Kirk Gibson and Mark McGwire gripped each other’s tops and faced off nose to nose as the nasty brawl escalated.
No, this wasn’t 1989.
It was Tuesday night.
When Ian Kennedy hit fellow starter Zack Greinke with a pitch and a full-on melee broke out between Arizona and Los Angeles, several stars from another generation were right in the thick of it.
Take out the baseball cards, kids, it wasn’t just Miguel Montero and Yasiel Puig mixing it up. Several coaches who dominated the game as players in the 1980s and ‘90s produced some of the fight’s most memorable moments.
There was McGwire, Los Angeles’ hitting coach, clutched in a tense standoff with equally solid Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams. Big Don Baylor, Arizona’s hitting coach, held his ground among a surge of Dodgers. Don Mattingly wrestled someone to the ground as he tried to get at fellow manager Gibson. Williams had Mattingly in a bear hug at one point.
Gibson, McGwire and Diamondbacks assistant hitting coach Turner Ward — who was nearly thrown over a railing near the Arizona dugout — were among the six ejected from the game.
“Everything happened so fast,” Mattingly said. “It just gets a little crazy out there.”
Things got out of hand in the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 5-3 victory, when Kennedy hit Greinke in the shoulder — the ball caromed off his helmet.
That was payback for Greinke hitting catcher Miguel Montero in the top of the inning after Kennedy hit Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig with a ball that caught Puig’s nose in the sixth.
Generally, coaches try to remain peacemakers when benches clear after a player is hit with a pitch. Not this time, with two sides full of gritty former players.
Perhaps best known for his limping trot around the bases after homering to give the Dodgers a win in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Gibson refused to give in when McGwire, the former single-season home run record holder, screamed at the D-backs manager.
“We’re certainly not going to try and jeopardize anybody’s career. We respect those guys too much,” Gibson said. “They responded and it was certainly obvious. And beyond that, things just got out of control.”