There is nothing quite like a great baseball feud. We’re not talking brawls, which are, in their own right, supremely entertaining. Nope. We’re talking feuds. Feuds may lead to a brawl, but they always begin as a simple glance, or the wrong word, a poorly timed publication or some “He said, he said…what!?” They stew, agitate, irritate, grind and ultimately break down the relationship between two parties, be it teammates, or a player and a manager. Here are seven great feuds from the modern baseball era.
7. Reggie Jackson vs. Billy Martin
When you mix two prideful, strong-willed individuals into a scenario where they don’t see eye to eye, you have great potential for a feud. Once upon a time, Billy Martin felt Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, was loafing in the outfield and played a ball slowly, allowing Jim Rice to stretch a single into a double. It didn’t help that the Yankees were playing the Red Sox. At the end of the half inning, Reggie was met at the dugout steps by an irate Billy Martin, and the two strong personalities went at it. Billy benched Reggie, went after him three times in the dugout, and Reggie eventually challenged his manager to a good old-fashioned “why don’t we take this outside” fight. The bad blood continued to boil, as these two could never see eye to eye. A definitive example of the New York Yankees’ Bronx Zoo Era.
6. Whitey Herzog vs. Garry Templeton
Whitey Herzon was the beloved manager of the St. Louis Cardinals during the “Running Redbird” era, and he didn’t tolerate behavior that was considered ungentlemanly on the field. Of course, Whitey loved to yuck it up a bit for cameras, and in the locker room, but he would not tolerate players who displayed poor social skills with fans. It was a no-no in St. Louis. On a particular day at Busch Stadium designated as “Ladies’ Day,” Garry Templeton was seen making obscene gestures to a few people in the stands. No, it wasn’t sexual. Rather, it was the bird, but not the one on his uniform. When he got back to the dugout, Whitey lit him up, and the two men had to be separated. They never made good, and the Cardinals’ brass traded Templeton to San Diego for some fella named Ozzie Smith.
5. Darryl Strawberry vs. Keith Hernandez
Venturing into the feudal territory between teammates, here’s an excellent way to get the stories started. Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez were serving as model citizens on team picture day, until Darryl was asked to sit next to the Mets’ first baseman for the team photo. Darryl and Keith had always gotten along swimmingly, until that off-season, when Darryl struggled through a contract negotiation and felt he got no support from Keith Hernandez. For some reason, he felt Keith should have been outspoken as to Darryl’s importance to the team, and worthiness of a big payday. As the photographers and general management tried to arrange the photo, Darryl refused to sit next to Keith. The scene turned ugly when Darryl started a fight with Keith. From that point forward, the teammates coexisted.
4. Don Sutton vs. Steve Garvey
Once cozy, Don Sutton and Steve Garvey embarked on a years-long feud after Sutton was interviewed by the Washington Post, during which he somewhat tossed Garvey under the bus. Ultimately, it seemed Sutton was trying to compliment another teammate, Reggie Smith, within the article, but he did so by bashing Steve Garvey. Ultimately, he suggested Reggie Smith as being integral to the Dodgers’ success, and carrying the team down the stretch. He went on to say the media wasn’t interested in Reggie because he didn’t have the same “Madison Avenue” image as Steve Garvey. As you’d imagine, Steve wasn’t happy about hearing this. He confronted Sutton in the Dodgers’ locker room, and the two pitchers put up their dukes. Both men were left busted up afterward. The feud continued for years, even after Sutton left the Dodgers.
3. Barry Bonds vs. Jeff Kent
The Barry Bonds era in San Francisco was fascinating. He couldn’t get along with management in Pittsburgh, and couldn’t get along with his peers in San Fran. The guy who really loathed Barry and his constant headline grabbing: Jeff Kent. Both of these guys were known to be quite prickly. Wherever both of these guys played, they carried a reputation. Jeff Kent was seemingly dissatisfied with everyone who didn’t play at his level or higher, and when the chatter about Barry Bonds and steroid use started to gain momentum, Jeff lost it. Shockingly, it wasn’t because of Bonds. Jeff was criticizing another teammate and Bonds stood up for the guy. The next thing their teammates knew, two alphas were physically engaged in the dugout. Jeff announced his desire to depart the team, and the next season, it was granted.
2. Roger Clemens vs. Mike Piazza
Inciting incident: the event or decision that begins a story’s problem. That’s a loose, Googled definition, but it’s spot on for Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza. We’ll presume that neither of these guys were fond of the other, especially after Roger Clemens hit Mike in the head with a pitch during a regular season, inter-league game. Later, the two met in the World Series. Mike Piazza broke his bat on a Roger Clemens heater, and the barrel of the bat hurtled toward the mound. Clemens fielded the head of the bat, then flipped it hard, right at Piazza, who was running down the first base line. Piazza squared him off, but Roger proclaimed his innocence, “I thought it was the ball!” Sure, Rog. Just like you thought those shots in your butt cheek were Vitamin B.
1. Lenny Dykstra vs. Mitch Williams
The baseball feud that won’t die: Lenny Dykstra and Mitch Williams. These two Philadelphia Phillies embodied the baseball bad boy spirit of the 1980s and early 1990s. This rivalry started in 1993, when Lenny began to look at Mitch sideways after the Phillies lost the World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays. Mitch allowed a three-run bomb to Joe Carter, giving the Jays the WS Crown. As years passed, Lenny wasn’t shy about blaming Mitch for the loss, suggesting it was squarely on his teammate’s shoulders for blowing the 6-5 lead, which would have forced Game 7. Mitch always responded with some snide remark about Lenny and his legal troubles, which led to a prison stint. Just when you thought the dust had settled—more than 20 years later—the two got into a back and forth at a comedy roast event in 2015. The feud rages on.