October 8th, 1973: It was a Monday afternoon playoff game at Shea Stadium. Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose of the Reds get into a brawl at second base during the fifth inning of NLCS Game 3.
The Big Red Machine went 99-63 during the regular season and were the heavy favorite in the championship series. The Mets were in last place for most of the season. Until they went on a 19-8 stretch in September. They squeaked into the playoffs with an 82-79 record.
The teams split the first two games of the series in Cincinnati. Mets starter Jon Matlack pitched a two-hit 5-0 shutout in the second game. Harrelson was quoted after the game as saying the Reds all look like him – a .236 career hitter with no power. The Reds were not amused.
The Mets are leading 9-2 in the fifth inning of Game 3, with Rose on first base. Joe Morgan grounds to the first baseman John Milner. Rose slides hard at second base, unsuccessfully trying to break up the double play. Harrelson objects to what he feels was a high slide, telling Rose it was a cheap shot. Rose disagrees and the fight is on.
Pete Rose outweighs Bud Harrelson by about 35 lbs. Mets rookie third baseman Wayne Garrett quickly comes over and manages to shove Rose off of Harrelson. Then the reinforcements arrive from both dugouts.
Then another fight breaks out in the outfield involving Mets pitcher Buzz Capra and Reds reliever Pedro Borbon. When order is semi-restored, Borbon picks up a cap and puts it onto his head. He doesn’t know that it’s a Mets cap. When someone tells him, he rips the cap off and takes a bite out of it!
Since it’s a playoff game, the umpires don’t eject anyone. The next inning when Pete Rose takes his spot in left field, angry Mets fans shower him with debris. When a whiskey bottle sails past Rose’s head, Reds manager Sparky Anderson pulls him and the rest of the team off the field.
Related: The miraculous ball on the wall play.
League President Chub Feeney and the umpires ask the Mets to settle down the crowd or the game could be forfeited. So Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones, and manager Yogi Berra walkout to left field and ask the fans to stop. They do and play resumes. The Mets go on to win the game and the series.