In the latest and most explosive episode of dissension between Mike Marshall and his Dodger teammates, the troubled outfielder fought with veteran infielder Phil Garner Wednesday evening in a runway linking the Dodger Stadium field to the clubhouse.
The altercation, which occurred about two hours before the Dodgers' 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies before 19,958, the smallest Dodger Stadium crowd since 1981, was ostensibly caused by a misunderstanding about allotted batting-practice time. But both Marshall and Garner indicated bad feelings had been festering for months.
Marshall, who has played in only 79 of the Dodgers' 133 games because of injuries, has been accused of malingering by some teammates since late last season. In June, Marshall and Pedro Guerrero scuffled briefly in the trainer's room, but they were separated before punches were thrown.
Wednesday's fight lasted only a short time before Dodger coach Joe Amalfitano, shortstop Craig Shipley and an usher intervened and pulled Marshall and Garner to separate rooms. Witnesses said punches were thrown and the players rolled on the ground. The scuffle could be heard by players and reporters on the field and in the clubhouse.
The 38-year-old Garner, 5 feet 8 inches and 177 pounds, sported an inch-long scratch on his left cheek and a few welts on his face. He said that Marshall landed several blows. "My face is beat up a little bit," Garner said with a thin smile.
The only noticeable marks on the 27-year-old Marshall, 6-5 and 218 pounds, were small scratches on his back and forehead.
Even before Wednesday's incident, there had been considerable speculation that Marshall will be traded during the off-season because of his injuries and the differences with teammates.
Garner admitted that he instigated the fight, but neither he nor Marshall issued apologies. The situation, according to Marshall, Garner and other witnesses, began at the batting cage at 5:10 p.m. Marshall had already taken several batting practice swings and was waiting outside the cage. Garner apparently approached Marshall and told him to shag balls in the outfield.
An argument ensued, and in Marshall's words, "Phil Garner picked a fight with me." The players returned to the dugout and headed up the runway. That is where the scuffle began.
Players rushed out of the clubhouse once they heard the commotion, and Manager Tom Lasorda closed the clubhouse to reporters for several minutes. Guerrero helped herd out reporters, saying, "You guys are supposed to cover baseball, not boxing."
After a quick team meeting, Lasorda met separately with Garner and Marshall. Garner then went back to batting practice. Marshall showered and left, after talking with reporters.
"I was starting to take batting practice with the first group, but when that group filled up, I waited to get a few more swings," Marshall said. "(Garner) accused me of not shagging balls. But I had been here since 4 o'clock and I was out there."
Said Garner: "I instigated it. Sometimes, when players are frustrated, tempers flare. Mine flared. I make no excuses for it. I'm not going to apologize because I have nothing to apologize for. Sooner or later, it was going to happen."
Garner would not elaborate, but it is known that more than a few Dodger players are at odds with Marshall over his numerous injuries and his recovery time from those ailments.
"Obviously, people are upset with Mike," said Steve Sax, Marshall's close friend. "People will say a lot of things. I know he's been hurt."
Other Dodgers, who asked not to be identified, said players have lost patience with Marshall's injuries and attitude.
"This thing has been brewing for a long time," one Dodger said. "I'm surprised it wasn't 24 guys against Marshall. I mean, they (management) let him get away with a lot of things. Look, he's already gone home. How come nobody else on the disabled list goes home and misses games? He hasn't seen the end of a game since we've been home."
Lasorda said players on the disabled list aren't required to remain at the stadium for games. Fred Claire, the Dodgers' vice president, said Marshall is allowed to miss games while he is hurt.
Marshall, who asked to be traded after his earlier confrontation with Guerrero, hesitated when asked if he would again seek a trade. It is believed that the Dodgers have been actively trying to trade Marshall, even after Marshall's pronouncement in mid-July that he had patched up his relationship with Guerrero and wanted to remain on the Dodgers.
"I'm going to have to sit down and think about this," Marshall said when asked about his future. "Obviously, there are going to be some decisions that have to be made. I don't think it's good for me to talk about this five minutes after it happened. I might say something I don't want to say.
"If I have something to say (about his future) tomorrow, I'll make a statement for all of you."