Mouth to Mouth: Nettles (NYY) v. Lee (BOS)
MAY 20, 1976 - YANKEE STADIUM
Boston’s Bill Lee was one of the better lefthanders in the American League. He also had a talent for turning a vivid and memorable phrase and he reserved his best efforts for the Yankees. Following the brawl between the two teams in August 1973, Lee had devised just the right putdown for the Pinstripers, telling reporters that Boston’s adversaries looked “like a bunch of hookers swinging their purses.” The comment prompted some guffaws in the more down-to-earth precincts of old New England, but it also had the effect of deeply offending Yankee sensibilities. It ensured the Bombers would showcase their masculine side in the next round.
Opportunity knocked nearly three years later when Boston traveled to the Bronx for the best-attended four-game series at Yankee Stadium since 1947. The Red Sox, who had won the pennant in 1975, trailed the first-place Yankees by six games but liked their prospects.
Lee was on the mound with his team trailing 1-0 in the sixth inning on May 20. After getting two quick outs, he gave up singles to Lou Piniella and Graig Nettles. When Otto Velez singled, Piniella tried to score from second and looked like he would be an easy out. The throw from rightfielder Dwight Evans handcuffed Carlton Fisk, however, and Piniella slammed into the Boston catcher who was blocking the plate. The full-fledged brawl that ensued around the pitcher’s mound was wild enough to dispel any worry that baseball players, unlike their hockey confreres, do not enjoy a good fight from time to time.
Despite the din and dust of the struggle, Nettles, the Yankees’ hard-hitting third baseman, managed to ascertain Lee’s whereabouts and then brutally tossed him on his shoulder with malice aforethought. Undeterred by his useless, dangling left arm, an enraged Lee rose from the turf and lunged at Nettles. The five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glover opened up with both fists. CONTINUED....