A's-Royals April incidents not like old-school melees
Clubs putting tension-filled KC series behind them as they meet in Oakland
OAKLAND -- So you were expecting the sequel to be even better than the original?
Not a chance.
The Royals and A's were back at it again at the Coliseum on Friday night, 67 days removed from that three-game series at Kaufman Stadium that was punctuated by verbal jousting, threatening hand gestures and a series of ejections that became lengthy enough that Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu actually was ejected twice from the series finale.
So much for the anticipation.
The paying customers made it known verbally that they had not forgotten.
They booed when the Royals' lineup was announced.
They booed louder in the bottom of the eighth when the Royals brought in reliever Kelvin Herrera, who earned the ire in that finale in April when he was ejected for throwing a 100-mph fastball behind the head of A's third baseman Brett Lawrie, and pointed at his own head as he left the field, staring at the A's.
And they had a final outburst when, with one out in the bottom of the ninth, erratic Royals reliever Franklin Morales threw a fastball that hit the right forearm of A's catcher Stephen Vogt.
"You will have to ask them," A's manager Bob Melvin said when asked if Vogt being hit could have been related to April. "They hit our guy."
The participants, however, had a more important agenda -- avoiding distractions that could take away from winning a game. The defending American League-champion Royals, who knocked off the A's in last October's AL Wild Card Game, are sitting atop the AL Central, and the A's are working on putting together a midseason charge to get back into the mix in the AL West.
"Our fans are exuberant and they do support us," said Melvin.
But the participants?
"Everyone is well served to put it behind them," said Melvin.
There was no argument from Royals manager Ned Yost.
"It's in the past," said Yost. "There has been a lot of time since that. The season is long. Guys have short memories."
Things have calmed down for the Royals since April, when the run-in with the A's came in between blow-ups with the Angels and the White Sox.
"We haven't had anything since then," said Yost.
Besides, Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura -- who paid back Lawrie for spiking shortstop Alcides Escobar in the opener of that April series by hitting him with a pitch in the second game -- was in Omaha, Neb., not Oakland, on Friday night, making a rehab start in his bid to return from the disabled list.
A's starting pitcher Scott Kazmir -- who lit the fuse to the fireworks in the April finale when he hit Lorenzo Cain in the back with a pitch -- was sitting in the dugout Friday night, preparing for his start in the second game of this series on Saturday.
And truth be told, there was a lot of arm waving and tongue wagging in April, but that wasn't one of those old-fashioned benches-clearing incidents like the old days.
But then again, not many of the dust-ups nowadays compare to the old days.
They get more attention and a lot more exposure than the incidents of the past thanks to social media and satellite television.
However, there is no way that yelling and screaming and hand gestures can compare to moments like Aug. 22, 1965, when Giants right-hander Juan Marichal hit two Dodgers with pitches. Then, after Sandy Koufax threw a pitch over Marichal's head, Marichal felt that catcher Johnny Roseboro came too close to his head throwing the ball back to Koufax, and hit Roseboro over the head with a bat.
Fourteen years later in Seattle, Mariners designated hitter Willie Horton, batting in the bottom of the sixth with two outs, the bases loaded and the score tied at 3, charged the mound after he was hit by a pitch to force in the go-ahead run, and body slammed Red Sox reliever Dick Drago.
The Royals had a classic fracas in Texas on May 7, 1977, when the Rangers took exception to the way Kansas City catcher Darrell Porter tagged Bump Wills on an attempted steal of home.
The benches cleared, words were exchanged and then came the fracas. Rangers backup catcher John Ellis chased Royals outfielder Amos Otis into the visiting dugout at Arlington Stadium, under the stands and back to the visiting clubhouse, where Otis locked the door to keep Ellis out. Meanwhile, Horton -- playing for the Rangers at the time -- was slamming Royals third baseman George Brett to the ground in front of home plate.
Afterward, Royals manager Whitey Herzog shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and told the media, "What do you expect when Emmett Kelly's in charge?"
"Yeah, that clown who is managing the other team," Herzog said in reference to his Rangers counterpart, Frank Lucchesi.
Oh, and the Royals had their moment in Oakland, too, back in 1976, but it wasn't with the players. In the final week of a season in which the Royals were to end the A's five-year run as the AL West champions, fans seated by the Kansas City bullpen along the right-field line got into a battle with Royals players.
The next day, the Kansas City Times carried a picture of the Royals' Hal McRae, umbrella in hand, in the stands battling with fans. The caption on The Associated Press photo identified the player as reserve Tommy Davis. McRae declined to ask for a correction.
"Tommy's at the end of his career," said McRae. "He can use the publicity."
That's not a problem anymore.
A few spirited exchanges and couple of menacing gestures, and in no time the world has been alerted through the wonders of social media.