In the Tampa Bay Rays almost 20 year history, they have cleared the benches numerous times to go and pummel an opposing team. Sometimes it was caused by tension-filled encounters that finally escalated to violence, and other times it was against a random opponent for some odd reason.
They've occurred during late season games against teams competing for a playoff spot and even twice during spring training. The Rays have been inconsistent in their willingness to retaliate against an opposing team. But, they sometimes use that to their advantage, like in the game where everyone in the stadium was expecting a player to be hit -- such as when Kyle Farnsworth (the tall, tattooed MMA enthusiast) was specifically brought in to face the most intimidating hitter in the game, Miguel Cabrera, after some shenanigans Cabrera had pulled earlier in the game. Farnsworth didn't plunk Cabrera, although Cabrera was visibly shaken during the at-bat. He would hit a rocket right at the third baseman for the out, but I doubt most any other batter would do the same.
Anyway, let's take a look back at some of the wild brawls in the franchise's history, starting with a fierce bench clearing fight that took place in 1997.
Tampa Bay VS St. Pete!
(June, 15th, 1997)
Against: Tampa Yankees (NYY Affiliate)
Where: Legends Field in Tampa Bay, Fla
The first actual brawl in team history took place before the Devil Rays began their inaugural season. The St. Petersburg Devil Rays, the organization's High-A team in the FSL, who were in the midst of a potential championship season.
During a typical humid summer day at Legends Field, the Devil Rays were engaging in a beanball war with the Yankees that eventually exploded into a violent brawl when Cody Samuel charged Dennis Pujals on the mound. Both players bounced off of each other and Pujals began throwing punches as Samuel was secured from behind.
Samuel was brought to the ground, as was Pujals, who was also flung to the ground, violently flipping over Samuel. Amazingly, no one was injured during the fracas, but several players were ejected and eventually suspended.
Williams Knocks Down Pedro
(August, 29th, 2000)
Against: The Boston Red Sox
Where: Tropicana Field
Pedro Martinez was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history. During a stretch from the late 90's to the early 2000's, he was incredible. Part of what made him so dominant was his fearlessness in attacking hitters inside, sometimes even intentionally hitting batters. One of those batters, Gerald Williams, had grown tired of Martinez antics.
So on August 29th, 2000, when Williams was leading off the bottom half of the first and Martinez struck his wrist with a 1-2 pitch, he reluctantly decided to charge the mound. The moment after he was hit, Williams walked a few steps towards first, all while staring down Martinez. Finally, something clicked and he took after the two time Cy-Young winner.
Williams got to the mound quickly, and both players met each other with shoves, then Williams connected with a wild right jab that knocked Martinez to the ground. Meanwhile, Jason Varitek approached rapidly from behind and tackled Williams to the ground.
The Red Sox first baseman, Brian Daubach was next into the pile and jammed his forearm when he slid in. The Devil Rays big closer, Robert Hernandez, dragged Daubach from the pile, then proceeded to gesture and yell at him, while Daubach clenched his forearm in pain.
Williams, who had been taken from the pile at this point, had to be restrained multiple times and finally left the field after Greg Vaughn was somewhat able to calm him down. There would be another incident in the 7th that resulted in the benches emptying once more. When it was all said and done, Martinez and the Red Sox had the last laugh as he threw a one-hit shutout in a Boston victory. Meanwhile, eight Devil Rays were ejected for various reasons throughout the game.
The Punch Heard From Around the World
(June 4th, 2008)
Against: The Boston Red Sox
Where: Fenway Park
During the Summer of 2008, the Rays were in the middle of the first meaningful baseball in franchise history. It was new ground for a team that had spent a decade being the punching bag of a mighty AL East dominated by New York and Boston. During spring training, a brawl erupted between the Yankees and Rays after Shelly Duncan slid in hard and took out Akinori Iwamura, prompting Johnny Gomes to come shove Duncan and a brawl to commence.
Now, flash forward to June and the Rays were battling atop the division with the Boston Red Sox, with whom the Rays have built up plenty of bad blood through the years.
The events leading up to this fight started the night before when Coco Crisp stole second in the bottom the 6th inning. Crisp used a headfirst slide and as he was closing in on the bag, Jason Bartlett dropped his knee, causing Crisp to possibly jam his thumb.
Crisp took exception to this, so in the bottom of the 8th, he took off for second again. This time he came in extremely hard and caused Akinori Iwamura to barrel roll towards the pitcher's mound. Crisp was out and retreated to the dugout, feeling he had avenged the earlier misdeed against him. Joe Maddon meanwhile went out to the mound to replace Jason Hammel. While on the field, he began a shouting match with Coco Crisp who was close to jumping over the railing in the Red Sox dugout.
For the next and final game of the series, the Rays sent their ace in James Shields to the mound. He was already off to a rocky start when Crisp came up for his first at bat in the bottom of the 2nd. With a 1-0 count, Shields drilled Crisp in the thigh with an offspeed pitch. Crisp waiting a second, then dropped his bat and tipped his helmet off and charged for Shields.
Shields came at him first with a huge right hand that just missed rearranging Crisp's face. Crisp ducked the haymaker and threw a quick jab that connected. Both players were then wrestled to the ground into two separate piles, with several Rays players jumping on top of the Crisp pile. Johnny Gomes, Carl Crawford, along with Iwamura landed several blows to Crisp as was being held down by Dioner Navarro. The only players ejected were Shields, Crisp, and Gomes.
When play was eventually restored, the Rays wound up losing 7-1. When it came time for punishments to be handed out, five Rays and three Red Sox players were suspended.
3 Games - Sean Casey and Akinori Iwamura
4 Games - Carl Crawford
5 Games - Johnny Gomes, Edwin Jackson, and Jon Lester
6 Games - James Shields
7 Games - Coco Crisp