Aug 4, 2019

The Fight Of The Century

Chicago White Sox @ Texas Rangers
August 4, 1993 - Arlington, TX
I have seen a lot of fights on a baseball field in my life, but there's only one that I can remember with crystal clarity.  In fact, I think it's safe to say that no one who saw Robin Ventura charge the mound on Nolan Ryan 26 years ago will ever forget it.

Nolan Ryan had announced at the start of the year that he would retire at the end of the 1993 season, capping off a career that spanned four decades.  Take a moment to think about that.  His major league debut was in 1966 - three years before man walked on the moon.  When he threw his final pitch, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was available for the Nintendo Game Boy - a handheld system that contained more sophisticated hardware than the NASA computers used to launch the Apollo 11 mission that brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the lunar surface.

The pitching legend was 46 years old on August 4th, 1993 when he took the mound against the Chicago White Sox.  In the top of the third inning, Nolan Ryan pitched inside to White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura and hit him in the back.  Before I go any further, it should be noted that Ventura was 26 years old at the time - twenty years younger than Nolan Ryan.  To put this another way, Ryan made his major league debut for the New York Mets 306 days before Ventura was born.

After he was hit by the pitch, Robin Ventura stepped out of the batters box.  He appeared to think about the situation for a few seconds before charging the mound to fight the future Hall of Famer.  Ryan responded by grabbing Ventura in a headlock and clocking him on the head six times before landing an upercut to the jaw.  To add insult to injury (literally), Ventura was ejected from the game, but Ryan was not.  To add further insult to injury, Ryan pitched seven innings and didn't give up another hit for the rest of the game.  He picked up the win, with closer Tom Henke getting the save.

Dad and I were in the living room watching the Phillies vs the Braves at the time.  TBS cut into the game to show the highlights of the fight as soon as it happened.  I then ran into my bedroom, popped a tape in the VCR and set it to record ESPN Baseball Tonight.  Not long ago, I came across the tape, converted it and uploaded it to YouTube (hopefully they won't take it down).  The game was still in progress in the 7th inning when this episode of Baseball Tonight aired, and it captures the moment and the immediate reactions to what remains to this day as one of the most memorable fights to ever happen in the history of the sport.