SweetSpot: John Roseboro
April, 16, 2013
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
Perhaps the most famous fight in baseball history took place on a Sunday afternoon in August of 1965, when San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal attacked Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro with his bat, upset that Roseboro's return throw to Sandy Koufax after a high-and-tight fastball clipped his ear. The pictures from the attack were shocking, Marichal wielding his weapon, blood pouring from Roseboro's scalp. The Giants and Dodgers were already sworn enemies, of course, since their days battling for NL pennants in New York, and any Marichal-Koufax showdown was a big game with emotions running intense.
The Giants and Dodgers didn't meet again until three weeks later, for a Monday game -- Labor Day -- at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers were in first place, one game ahead of the Reds, two games ahead of the Giants. Don Drysdale would face veteran Warren Spahn. The Dodgers drew a sold-out crowd of 53,581, their second-largest attendance that season, and while the pennant race drama was certainly a factor, no doubt the anticipation about what might happen drew a few extra onlookers.
National League president Warren Giles banned Marichal from making the trip and while papers described the game as "tense" and Dodgers fans apparently littered the field with seat cushions at one point (game accounts didn't exactly explain why), apparently nothing happened except an exciting Giants victory in 12 innings.
The Carlos Quentin-Zack Greinke brawl certainly wasn't on the level of Marichal-Roseboro, and nobody really expected any fireworks to happen on a day the Dodgers and baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson. But ballplayers being ballplayers well, we weren't exactly sure what would happen on this Monday night at Dodger Stadium. Quentin dropped his appeal and began serving his eight-game suspension, so like Marichal nearly 48 years was persona non grata. Plus, you get the feeling that the Quentin-Greinke feud is more personal, stemming from their days in the AL Central when Quentin played for the White Sox and Greinke for the Royals. Their teammates maybe weren't quite as invested in the whole affair as the Dodgers and Giants may have been back in 1965.
So nothing happened except a ballgame. A good one. I watched to Vince Scully tell Jackie Robinson stories and Padres pitcher Eric Stults belt a three-run homer to center field and Carl Crawford raise his average to .396 and A.J. Ellis make a baserunning blunder in the eighth inning. The Padres won 6-3, the game wasn't tarnished with a senseless knockdown pitches on Jackie Robinson Day and Dodgers fans didn't litter the field with anything but boos and cheers.
Marichal and Roseboro eventually made good after their careers ended, in part because Roseboro believed the incident had hurt Marichal getting elected to the Hall of Fame (he didn't make it until his third year on the ballot). I doubt Monday's quiet affair completely shuts the door on the Quentin-Greinke brawl -- let's see what happens the next time Quentin is in uniform for a Padres-Dodgers game -- but it's also not 1965 anymore. Players may still have an edge of animosity to the other team, but it's not the kind of edge ballplayers held 50 years ago.
Certainly, there are still some ongoing feuds in baseball -- Brandon Phillips and Yadier Molina, for example, feeding off the dislike Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa held for each other. But La Russa is gone and Phillips and Molina simply ignore each other now. The White Sox and Tigers had a huge brawl in April 2000 that resulted in 16 players, coaches and managers being suspended, and while there was some ongoing dislike between the two franchises for a spell, that, too, eventually subsided.
That's how the game is these days. Everyone makes too much money to keep unnecessary grudges. Playing the game hard is fine, but you don't have to brawl or throw at somebody's head to play it the right way.