Note: The story originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Aug. 4, 1993
The Alamo was a fraternity party compared to what the White Sox and Texas Rangers did to each other Wednesday night.
The Sox and Rangers took time out from a perfectly mundane baseball game to square off in one of the nastiest, dirtiest brawls to hit the plains of Texas in quite a spell.
When it was all over, the Rangers delighted a crowd of 32,312 by coming from behind to knock out the Sox 5-2.
The win was almost a must for the third-place Rangers, who used it to climb back to 5 1/2 behind the division-leading Sox with one game yet to play in a suddenly ugly series.
Nolan Ryan started the free-for-all by drilling Robin Ventura on the right elbow with a fastball in the third inning.
Ventura was incensed. He took Ryan's actions to be retaliation, plain and simple, for a series of incidents.
"If you know the game, it's no secret what he was doing," said Ventura, his elbow encased in an elastic brace. "If you don't think he did it on purpose, you don't know the game."
Ventura's reasoning is backed by some pretty solid circumstantial evidence.
First was the timing: Ventura was hit just one inning after Sox starter Alex Fernandez plunked Texas slugger Juan Gonzalez-the fourth Ranger to be hit by a pitch in three games this season.
In addition to that, Ventura was the logical target if Ryan wanted to retaliate against anyone. Ventura had singled in the first inning off Ryan to give the Sox a 1-0 lead.
Ryan has a long reputation for throwing at hitters. He drilled Sox infielder Craig Grebeck in the back in 1990 after Grebeck and shortstop Ozzie Guillen had hit rare homers off him back-to-back.
Last year, Ryan was ejected from a game for the first and only time in his career after he threw at Willie Wilson, who had tripled off him.
Ventura had been hit on the same elbow just two weeks ago by Milwaukee's Cal Eldred.
As soon as he was hit this time, Ventura grimaced in pain. He took a couple of steps toward first base, then thought better of it. Instead, Ventura took a sharp left turn, threw his batting helmet to the ground and charged Ryan.
Ryan locked Ventura in the kind of armlock usually reserved for branding steers and started flailing away with punches. Five roundhouse shots in a row landed on top of Ventura's head.
"He gave me a couple of noogies on my head and that's about all," said Ventura.
Ryan was still swinging when a mass of humanity from both benches descended upon him.
"I've had a couple of confrontations in my career, but nothing of that nature," said Ryan, who gave away 20 years to Ventura in the Battle of Arlington.
"All I know is I was on the bottom of the pile and it felt like their whole team was on top of me. In that situation, you're totally at the mercy of your teammates."
Texas coach Mickey Hatcher left the field with blood streaming down his face. He had a butterfly bandage on the wound in the clubhouse and said it was minor.
Usually mild-mannered Sox manager Gene Lamont was in the middle of things from start to finish and came out worse for the effort. Lamont had a trick knee go out on him when someone clipped him from the side.
To add insult to injury, Lamont was ejected from the game. So was Ventura.
But Ryan was allowed to stay and he pitched magnificently the rest of the night. He faced 13 batters and got 14 outs because he quickly got revenge for the fight by picking off Craig Grebeck, who had gone to first base to run for Ventura when things calmed down.
"I think he should have been thrown out of the game," Lamont said of Ryan. "He hit Robin and he was the one throwing the punches. He should have been ejected, too."
Lamont defended Ventura's decision to charge the mound.
"Robin thought he was throwing at him and he did exactly what he should do," said Lamont. "It's strange that that was the only pitch that got away from him all night."
And it was. Ryan (3-3) worked seven innings and gave up just two runs on three hits. It was his longest outing of the year and easily his feistiest.
Alex Fernandez (12-6) had his worst outing in more than a month.
"(The fight) didn't bother me at all," said Fernandez. "I thought I had Palmeiro struck out on the pitch before the home run. I only made one bad pitch and that was the double to Franco."
That pitch was a lot more costly than the one bad one that Ryan made to Ventura.