Fight! Remembering One of the Biggest Brawls in Brewers History

Sep. 16, 2016
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Gary Sheffield leads Tom Trebelhorn from the Kingdome outfield after the legendary 1990 Crew-Mariners brawl. 

The Brewers were in a foul mood on June 30, 1990. After getting off to a scorching 14-6 start and holding first place as late as June 3, the team slumped badly. By the time they arrived in Seattle for a three-game set with the Mariners, they had lost 25 of 36 and had fallen into sixth place. After dropping the first game of the series 4-2, the Brewers fell behind early in the game number two. In the eighth inning, already trailing 5-2, the Brewers brought in right-handed reliever Bob Sebra. Sebra had bounced around during his 6-year major league career. In 11 innings with the Brewers that year, he had an ERA of 7.32. The first batter he faced, former Brewer Jeffery Leonard, smacked a homer to left. The next, Edgar Martinez, doubled on a blooper to center. Sebra’s next pitch drilled M’s left fielder Tracy Jones in the ribs.

Things had been simmering between the two clubs for some time. During a spring training doubleheader in 1989, Brewers shortstop Bill Spiers injured Seattle catcher Dave Valle on a hard slide into home. The slide caused a bench-clearing brawls in both games of the twin-bill and tensions had been high ever since. The Kingdome crowd booed loudly as Jones took a few angry steps towards first, ushered by the home plate umpire. Jones jawed at Sebra, who allegedly shouted back that he had nailed him on purpose. As tensions rose, catcher B. J. Surhoff stepped in front of Jones and the two engaged in some shoving, while Sebra charged in from the mound. Moments later, the dugouts had emptied and the brawl was on.

Video of the fight shows a few skirmishes breaking out from the initial scrap, with Dave Parker thrown to the ground and a number of Mariners piled up on Greg Vaughn. At the 47 second mark in the video, future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson (Brewers broadcaster Jim Paschke calls him “Randy Jones”) can be seen tied up with Jim Gantner. As both sides manage to cool down the Big Unit, the action slows. But the brawl picks up again when Rob Robinson gets involved with a couple of Mariners. As the scrum picks up, watch Surhoff whip off his chest protector at the 1:40 mark, ready for more action. Just seconds later, Paul Mirabella and Robin Yount pull Johnson away, whose uniform is now badly torn, marking the first of two incidents in the brawl with one Hall of Famer pulling away another.

Once again, things calm down, but at the 2:20 mark, Seattle manager Jim Lefebvre is seen shouting at Brewers skipper Tom Treblehorn. Lefebvre later claimed that Treblehorn said his team was going to “stay out here all night,” and kept repeating, “it’s not over, it’s not over.” (Treb later claimed that he was merely saying that it wouldn’t be over until Lefebvre got reliever Gene Harris under control)

Pictured Left: 20-year-old Ken Griffey, Jr. was a calming force during the brawl. Here, he is seen physically removing 17-year veteran Robin Yount from the fray.

Back on the video, things again appear to settle down, but nearing the 4:00 mark, Surhoff is seen stomping up the right field line just before he and Mike Felder get into it with Harris and Mariner shortstop Jeff Schaefer. After the new fight breaks up, around 4:35, Treblehorn is trying to calm down a very agitated Felder. Meanwhile, another shoving match breaks out and – at the 4:50 mark – Ken Griffey Jr. can been seen lifting Yount completely off the ground and pulling him away from the mess. It’s a remarkable scene – one “Kid” saving another.

As the melee spreads past the Mariner bullpen and towards the right field seats, a 79-year-old woman by the name of Agatha Doman – a pastor’s daughter – reached over the fence and walloped a Brewers player on the head with her handbag. Tragically, the incident was not captured by the TV cameras. It is, however, recounted here, and had since become a minor part of Mariners lore. Evidently Ms. Doman was raised to believe that grown men should not behave themselves in such a way and decided to make it known.

Nearing the five-minute mark, Treblehorn has charged back into the mob and, in an indicator of how many Mariners players felt about his role in the brawl, Schafer comes up from behind and body-slams Treb into the turf. Spiers immediately gets into with Schafer and the ugliest part of the fight breaks out. Griffey, once again, is seen around 5:25 calmly leading a Brewer away. As Treblehorn is led away from the scene, his jersey torn open and head cut, Gary Sheffield holds him in a bear hug. Finally, seven full minutes after Jones took one in the ribs, and as the crowd boos and chants for more, the brawl is over.

It was nearly 20 minutes before the game was resumed and almost immediately after the last pitch – the 6-2 score at the time of the fight was the final – the war of words between the two clubs began. Lefebvre blamed Treblehorn. “I don't see how a manager can let something like that happen,” he said. “To me, he lost control of himself and his team. I'm still disgusted.”

Pictured Left: Bob Sebra’s beanball ignited the brawl. It turned out to be the last pitch he’d ever throw in the Major Leagues.

Treblehorn had no comment on the brawl, but Sebra eagerly admitted his role in it. “Yeah, I hit him on purpose,” He said. “The way things have been going for me and they haven't been going right for the team, it's time somebody took a lump.” Lefebvre shot back at Sebra, too. “I detest someone who has to hit someone because he can't get anybody out. He shouldn't be in the league. What is his ERA, anyway?” For the record, it was now 8.18.

But Brewers batting coach Don Baylor put the blame on Tracy Jones. “I got hit more than anybody: 255 times,” Baylor said. “I didn't go to the mound 255 times.” And of Schafer, who was as involved in the fight as anyone on either side? “He’s a minor league piece of shit.” (as a side note, Baylor was not hit more than anyone else – he ranked third all-time in times hit by a pitch as of 1990 – but he did understate his career total: it was 267, not 255)

Some Brewers hoped that the brawl would light a spark in what had been a moribund team. “It was fun,” said Greg Vaughn, “I know it got out some of my frustrations. It was a way to end a bad month.”

“It was a good one,” said 17-year veteran Dave Parker. “It's the longest one I've been involved in. They're usually over pretty quick.”

In the fallout from the fight, Felder, Surhoff, and Sheffield each got three-game suspensions. Sebra was banned for five games, but had already been sent to AAA when the ruling came down. The fastball in Jones’ ribs ended up being the last pitch he threw in the majors.

Treblehorn also got a five-game ban. “If they want to make me the scapegoat in this, I can handle it,” he said, still denying he did anything to prolong the fight. “But I think it's time that the people out there shut up.” The incident also ramped up rumors that Treblehorn was on the verge of being fired and replaced with Baylor, who was acting manager during the suspension. Treb wasn’t fired – not until the end of the 1991 season, anyway – but the rumble did little to jump-start the club. They struggled to a 12-15 record over the next month and finished the year with a 74-88 record – better only than the bottom-feeding Yankees in the American League that season. 

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