There is no real rivalry between the Angels and Washington Nationals, who will be in Anaheim for a two-game series beginning Tuesday night. The teams are in different leagues, on opposite coasts and have played each other only 15 times since 2003, with the Angels holding a 10-5 edge in the interleague series.
But for two nights in 2005, these teams went at each other with the ferocity and animosity of baseball’s most heated rivals, reprising some of those nasty Yankees-Red Sox and Dodgers-Giants games of yore and producing one of the most bizarre series I’ve witnessed in three decades of covering baseball.
The hostilities included a benches-clearing incident after an Angels reliever was ejected for having a foreign substance on his glove, the two managers screaming at each other and nearly coming to blows at home plate and a Washington player trashing the Angels manager, almost literally.
At the center of it all was Jose Guillen, the temperamental Nationals outfielder who was a key contributor to the Angels’ 2004 division champion team before being suspended for the remainder of the regular season and postseason for his petulant reaction to getting pulled for a pinch-runner in late September.
With the score tied, 3-3, in an important Sept. 25 game against Oakland, Guillen was hit by a pitch to open the eighth inning and replaced by runner Alfredo Amezaga.
Guillen threw his arms into the air at first base, walked slowly off the field, tossed his helmet toward the side of the dugout that Angels manager Mike Scioscia was standing in, walked to the opposite side of the dugout and fired his glove against the dugout wall.
The incident infuriated teammates and coaches because Guillen put himself above the team and showed up his manager, and tensions were so high in the clubhouse afterward that Guillen and several teammates nearly came to blows.
Fast forward to the 2005 season. Guillen had been traded to Washington the previous winter, and the Nationals were in Anaheim for a three-game series that began without incident, an 11-1 Angels victory on June 13.
The following night, Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly replaced starter Ervin Santana with a 3-1 lead in the seventh. After completing his warm-up pitches, Washington manager Frank Robinson asked home-plate umpire Tim Tschida to inspect Donnelly’s glove.
Pine tar was found on the heel of the glove, and Donnelly was ejected. Scioscia, who had come to the mound as umpires convened, walked toward the first-base line, where Robinson was standing, and had a few choice words for the Nationals manager.
“He told me he’s going to have every other pitcher of mine undressed—I took that as a threat,” Robinson said. “I lost a lot of respect for Mike tonight as a person and a manager.”
Scioscia began walking toward the Angels dugout. Robinson followed, countering with a few choice words of his own, and the two went jaw to jaw, screaming at each other at home plate while both dugouts and bullpens emptied.
Though no punches were thrown, it took three Washington players and coaches to contain Guillen, whom the Angels suspected of tipping off Robinson to Donnelly’s use of pine tar.
Before the bottom of the seventh, Scioscia asked Tschida to check Washington reliever Gary Majewski’s glove, further fueling animosity between the teams.
Then came the ultimate indignity for the Angels—Guillen, who was booed heartily before every at-bat in the series, lined a two-run, game-tying homer to left field in the eighth and took his time rounding the bases, savoring every moment. Washington went on to win, 6-3.
There were on-field hostilities in the series finale, a 1-0 Nationals victory.
The war of words continued with Robinson accusing Scioscia of instigating the previous night’s fracas by “overreacting” and “crossing a line” and Guillen saying Scioscia “showed no class” toward a Hall of Famer.
As if that wasn’t harsh enough, Guillen left Anaheim with a nasty parting shot.
“I don’t really care much for Mike Scioscia,” Guillen said. “I don’t have any respect for him anymore. He is like a piece of garbage.”