10/11/2003 6:09 PM ET
Fourth-inning fireworks at Fenway
Both benches clear in tense frame
Video: 56K | 300K
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Tommy Lasorda on Don Zimmer and Pedro Martinez: 56K | 300K
BOSTON -- The surreal sight of 72-year-old Yankees' bench coach Don Zimmer squaring off with Pedro Martinez and then being tossed aside and to the ground by the Red Sox pitcher was only part of a bizarre fourth inning in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
The scuffle took place amid a benches-clearing incident following a Roger Clemens pitch that Sox slugger Manny Ramirez thought was aimed at his head -- presumably in retaliation for an earlier pitch by Martinez that struck New York's Karim Garcia in the back. That initiated an emotional exchange of words between the two storied rival teams.
The Yankees went on to win, 4-3, to take a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series, but the incidents in the fourth inning, in particular, took center stage in postgame comments from both teams.
The Zimmer-Martinez altercation was the flash point.
"I think Zim is a little bit old for that," Red Sox manager Grady Little said. "But I didn't quite understand."
Said Clemens: "That's Zim. He's got more fire than half those guys in the dugout, and that's why I love him."
In the top of the fourth inning, with runners on second and third on nobody out, Martinez threw a pitch that, seemingly headed toward Garcia's helmet, hit Garcia in the back as he tried to duck out of the way. Garcia had some words for Martinez, suggesting the inside pitch was intentional. Home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez warned both benches.
When Ramirez took exception to a Clemens pitch in the bottom of the inning, both benches cleared, and off to the side of the usual pushing and shoving, Zimmer and Martinez were involved in their own fracas near the Red Sox dugout. The grandfatherly Zimmer, nicknamed Popeye, went straight at Martinez, motioning as if attempting to make physical contact. Martinez pushed Zimmer aside and to the ground.
After the game, Zimmer -- who has a plate in his head since being struck by a pitch as a player -- was sent for a precautionary checkup to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
"I've got nothing to say," Zimmer told reporters before being sent to the hospital. "Nothing. We won."
Martinez said he was "shocked, really shocked" that Zimmer came at him and that the Yankees bench coach attempted to hit him.
"He did, he tried," Martinez said. "I could never hit him, I would never do it. I was just trying to dodge him away and push him away, and (it was) too bad his body fell. I hope he's fine."
Said Red Sox second baseman Todd Walker: "You can't blame Pedro for defending himself in that situation. I specifically saw a bull rush from a 72-year-old man. He put himself at risk."
Yankees manager Joe Torre said he didn't see the altercation between Zimmer and Martinez, but said he had strong emotions about hearing that Zimmer had been thrown to the ground.
"I'm angry, but I was more concerned with Zimmer's health," Torre said. "I didn't know what the hell happened because he was sititng there, he was half-propped up and I didn't know what the extent of his problem was."
Several Yankees surrounded Zimmer as he was on the ground and helped him to his feet. He was administered a bandage across the bridge of his nose but remained in the dugout.
When play resumed 13 minutes later, Ramirez struck out.
"To me, this whole thing started over one pitch," Torre said. "I don't think that we have any anger for the whole team. It's that one incident that bothers me and just the one person involved."
Torre was adamant that the pitch to Garcia was thrown on purpose by Martinez.
"I know there's no question in my mind that Pedro hit him on purpose," Torre said. "(It was) second and third, nobody out, left-handed hitter, right-handed hitter on deck. He can thread a needle any time he wants. He was probably frustrated with the fact that we hit some balls hard. You know the kind of respect I have for Pedro's ability to pitch, but I didn't care for that."
Neither did Garcia, obviously.
"He had great control, then he comes at my head with his first pitch? If he hits me in the shoulder, I would have taken my base without a problem," Garcia said.
When Alfonso Soriano, the next batter, hit a grounder to short, Garcia went in hard at second base, sliding past the bag and into Walker, the second baseman.
"(Walker) said something to me because he was upset with the way I hit him," Garcia said. "I was very upset with them throwing at my head, so I was going to take somebody down. Unfortunately, it was him. I have nothing against him. I let my emotions take over. If it wasn't him, it was going to be someone else."
Both teams came out to the top step of their respective dugouts, and Yankees catcher Jorge Posada was especially animated in shouting his disapproval toward Martinez. But order was restored quickly -- for the moment.
That series of events in the top of the fourth had nothing on the brouhaha that started when Ramirez took exception to the 1-2 pitch from Clemens that was head-high but did not appear terribly close to the inside part of the plate.
Ramirez, with his bat still in his hand, immediately began shouting at Clemens and approaching the mound, and both benches cleared. A couple of minor skirmishes broke out, but the one that stood out was Zimmer going directly across the diamond toward Martinez.
As for the Clemens pitch, there wasn't a lot of support for the perception Ramirez had about it.
"You're doing yourself a disservice to even write about it or for me to even talk about it," Clemens said. "I was trying to strike him out inside. The pitch was actually over the plate, I think. I was OK with it until I looked up and he was coming towards me, mouthing me."
Ramirez declined to comment after the game.
Even some of Ramirez's Red Sox teammates had to admit it was unlikely the Clemens pitch was intentionally thrown to hit Ramirez.
Said Walker: "I can understand where Manny took offense to it, but Roger had no intention on that particular pitch of hitting Manny."
Both Torre and Little said the umpire crew handled the situation as best they could under the circumstances. There were no ejections, and other than the brief contact between Zimmer and Martinez, the violence was kept to a minimum.
"It's unfortunate that it came to that, but the umpires did an outstanding job of controlling the situation and we went on playing baseball," Little said.
"They kept everything sane," Torre said. "They kept everybody in the game. As I said, it was a very, very tough situation, and I thought as a group they did a very professional job."
Umpire crew chief Tim McClelland declined an invitation to be interviewed after the game, saying he felt the umpires' actions on the field spoke for themselves. McClelland said he would file a report on the incident to the Commissioner's Office.
The bizarre events certainly turned up the intensity of the series a notch, as if that were needed.
"I think when this series began, everyone knew it was going to be quite a battle, it was going to be very emotional, a lot of intensity," Little said. "But I think we've upgraded it from a battle to a war."
Little later softened that comment, saying he was referring to the intensity and emotion, seemingly suggesting there would not be further retaliation from either side.
Said Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi: "I hope it's over. This doesn't need to escalate any more than it has. It's over and done with, everyone contained themselves. This shouldn't turn into a war. It's a baseball game."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.