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Just because: The 1974 Cubs-Cardinals brawl

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

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Video of the Cubs-Cardinals brawl from September 22, 1974, has been making the rounds lately, so let's not bury the lede and just roll tape at the outset (the first 1:05 or so is the fracas in question) ...

Streets of fire!

As you can see, oddities preceded the exchanging of blows and vigorous grappling. What set everything off were the pre-pitch liturgies of then 25-year-old Cardinals reliever Al Hrabosky and Madlock's manifest unwillingness to abide them. Hrabosky, you see, would stomp behind the mound, ceremonially abuse the rosin bag and pound the ball in his mitt before settling in to face a batsman. Madlock, it seems, was tired of the theatrics and just wanted to play this, our baseball.

As proof of Hrabosky's careening nature, here he is getting mad at a reporter while not wearing shirt ...

Anyhow, here's how Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times in 1992 recounted the run-up to what you absorbed above (the fight, that is, not the shirtless fit of pique) ...

Bill Madlock was up, and just as Hrabosky was set to pitch, Madlock returned to the on-deck circle to put pine tar on his bat. He came back to the plate smiling, thinking he had upset Hrabosky's concentration.

When Madlock was ready, Hrabosky walked behind the mound to do his routine again. But when Hrabosky went back to the rubber, Madlock returned to the on-deck circle, bent on winning the battle of wills.

Plate umpire Shag Crawford then ordered Hrabosky to pitch, he fired, and Crawford called Strike 1 with no one in the batter's box.

That brought Madlock, on-deck hitter Jose Cardenal and Cubs' Manager Jim Marshall out to argue, with Madlock and Cardenal in each batter's box and Marshall near the plate.

"My next pitch separated all three of them," Hrabosky said, grinning. "For some reason that started a fight. And it was a good one."

It was indeed a good one, as you have witnessed. As you also witnessed, Hrabosky's pitches in tandem with Madlock's grousing led Mr. Simmons to robustly pole-ax Mr. Madlock. Here's how Simmons explained himself to the AP at the time ...

"Then I hit him." Succint, decisive, factual. That said, I don't believe for a moment that Madlock said, "Get lost." I believe he said, "scram" or, alternatively, "!@#$%^&, you !@#$%^&."

In any event, here, courtesy of Kinescope Steals Home, is a screencap of said pole-axing ...

That's the right cross of Ted Simmons -- a power punch that would forevermore be known as "The Michigan Department of Corrections." (Note: That is not remotely true, but it objectively should be.)

Here, again, from that contemporaneous AP dispatch, is perhaps the most amazing nugget of all ...

That's right: Punches were thrown, punches were landed, two full rosters were trying to maim, kill and ritually devour their counterparts, and only one manager was ejected. In fact, this later happened ...

Yea, verily: Simmons -- thrower and lander of the most notable soup-bone of the afternoon -- was not only allowed to continue plying his trade, but he also notched the walk-off RBI single.

So business was seen to, and then other business continued.

Reminder: The Cardinals and Cubs begin a three-game set on Friday.

Another reminder:

(Another final wink of the CBS eye to Kinescope Steals Home)

 
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