Thursday is the 23rd anniversary of arguably the most infamous brawl in baseball history: the Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Ventura battle at Arlington Stadium in Texas. The White Sox and Rangers had been in a beanball war dating back several years, and things finally came to a head on Aug. 4, 1993.
Ventura laced an RBI single off Ryan in the first inning, then, in his next at-bat, Ryan drilled him in the arm with a pitch. That's when Ventura decided to charge the mound, and boy, did he wind up regretting it. To the video:
That was an incredibly one-sided fight. Ryan managed to get Ventura in a headlock, and he just pounded away. It was not pretty. Here are 23 facts about the brawl on its 23rd anniversary.
1. Ryan was not ejected
Amazingly, Ryan was not ejected from the game. Umpire Richie Garcia said Ryan had the right to defend himself after Ventura charged the mound. I assume Garcia believes the plunking was not intentional.
2. Ventura was ejected
Ventura, on the other hand, was ejected from the game for charging the mound. So was White Sox manager Gene Lamont. No other players or coaches were tossed from the game.
3. Ventura and Ryan have since reunited with no hard feelings
In 2012, during his first season as White Sox manager, Ventura crossed paths with Ryan for the first time since the brawl. There were no hard feelings. Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas has the story:
Ryan went over to the White Sox clubhouse before the game and wished Ventura good luck. Neither held any grudges over the Aug. 4, 1993, incident in Arlington, but they had never crossed paths since then.
"He was a very good player and very successful player," Ryan said Thursday. "It was just a reaction or response to the moment. He and I had no personal interaction prior to that night. There was nothing that precipitated it from something previously."
Ventura was booed loudly by the hometown fans in Texas when he was introduced before that night's game.
4. Ryan picked off the runner who replaced Ventura
Backup infielder Craig Grebeck came off the bench to replace Ventura after he had been tossed. Grebeck took over as a pinch-runner at first base and Ryan immediately picked him off.
5. Ryan hit only one batter that season
Ryan threw 66 1/3 innings and faced 291 batters during that 1993 season. Ventura was the only one he hit with a pitch.
6. It was the seventh-to-last game of Ryan's career
Ryan appeared in 807 regular-season games in his MLB career. This was game No. 801. He made only six more appearances after the brawl game.
7. The Rangers didn't let Ryan face the White Sox again
Texas and Chicago played a three-game series later that season in September, at the new Comiskey Park, now U.S. Cellular Field. The Rangers reshuffled their rotation a bit just to make sure Ryan wouldn't face the White Sox again because they didn't want any further incidents.
8. Ryan may not have been able to pitch that series anyway
Ryan pitched his final game on Sept. 22, 1993. He tore a ligament in his elbow in that start and never pitched again. Even if the Rangers wanted to let him face the White Sox in that last series, Ryan might not have been able to do it.
9. This brawl dates back to an incident in 1990
Reportedly, this all started in 1990, when Grebeck hit a home run against the Rangers in spring training and admired it a little too long. Grebeck hit a home run off Ryan that season as well, at which point a long-lasting beanball war between the two clubs started.
10. It's possible four Hall of Famers were involved in the game
For sure, one Hall of Famer played in the game: Nolan Ryan. There was another Hall of Famer on the bench: Frank Thomas, who had the day off. Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez also played in the game and both could soon be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Rafael Palmeiro was in the lineup for Texas as well, and despite having more than 3,000 hits and 500 homers, Palmeiro has already fallen off the Hall of Fame ballot due to his performance-enhancing drug ties.
11. There was a 20-year-old age gap
Ventura was only 26 on the day of the brawl. Ryan? He was 46. That's quite the age difference.
12. Bo Jackson came off the bench as a pinch-hitter
Two-sport superstar Bo Jackson pinch-hit for White Sox DH Matt Merullo with a runner on base in the eighth inning. He struck out against Tom Henke.
13. George W. Bush almost stormed the field
Before he became President of the United States, George W. Bush was part of the Rangers' ownership group. He was at the game and told the Chicago Tribune in 1993 that he thought about storming the field during the brawl, but thought better of it because Bo Jackson was involved.
"I thought about it, but then I saw Bo coming out and decided to stay where I was," said Bush.
14. Ventura was suspended, but later dropped his appeal
MLB suspended Ventura two games for his role in the brawl. He was fined $1,500 as well. Ventura initially appealed the suspension, but he later dropped it strategically. The suspension allowed Ventura, a left-handed hitter, to sit out two games against left-handed starters.
15. Ventura had a big finish to the season
Following the brawl, Ventura hit .283/.394/.439 with five home runs, 31 RBI, 34 walks and 20 strikeouts in his final 52 games of the season.
16. Both teams were in the playoff race
Back then there were only two divisions in each league: East and West. The White Sox and Rangers were AL West rivals, and on the morning of Aug. 4, Chicago was in first place at 59-46 while the Rangers were in third at 53-53. They were 6 1/2 games out of first place but had a ton of intradivision games remaining.
17. They had the two best records in the division after the brawl
Following the brawl game, the White Sox and Rangers had the two best records in the AL West through the end of the season. Chicago went 35-21 the rest of the way and had the best record in the entire AL. Texas went 32-23 the rest of the way, the third best record in the AL. (The Blue Jays went 32-21.)
18. Julio Franco played in the game
Ageless wonder Julio Franco started the brawl game and batted fifth as the DH for Texas. He went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI. Franco was 35 at the time and he would go on to play another 14 seasons in MLB.
19. A White Sox reliever was in a hardcore punk band
Scott Radinsky, who is currently the Angels bullpen coach, threw a scoreless eighth inning for the White Sox in the game. He was the lead singer of the hardcore punk band Ten Foot Pole at the time, and a year later he started the punk band Pulley. Radinsky and Pulley still tour, you know.
20. Ozzie Guillen was at short for the White Sox
Starting at shortstop and batting ninth for the White Sox that night: future White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. He went 0 for 3.
21. Oh yeah, the Rangers won
Ventura opened the scoring with his first-inning RBI single, but the Rangers walked away with a 5-2 win. They scored all five runs in the sixth inning, when six of the first seven men they sent to the plate reached base.
22. Ryan got the win
Ryan stayed in the game to allow two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks in seven innings. It was the 322nd of his 324 career wins.
23. Ventura wore No. 23
Ventura wore No. 23 during his years with the White Sox. So we have 23 things to know on the 23rd anniversary of a brawl that involved a player wearing No. 23. Freaky.