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Pitched Battle, and No One's Above the Fray

Yankees beat Red Sox, 4-3, to take the series lead. Venerable Zimmer is tossed to the ground in fracas.

October 12, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — Maybe there is something to that "Curse of the Bambino" stuff after all. If the Boston Red Sox cannot recover from a defeat that appeared to divide them, the defining image of their otherwise glorious season will be of their superstar pitcher shoving a senior citizen to the ground.

Roger Clemens called Saturday's game "great theater," and he was right. Theater of the absurd, to be sure, with drama aplenty in the New York Yankees' 4-3 victory. The Yankees are halfway to the World Series, leading the American League championship series two games to one.

Pedro Martinez hit Karim Garcia with a pitch and tossed aside 72-year-old Yankee coach Don Zimmer like a rag doll, Clemens threw a high fastball that triggered an on-field scrum and nasty words flew between the dugouts all day, but the players emerged largely unscathed.

Two men did not, the unlikeliest of participants to be taken to a hospital for examination. Zimmer hit the ground hard and sustained injuries to his face and left hip, and a Boston grounds crew member stationed in the Yankee bullpen received arm and back injuries in a bullpen fracas with several New York players.

Afterward, a bitter rivalry flamed anew, no longer dismissed by a new generation of players as provincial hype.

"I think we've upgraded it from a battle to a war," Boston Manager Grady Little said.

"There's more anger than there was before," Boston outfielder Johnny Damon said. "Before, it was the media and fans. Now it's a little too close for comfort."

Martinez, the losing pitcher in the joust between the current and former Red Sox aces, was not particularly sharp through the first three innings and even more erratic in the fourth. After the first three Yankees reached base, Martinez pumped a fastball high and tight, a pitch Garcia said grazed his helmet.

"There's no question in my mind that Pedro hit him on purpose," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said.

"Pedro never takes a shot at someone's head like that," Little said.

But the Boston players did not rally to defend Martinez for the pitch. Catcher Jason Varitek said he had "no idea" about Martinez's intent.

Said Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte: "Get a few hits in a row, then all of a sudden he smokes you in the head? That's what started everything."

Garcia screamed at Martinez, then took first base. When Alfonso Soriano followed by grounding into a double play, Garcia retaliated by sliding hard, and late, into second baseman Todd Walker.

"I don't blame him," Walker said. "If I were in his shoes and I got the ball thrown at my head, I would have done the same thing."

Martinez, who once derided the legendary Babe Ruth curse on the Red Sox by saying, "Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I'll drill him," exchanged gestures and words with Zimmer and Yankee catcher Jorge Posada. Umpires warned Clemens not to retaliate during the next inning, infuriating him, because any of his inside fastballs could have been cause for ejection.

Manny Ramirez led off the bottom of the inning. Clemens' second pitch was high but not particularly inside. Ramirez took a couple steps toward the mound, bat in hand, before he was restrained by teammate David Ortiz.

Ramirez declined to comment. His teammates did not consider the pitch questionable.

"Roger certainly wasn't trying to throw at anyone's head," Walker said.

"In the heat of the moment, it's tough to comprehend," Damon said. "If Manny thought the pitch was too far inside, he's got a right to react the way he did. On the replay, it didn't look as close as I thought."

Benches emptied again, with this most bizarre sight: Zimmer charging across the field toward Martinez, who was standing in front of the Boston dugout. Zimmer threw a punch, blocked by Martinez, who grabbed him with both hands and flung him to the ground.

Zimmer declined to discuss the incident. Boston pitcher Scott Sauerbeck called Zimmer "idiotic" for charging a player.

Said Martinez: "I was just trying to dodge him and push him away, and too bad his body fell. I hope he's fine."

Zimmer got up after several minutes and walked to the Yankee dugout. He was treated for what appeared to be a cut on the bridge of his nose. After the game, he was taken to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a sprained left hip, then released.

The Red Sox, in consultation with Boston police and major league security officials, shut off beer sales. Sandy Alderson, baseball's executive vice president, said he could not rule out the possibility of suspensions or fines.

With order restored, Clemens threw his next pitch at 95 mph, the hardest he threw all night. Martinez retired the final 11 hitters he faced.

After the game, Boston's Kevin Millar said, "This series is going to go all the way to seven." If it does, the scheduled starting pitchers are Clemens and Martinez.

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