Where are Jeff Nelson and Norm Charlton?
Baltimore was on the happy end of Tuesday night’s melee against Kansas City at Camden Yards. You’ve seen it by now; KC starter Yordano Ventura unleashed his best fastball of the night directly into the ribs of O’s shortstop Manny Machado, who charged the mound and connected with a roundhouse to Ventura’s face. Dogpile ensued, order restored in moments.
Wednesday morning, The Baltimore Sun asked its web viewers to rank the fight among all-time Orioles brawls. This doesn’t crack the top ten.
The most entertaining Orioles brawl, we all know, happened in 1993 when Mike Mussina beaned Seattle’s Bill Hasselman after M’s starter Chris Bosio threw behind a couple of Baltimore hitters. The story’s been told a million times; Cal Ripken found himself at the bottom of the pile, his knee wrenched sideways. It was the closest Cal ever came to missing a game due to an injury.
The scariest Orioles brawl, however, happened at Yankee Stadium five years later. Again, it’s an oft-told story. Armando Benitez, after surrendering back-to-back homers, hit Yankee Tino Martinez between the 2 and the 4 on his uniform jersey. Big fight. Like, serious anger. It took no time at all before a pile of fighting athletes tumbled into the Yankee dugout, punching and flailing. That fight, of course, was notable for the blow struck by diminutive Oriole reliever Alan Mills against Yankee goofball Darryl Strawberry.
What doesn’t get discussed much when these two brawls are mentioned are two guys who were very much involved in both: relief pitchers and general all-around maniacs Jeff Nelson and Norm Charlton.
Both played for Seattle during the ’93 fight. And neither could be calmed down during the fracas. Charlton especially lost his mind, blond mullet flapping everywhere, jersey half-torn off. He engaged at least four different Orioles that day.
Then in the ’98 fight, Charlton was an Oriole and Nelson a Yankee. Nelson dangerously pulled a pile of fighting players down the dugout steps. And Charlton, this time wearing the orange, ran all over the field punching anything in pinstripes.
Although I’m not a Yankees fan, Tino Martinez was absolutely right and Benitez was a cheap shot pitcher and a coward. The Yankees should have banged that ugly face of Benitez’s into the turf. First he threw at Martinez and then he stands there telling them to come on.