As long as there has been baseball, there has been the inevitable butting of heads between players and managers. Sometimes those disputes go from a mere disagreement into something more personal. Such was the case Sunday in Dunedin, Florida, when Philadelphia Phillies skipper Joe Girardi got into the grille of second baseman Jean Segura.
Early in the 10–8 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, Segura misplayed a grounder for an error. Girardi had something to say to Segura about it, and the player didn’t take it well. Coach Dusty Wathan restrained Segura from pursuing Girardi. It is far from the first time a player and a manager mixed it up in the dugout or somewhere else on the field. Frankly, the Girardi-Segura affair was tame compared to some other incidents.
Girardi had little to say about it afterward, filing it under the “what happens in the dugout, stays in the dugout” category.
Philadelphia Phillies manager calls it a ‘conversation’
After the game, Girardi wasn’t discussing the run-in with Segura.
“The bench conversation meant for the bench,” Girardi said after the game, via The Associated Press. “You can ask all you want, you got everything you’re going to get about it. I’m done with it.”
Girardi dodged questions about the confrontation several times. His team fell to a game over .500 with the loss. Since winning five games in a row from May 3–7, the Phillies are just 3-5, including dropping two of their three games with the Blue Jays over the weekend. So there’s more going on that just a spat between baseball people.
Some altercations between players and managers got physical
Such confrontations between a player and his manager go back about as far as the sport itself. Perhaps the most damaging incident took place in 1977 while the Texas Rangers were in spring training. Infielder Lenny Randle was struggling at the plate. Manager Frank Lucchesi responded by benching Randle in favor of rookie Bump Wills on the cusp of the regular-season opener.
Randle was less than amused. He threatened to leave the team and teammates stopped him. Unmoved, Lucchesi unloaded on Randle, per a report in The Washington Post.
“I just had to cut 10 players today and send them to Plant City (Florida) to make $9,000 a year,” Lucchesi said. “I’m sick of $80,000-a-year punks complaining about play or trade me. … If Randle was leaving, I’m damn sorry they stopped him.”
Randle escalated the incident by attacking Lucchesi on the field at the spring training site. Lucchesi had to have surgery to repair a fractured cheekbone and sustained a concussion, a lacerated lip, and a back injury. The Rangers suspended Randle for 30 days and never played for the Rangers again; the New York Mets acquired him in a trade before the ban had ended. It was likely the most brutal on-field confrontation but not the most remembered.
Philadelphia Phillies incident, not the most notorious
The Randle incident had severe repercussions, including bodily harm. But another argument later the same season had a more significant impact. Reggie Jackson was the prize of baseball’s first full-fledged free agency crop, leaving the Baltimore Orioles to sign with the New York Yankees the previous offseason.
That paired the flamboyant Jackson with volatile manager Billy Martin. It went about as well as anyone might have expected. The relationship boiled over during a mid-June game at Boston’s Fenway Park.
Jackson, in right field, didn’t exactly break into a sweat while pursuing a base hit by Red Sox slugger Jim Rice in the sixth inning of the game, per the New York Daily News. Jackson’s effort — or lack thereof — resulted in Rice getting a double out of what should have been a mere single. Martin yelled, “I’ve had enough of this sh*t,” as he left the dugout to make a pitching change.
In the middle of the inning, the manager also opted to yank Jackson from the game and sent reserve Paul Blair out to replace him. Jackson confronted Martin when he reached the dugout. Martin was ready to fight the much younger, much bigger star player. Coaches Yogi Berra and Elston Howard intervened to restrain Martin.
Some questioned whether Martin should have reprimanded Jackson in a less public venue than a nationally televised game.
“What does TV have to do with the way you manage?” Martin said. “Because it’s a TV game? I’m not going to wait until next week. He showed us up all over the country.”
Martin had problems with players at nearly every stop during his colorful career. But the battle with Jackson is still the one that endures.