Examining some of the ugliest on-field altercations in the history of sports

Thursday's debacle featuring Myles Garrett smashing a helmet over the head of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph was an ugly and violent moment for the NFL. It resulted in large suspensions and fines on both sides, but where does it rank among some of the worst on-field altercations across all sports? 

That's something that has come up in wake of this latest incident, with Garrett's helmet smash being compared to prior instances of athletes losing their cool during games. This certainly wasn't the first case and it very likely will not be the last. As such, let's take a trip down memory lane and remember some other times that athletes flew off the handle and gave a black eye to their sport and, in some cases, an opponent or two.

(Note: This list will exclude other NFL incidents, as our CBS Sports football crew is working up a list of their own.)

The Malice at the Palace

Indiana Pacers vs. Detroit Pistons, November 19, 2004

In what might be the most violent and infamous sports brawl, the Malice at the Palace featured several players punching fans both in the crowd and on the court. Things started when Ben Wallace was angered after a foul by Ron Artest with under a minute left in a lopsided game. Things seriously escalated when a fan threw a drink at Artest from the stands.

Artest and other players entered the stands and got physical with fans, then the chaos spilled over onto the court. After finally leaving the stands, Artest once again got physical with a fan on the court, punching him in the face before Jermaine O'Neal came sliding in to deliver another haymaker.

The NBA suspended nine players for a total of 146 games -- including a season-long suspension for Artest (73 regular season games and 13 playoff games). Five players were charged with assault as a result of the incident, ultimately landing them a year of probation and community service. Five fans were also charged and received lifetime bans from Pistons games. 

The Bite Fight

Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield, June 28, 1997

One of the most bizarre incidents in the history of boxing -- or any sport, really -- came during the highly anticipated rematch between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield for the WBA Heavyweight title belt in 1997. Tyson entered the fight as the defending champ and overwhelming favorite, but Holyfield came out of the gate strong and gave Tyson a tougher fight than most expected. 

Tyson was clearly angered and frustrated with the way everything was unfolding, especially after a Holyfield headbutt had opened up a cut on Tyson's forehead. During the third round, the two fighters locked up in a clinch and Tyson chomped down on Holyfield's right ear, biting off a piece before spitting it to the mat. 

The fight was stopped as ring officials determined how to proceed but, amazingly, the fight was allowed to continue -- that is until Tyson attempted to bite Holyfield again. The second bite attempt caused the referee to stop the fight and award Holyfield the win via disqualification.

After the incident, Tyson received a suspension from boxing, had his license cancelled indefinitely and was fined $3 million. 

Todd Bertuzzi ends Steve Moore's career 

Vancouver Canucks vs. Colorado Avalanche, March 8, 2004

Hockey is a sport that often celebrates brutal violence, but Todd Bertuzzi's 2004 attack on Steve Moore is considered one of the nastiest and most reprehensible acts in the history of the game.

Moore already had a target on his back entering the game between Vancouver and Colorado thanks to a hit he threw on Canucks captain Markus Naslund earlier in the season. Moore answered the bell early in the game, fighting Matt Cooke in the first period. It was one of several fights in an animosity-filled contest that would only get uglier as the Avs continued to blow out the Canucks on the scoreboard. 

With an 8-2 lead in the third period, Bertuzzi attempted to drop the gloves with Moore, who clearly wanted nothing to do with Bertuzzi and was ignoring his bids to fight. As a result, Bertuzzi sucker-punched Moore from behind, then drove his face into the ice with excessive force. Moore was knocked unconscious and suffered three fractured neck vertebrae as well as a concussion.

The incident ended Moore's hockey career and resulted in Bertuzzi being suspended indefinitely by the NHL and International Ice Hockey Federation, as well as being charged with assault. He was able to avoid prison time due thanks to a plea deal and, ultimately, he only missed a total of 20 NHL games (13 regular season games plus seven playoff games) because the incident occurred at the end of the season and before the 2005 lockout. He was reinstated for the 2005-2006 season.

Marty McSorley slashes Donald Brashear

Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks, February 21, 2000

In another one of hockey's most unforgivable incidents, Marty McSorley used his stick as a weapon in a full-on assault of Donald Brashear in 2000. 

Tensions arose between McSorley and Brashear earlier in the game, as they fought during the first period. McSorley wasn't thrilled with the result and attempted to get Brashear to fight him again, but the Vancouver Canucks forward declined. As the final seconds of the game ticked away, McSorley approached Brashear from behind and delivered a two-handed slash to his temple. Brashear was knocked unconscious and slammed his head off the ice, suffering a grade three concussion and a seizure.

Following the incident, McSorley was given a one-year suspension and never played another game in the NHL. He was also charged and found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon but avoided prison time. 

Kermit Washington punches Rudy Tomjanovich 

Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, December 9, 1977

In 1977, Kermit Washington delivered what might be one of the single most devastating punches that the sports world has ever seen, at least outside of combat sports. As an altercation broke out at mid-court during a game between the Rockets and Lakers, Washington turned around and absolutely leveled an oncoming Rudy Tomjanovich, who was attempting to break up the fight, with a vicious right fist to the face. 

