“Say,” lisped Bill Lee to a scratched and bruised Carlton Fisk, “I can see by the scratches you’ve been in a fight with Gene Michael.”
What it was SUPPOSED to be was the play that won the game.
Thurmon Munson, the supposed winning run in a 2-2 game in the ninth inning, was charging from third base as John Curtis’s pitch headed for the plate. Gene Michael, the batter, squared around to bunt.
Only Michael blew the play that was going to win the game. He missed the bunt. Munson was out, the Yankees didn’t score and the Red Sox went on to win in the bottom of the ninth, 3-2. But first, an old Giants-Dodgers type row erupted.
It started when Michael wouldn’t get out of the way. The Red Sox felt very strongly that Michael continued to get in Fisk’s way as he tried to get ready for Munson’s charge, and home plate umpire Joe Brinkman should have called interference.
“That was the obvious call,” said manager Eddie Kasko, “but bear in mind who was umpiring.”
No interference. Michael said he couldn’t “remember exactly but i was trying to get out of the way,” and with a little help from Fisk’s elbow lay down a few feet from the plate.
Fisk braced from Munson and the collision carried the Yankee catcher on top of Fisk.
“Munson,” said Curtis, “tried to stay on Pudge a little too long and Pudge wanted to get up and look for another runner (Felipe Alou, who was going around second), so he kicked him off him.”
Fisk and Munson tell varying stories of that happenstance, but Munson remembers who threw the first punch.
“I did,” he said. “We said a few things and I hit him. He kicked me off him with his foot pretty good. I don’t know what he was doing. Is he scratched up?” He smiled cynically, “What a (bleeping) shame.”
Anyway, Curtis and Doug Griffin and Carl Yastrzemski grabbed and separated them after a couple of punches and held Munson back. The Michael got into it.
“It was a cheap shot,” said Curtis. “I’m sorry to say it, but it was a cheap shot.”
“He jumped me from behind and grabbed me by the face and started scratching and punching,” said Fisk. So Fisk, who still had the ball securely in his hand, and Michael started going at it. By now both benches were emptied and the bullpens were huffing and puffing in. Fisk kept playing with Keith Magnuson with Munson and Michael and everyone claimed to be peacemaker in one form or another.
Even Yankee manager Ralph Houk got into it.
“I was rolling on the ground trying to get Fisk off Michael,” said Houk. “Fisk had him in a strangle-hold and I thought it might really be serious.”
Mario Guerro, who got the winning hit against the man he was traded for (Sparky Lyle), had a shoving match Hal Lanier. “He kept saying things like (bleep) go back where you belong,” said Mario. “He’s crazy. He and that Michael. They’re crazy guys.”
Had it started the night before when the Yankees accused Fisk of trying to trip Roy White at home, causing him to miss the plate? Fisk’s first time up yesterday Mel Stottlemyre hit him squarely in the head.
“I hadn’t thought of it,” said Fisk. “I don’t know. But they’re crazy. White tried to kick me and that’s why he missed.”
“No,” said Munson, who maintains a mutual dislike with Fisk in competition as the best catcher in the league. “Last night was last night. Today was today.”
But it was not over. The brawl, which was really only a brawl involving Fisk while others milled and pushed and grabbed and yelled nasties, lasted about 10 minutes. For the next 10-15 minutes, Fisk and Kasko chased Brinkman and umpiring team chief Nastor Chylak all over the field. They had thrown Fisk and Munson out of the game and not Michael.
“That skinny (bleeper) was the guy they should have thrown out,” said Fisk.
“That’s ridiculous,” said Kasko, “for the man who was the real cause of it to be allowed to step back in with a man in scoring position (because no interference was called, Alou was entitled to second) and have a chance to win the game. Those guys...”
But the play that was SUPPOSED to win the game got Curtis out of the jam. Gene Michael blew the squeeze play, grounded out, and the Red Sox went on to win.
“That,” said Carl Yastrzemski, “is good for us once in awhile.”