The fight that ignited after Boston pitcher Franklin Morales drilled Tampa Bay's Luke Scott in the leg with a fastball had a lot more energy than your typical baseball fracas. The pushing, shoving, and yelling lasted far longer than normal, and managers and coaches played a prominent role in the scrap.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was in the thick of the action, having to be restrained by several of his players. Usually mild-mannered Boston coaches Tim Bogar and Bob McClure were also among those doing a lot of the screaming, most of it directed at their Tampa Bay counterparts.
The home crowd got to see a strong peace-making presence by David Ortiz, who came under scrutiny for his "I don't get no respect" comments earlier in the week (via ESPN) and looked like a leader during the melee.
In a season that has lacked the sense of urgency and commitment fans were hoping to see after last September's Red Sox collapse, this may be just the spark the team needs.
So might Valentine's comments after the game about Scott, who earlier this year told MLB.com that Fenway fans are "vulgar" and the 100-year-old ballpark is "a dump."
"Boys will be boys," Valentine told reporters, per CSN New England. "It seemed like both teams were on the field. With the guy getting hit? Maybe it was the Ghost of Fenway Past remembering he bad-mouthed all our fans and our stadium, directing the ball at his leg."
It's way too early to know if a fight with one of their AL East rivals will have a positive impact on the underachieving, injury-riddled Red Sox, who fell to 22-23 with the loss and once again failed to get over .500 for the first time this season. But there is an example from the not-so-distant past that suggests it could.
In 2004, the Red Sox were 52-44 (.542) and trailing in the Wild Card race when Boston catcher Jason Varitek and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez came to blows at Fenway after A-Rod was hit by a pitch.
The Sox went 46-20 (.697) the rest of the season, beat New York in the ALCS, and won their first World Series title in 86 years.
There was no "glove in the face" moment in this fight, but Scott, like A-Rod, is a guy Fenway fans (and likely more than a few Boston players) love to hate. Can the Red Sox channel that hatred into a streak similar to 2004?
Saul Wisnia lives less than seven miles from Fenway Park and works 300 yards from Yawkey Way. His latest book, Fenway Park: The Centennial, is available at amazon.com and his Red Sox reflections can be found at http://saulwisnia.blogspot.com/. You can reach him at email@example.com or @saulwizz.
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