That punch shattered Tomjanovich's jaw, broke several bones in his face and led to head trauma as the Rockets forward landed hard on the court and was knocked unconscious in a pool of blood. The injuries suffered were so severe that they were considered life-threatening; Tomjanovich later said he could feel himself leaking blood and spinal fluid into his skull capsule and mouth. Ultimately, he missed five months but would make a full recovery. 

Washington was suspended for a total of 60 days, missing 26 games -- the longest suspension for an on-court incident in NBA history at the time. The Lakers refused to support or stand behind Washington following the assault and he was traded to the Boston Celtics two weeks after the incident.

Miami brawls with FIU

University of Miami vs. Florida International University -- October 14, 2006

In one of the wildest college sports brawls we've ever seen, a matchup between Miami and FIU devolved into chaos following an extra point attempt. This melee had a little bit of everything -- from punching, to kicking, to helmet swing, to stomping and body slams. It was a complete mess. 

In the end, 13 players were assessed penalties for fighting and ejected from the game (eight from FIU and five from Miami). The day after the game, 31 players from both schools (18 from FIU, 13 from Miami) were given one-game suspensions. The Hurricanes also suspended safeties Brandon Merriweather and Anthony Reddick indefinitely. FIU kicked two players off the team.

Izzy Alcantara goes berserk

Pawtucket Red Sox vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, July 3, 2001

Izzy Alcantara was once a promising minor league prospect in the Red Sox organization, but he's most remembered for a bizarre incident in 2001 when he kicked a catcher before charging the mound. 

After being brushed back by a pitch in a Triple-A game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, Alcantara lost his cool and swiftly kicked the catcher behind home plate in the chest. He then rushed the pitcher, whiffing on a punch before the fracas was broken up. The weird outburst landed Alcantara a six-game suspension.

Pedro Martinez throws down Don Zimmer

Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, October 11, 2003

There were numerous instances of animosity boiling between the Red Sox and Yankees in the early 2000s, but perhaps the most infamous incident featured Pedro Martinez grabbing bench coach Don Zimmer by the head and tossing him aside during a benches-clearing brawl in the 2003 ALCS. 

After Martinez had hit Karim Garcia with a high fastball earlier in the game, tensions kept rising until a high (and not super threatening) fastball from Roger Clemens sent Manny Ramirez into a fit of rage. Ramirez confronted Clemens and the benches cleared, with Zimmer making a beeline toward Martinez on the infield. The Red Sox pitcher grabbed the 72-year-old Zimmer and threw him to the ground, sparking outrage from many. 

Zimmer later apologized and accepted responsibility for the incident, though Martinez also did the same, calling it one of the biggest regrets of his career.

Juan Marichal's bat attack

San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, August 22, 1965

Not only is Juan Marichal considered one of the best pitchers ever, he's also widely considered one of baseball's biggest intimidators and was involved in one of the game's ugliest incidents in 1965

After Marichal and Sandy Koufax had exchanged several brushback pitches earlier in the game, Marichal came to bat in the third inning against Koufax. The Dodgers wanted to seek revenge against Marichal for throwing at their guys, but Koufax wasn't willing to actually plunk Marichal. 

Instead, Los Angeles catcher John Roseboro intentionally grazed Marichal with a throw back to the mound following a pitch. This set Marichal off and led him to confront Roseboro, who rose from his stance with a clenched fist. Marichal responded by striking Roseboro over the head with his bat multiple times, damaging the catcher's eye and opening a two-inch gash that would later require stitches. A stunned Roseboro was left bloodied as a lengthy brawl broke out on the field.

Marichal was suspended for eight games and fined a then-record sum of $1,750. Roseboro later attempted to sue Marichal for $110,000 in damages, but they eventually settled out of court for $7,500.

Milbury beats fan with a shoe

Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers -- December 23, 1979

After a 1979 game between the Bruins and Rangers, and on-ice brawl broke out between the players from both sides, but it was a Rangers fan who escalated the incident into one of the most infamous altercations in league history. A fan seated near the ice grabbed Stan Jonathan's stick and struck him in the face with a rolled-up game program, opening up a cut on Jonathan's face. 

Noticing the attack, several Bruins players hopped over the glass and went after the offender -- a Rangers fan named John Kaptain. Mike Milbury was among those players who jumped the glass and, upon getting ahold of Kaptain, removed one of the fan's shoes and struck him with it. Eventually the players were restrained and order was restored. 

Three Bruins players were suspended for a total of 20 games after the incident, with Milbury getting six games for his actions. Kaptain received the worst of it, though, as not only was he fed his own shoe, he was also fined $500 and sentenced to six months in jail.

Pete Blackburn is from Boston, so there's a good chance you don't like him already. He has been a writer at CBS Sports since 2017 and usually aims to take a humorous and light-hearted approach to the often... Full Bio

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