Former Royals slugger Jeff Conine has a new podcast “Outside the Box with Jeff Conine”, where he talks baseball with co-host Aram Leighton. In a recent episode he discussed the wildest brawl he had ever been involved in, a 1998 tilt with the Anaheim Angels.
It all started in 1997, when slugger Phil Nevin was with the Detroit Tigers. Conine, who was still with the championship Marlins that year, says that there was an incident where Phil Nevin bowled over catcher Mike Sweeney at home plate when Sweeney didn’t even have the ball, an incident the Royals considered a dirty play. But the Royals never retaliated that season (and you have to wonder if this would be a factor in the epic 2001 brawl Mike Sweeney had with the Tigers).
Nevin joined the Angels in 1998, and the Royals finally decided they would get their revenge on him in a June game in Kansas City.
Conine explains that Nevin was plunked in a routine fashion by starter Chris Haney (Conine mistakenly calls him “Todd”), which should have been the end of it. But when reliever Jim Pittsley entered the game, he didn't know Nevin had already been plunked, because he was taking a smoke break when Haney hit Nevin. So Pittsley comes out and plunks him, thinking he has finally giving Nevin his just desserts. And that’s when tempers erupt.
Nevin charged the mound and the teams had a benches-clearing brawl. That could have been the end of it, but the Angels had to get their revenge on what they saw as an overreaction by the Royals. So they hit Dean Palmer. And the Royals retaliate. And the Angels retaliate again, leading to another brawl.
The incident spun out of control, particularly when Royals rookie shortstop Felix Martinez sucker-punched an Angels player. But the rookie didn’t have any teammates backing him up, so the Angels quickly ganged up on him. As Conine puts it, “we didn’t like the guy anyway, so we were like, alright, go get him.” Martinez would be demoted the next day.
Having grown men fight over a game is a bit silly, and no one was seriously hurt so we can laugh about it a bit now. But Conine’s story is just another reminder that smoking can have some serious side effects, like escalating a brawl!