for throwing a bat at an umpire during a game.


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HBP Numbers Are On The Rise

  • One of the causes of the increase in on-field violence is the increase in the number of players hit by pitch in the past 30 years. The total has gone from averaging around 600 to a whopping 1,890 batters hit by pitch in 2000. More players hit by pitch means increased opportunities for on-field brawls.


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Similar Actions, Different Punishments


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Links with Additional Information About Violence in Baseball

  • Article about college pitcher Ben Christensen beaning the on-deck hitter

  • Stories about baseball brawls and other sports violence

  • ESPN Page 2 Top 10 Baseball Fights

  • USA Today article on baseball’s concern with brawls


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Possible Solutions

  • Change from using the current case-by-case method of determining punishment to a significant mandatory punishment

  • Adopt a policy similar to basketball and hockey in which any player who leaves the bench to get involved in a fight is immediately ejected and suspended for a significant number of games

  • Allow the local police department to handle on the field incidents of assault with charges filed and players tried in a court of law


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Major League Baseball is fast becoming a game that is more known for the problems it is facing than the game itself. With the steroids controversy center stage, MLB cannot afford to allow issues not related to the game to continue to plague the league. Unfortunately, the current leadership of the league has not successfully addressed the issue of violence in the game. Until they do, it will continue to tarnish the game.


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References known for the problems it is facing than the game itself. With the steroids controversy center stage, MLB cannot afford to allow issues not related to the game to continue to plague the league. Unfortunately, the current leadership of the league has not successfully addressed the issue of violence in the game. Until they do, it will continue to tarnish the game.

  • Gerlach, Larry R. (2004) Crime and Punishment: The Marichal-Roseboro Incident. NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture, 12(2), pp. 1-28.

  • Poretto, F. (2003). Part of the Game. Eternity Road. Retrieved July 9, 2006 from http://www.eternityroad.info/index.php/weblog/comments/273

  • Merron, J. (2006). Put Up Your Dukes. ESPN. Retrieved July 9, 2006 from http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/basebrawl.html

  • Greger, M. (2005). Gauging Violence in Sports. Zwire. Retrieved July 9, 2006 from http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?BRD=1597&dept_id=188817&newsid=14823958&PAG=461&rfi=9

  • Marchand, B. (2006). The Stupidity of Baseball Brawls. About.com. Retrieved July 9, 2006 from http://baseball.about.com/od/players/a/brawls.htm

  • Beaton, R. (2003). New Wave of Brawls Concerns Baseball. USA Today. Retrieved July 9, 2006 from http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2003-06-22-brawls_x.htm

  • Bialik, C. (1999). Don’t You Dare Time My Pitches. Yale Herald. Retrieved July 9. 2006 from http://www.yaleherald.com/archive/xxviii/1999.09.03/sports/p25bialik.html


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Discussion Questions known for the problems it is facing than the game itself. With the steroids controversy center stage, MLB cannot afford to allow issues not related to the game to continue to plague the league. Unfortunately, the current leadership of the league has not successfully addressed the issue of violence in the game. Until they do, it will continue to tarnish the game.

  • As a sports fan, do you think that the increasing amount of violence in baseball is detrimental to the game, or does it add to the viewing experience?

  • Would you like to see players given more severe penalties when they cause on on-field brawl? What penalties would you suggest? Do you think having the local police deal with the problem would be a deterrent?

  • Do you think a strict policy about leaving your position or the bench would cut down on the number of incidents that occur?


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