This Date in Mets History: July 22 — Mets and Reds play basebrawl during Fight Knight in Cincy

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Eric Davis learned firsthand that Ray Knight was a former boxer.

We enjoy a fight. If that's what it takes, we'll fight every time.

-Davey Johnson

He came at me. His eyes looked like he was mad. He was moving toward me, so I popped him. It was just reaction.

-Ray Knight

Where to begin with the literal slugfest the Mets and Reds participated in on this date in 1986? Might as well start with a joke. Said Rodney Dangerfield, "I went to a fight the other night and a hockey game broke out." That one-liner couldn't have been far from the minds of fans that tuned in for the Tuesday night contest 27 years ago.

Tensions between New York, Cincinnati, and the umpiring staff ran high all game long. Darryl Strawberry snapped first and got tossed in the fifth for arguing a third strike call, leaving the Mets a man down. That would come into play later.

In Mets Fast Forward style, let's move ahead to the top of the ninth, since the first eight frames of this affair were really just a prologue for the incredibly weird baseball to follow. The Reds led 3-1 with two outs, but Lenny Dykstra coaxed a walk to keep Amazin' hopes alive. Tim Teufel followed with a double to that put the tying runs into scoring position for Keith Hernandez. Playing the percentages, Reds' player-manager Pete Rose brought on lefty John Franco, who made his skipper look like a genius by getting Mex to loft a lazy fly that right fielder Dave Parker, a three-time Gold Glove winner, let clank off his mitt. Dykstra and Teufel came around to score and the Mets were up off the canvas.

Now let's jump ahead again. With one out in the bottom of the tenth, Pete Rose pinch hit himself for Franco and made himself look like a genius by singling off Jesse Orosco. Rose also opted to focus on managerial duties for the rest of the night, bringing in Eric Davis to run. Davis stole second, then third with a slide that was bit too hard for Ray Knight's liking. An amateur boxer, Knight made his displeasure known by punching Davis in the face. Benches emptied and, when peace was finally restored, Knight and Kevin Mitchell were heading for the showers at the umps' discretion. Davey Johnson, already shorthanded thanks to Straw's ejection and his other substitutions, emptied his bench and bullpen, bringing Ed Hearn into catch, which pushed Gary Carter to third, and, in most unorthodox move of all, sent Jesse Orosco to right field so Roger McDowell could take his place on the mound.

For the next three innings, Johnson switched back and forth between his lefty and righty closers, depending on the matchup. In the 14th, Howard Johnson finally broke the stalemate with a three-run homer and the Mets had a hard-fought 6-3 win.

Birthdays

  • Jesse Hudson turns 65. With a staff that included the likes of Seaver, Koosman, McGraw, and Ryan, the '69 Mets might have been the most pitching-rich team in franchise history. Yet none of the big names on the staff managed to top the 13.5 K/9 rate of lefty Jesse Hudson. Granted, Hudson put up that number in just two innings of work, but it would be mean to quibble over that technicality on the man's birthday.
  • Rob Johnson is 31. As Mets fans learned last year, Johnson won't blow anyone away, but he pounds the zone and has a two-seamer he can elevate when he needs a strikeout. Apparently he can catch a little, too.

Game of Note
The Mets and Reds also happened to meet on this date in 1975. Jerry Koosman drew the start against a Big Red Machine that wasn't operating at max capacity, as Johnny Bench took the day off. Kooz took advantage of Bench's replacement, Bill Plummer, fanning him twice. The second K was crucial, since it came with the score 3-1 Mets in the top of the ninth and the backup backstop representing the tying run at the plate. Still, that wasn't the most humiliating part of poor Plummer's day. That came in the third inning when Koosman became the first Mets pitcher in four years to swipe a bag. The leadfoot lefty was undoubtedly aided and abetted by a poor throw. According to the Baseball Reference box score, Koosman advanced to third on an E-2 and then scored the game's deciding run on a Wayne Garrett sac fly.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
The man most responsible for popularizing the phrase "I'm getting too old for this shit" is himself getting too old for this shit today. Danny Glover turns 67. To bring it back to the Mets, both Warren Spahn (age 44 in 1965) and the seemingly ageless Julio Franco (2006-07) happened to be the oldest player in the National League during their stints with New York. Two ex-Mets had extended reigns as the oldest player in all of baseball as well: Nolan Ryan (1990 to 1993) and Jesse Orosco (2000 to 2003).

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