On May 8, 1979 the Royals traveled to Texas to take on the Rangers. The pitching matchup of the day was Larry Gura against Ed Farmer.
Farmer opened the season in the bullpen for the Rangers, but was moved to the rotation for his first start of the season. In fact, it was his first start in nearly five years. Royals second baseman Frank White was the leadoff hitter. Off to one of the best starts of his career, White was hitting .297/.345/.475. On the second pitch of the game, Farmer delivered a fastball that came inside to the right-handed hitter. White moved his hands up to protect his head and took the pitch on his right thumb, breaking it.
The Royals plated three runs in the first. The early innings of the game were a see-saw affair as the Rangers chipped back and both clubs added runs to their tally. A Jim Sundberg home run gave the Rangers a 7-6 lead as the game moved to the top of the fifth.
After Darryl Porter flew out to center to open the inning, Al Cowens stepped to the plate. The Royals right fielder was two seasons removed from a spectacular 1977 season where he finished second in the MVP balloting. He was off to a strong start in '79, hitting .308/.385/.490.
Farmer had been working Cowens away, but came inside with a fastball. Cowens wasn't as fortunate as White. He couldn't get his hands up and couldn't get out of the way of the fastball. The pitch hit him square in the face.
With a broken jaw, Cowens was carted off the field, taken to a hospital and underwent surgery the following day.
|Frank White 2B||0||0||0||0||0||0||.297||.821||0.87||HBP|
|U L Washington PR-2B||3||1||0||0||0||1||.250||.667||0.87||1||2|
|Steve Braun PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||.200||.533||2.89|
|George Brett 3B||5||1||1||0||0||1||.258||.707||1.07||1||2|
|Amos Otis CF||5||2||1||1||0||1||.327||.865||1.23||3||1||2B|
|Darrell Porter C||4||0||2||1||0||0||.354||1.033||1.39||2||0|
|Al Cowens RF||2||1||1||0||0||1||.308||.875||1.19||1||0||SB,HBP|
|Tom Poquette PR-RF||1||1||0||0||0||1||.000||.333||2.25||1||0|
|Pete LaCock 1B||3||1||1||1||1||0||.312||.805||1.53||7||0|
|Hal McRae DH||2||0||0||0||2||0||.255||.761||1.77|
|Clint Hurdle LF||3||0||0||1||1||2||.250||.773||1.88||2||0|
|Freddie Patek SS||4||0||2||1||0||1||.304||.684||1.54||5||4||CS|
|Larry Gura P||1||2|
|Eduardo Rodriguez P||0||0|
Farmer visited Cowens in the hospital to make amends, but Cowens wasn't in a forgiving mood. The Royals right fielder believed Farmer intentionally hit him. Farmer maintained his arm was numb and he was unable to throw with any kind of control. Cowens promised revenge.
He had to wait. A full year, in fact. On June 20, 1980 with Cowens playing for Detroit and Farmer pitching for Chicago, Cowens grounded out to short to lead off the 11th in a 3-3 tie. Instead of returning to the dugout after making the out, Cowens made for the mound for payback.
Following the brawl, Cowens was ejected. After the game, Chicago police officers made their way to the Detroit clubhouse and attempted to arrest the right fielder for assault. Tiger manager Sparky Anderson threw the cops out, but a warrant was issued for his arrest and Farmer was looking to press charges. White Sox owner Bill Veeck called for Cowens to be suspended for a year. He got seven games.
Farmer dropped the charges when Cowens agreed to shake his hand the next time their two teams met. Both men brought out their team's lineup cards prior to a game on September 1, 1980.
Cowens missed just 20 games for the Royals after his injury and surgery on his jaw. White was out for 32 games.