- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 12, 2003

BOSTON — The pitching battle for the ages lived up to its billing — and not just because Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez were on the mound.

The benches and bullpens cleared twice in a game that featured brawls, brushbacks and bad blood, and Martinez threw Don Zimmer to the ground as the 72-year-old coach prepared to throw a punch.

Even with the flareups and fights, Clemens stayed focused in his Fenway Park farewell, leading the New York Yankees over the Boston Red Sox 4-3 yesterday for a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 American League Championship Series.

“I think when this series began everyone knew it was going to be a battle, it was going to be emotional, a lot of intensity,” Boston manager Grady Little said. “I think we’ve upgraded it from a battle to a war.”

In the fourth inning, Martinez threw at Karim Garcia’s head, nicking him on the back as he ducked. Garcia then made a hard slide on a double play, and Manny Ramirez screamed at Clemens about a pitch that was slightly inside.

“I know Reggie was smiling. Somewhere, Goose and Gator … were probably smiling,” Clemens said, referring to Reggie Jackson, Rich Gossage and Ron Guidry, three members of the Yankees’ championship teams that brawled with Boston in the late 1970s. “Great theater, whatever you want to call it. I think it’s great baseball.”

Clemens retired 13 of 14 batters after allowing a two-run single to Ramirez in the first. Meanwhile, Garcia hit an RBI single in the second, Derek Jeter homered over the Green Monster in the third and Hideki Matsui had a go-ahead double in the two-run fourth, which also including a run-scoring double play by Soriano.

After Trot Nixon hit into a run-scoring double play against Jose Contreras in the seventh, Mariano Rivera retired six straight batters for the save. He has retired 21 of 22 hitters in the postseason.

The ninth inning was interrupted by a fight in the New York bullpen involving a member of the Boston grounds crew. Two Yankees might be charged with assault, police spokesman Mariellen Burns said. He did not release the names of the players, but Red Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg said Jeff Nelson and Garcia were the players involved.

Garcia cut his hand, forcing him out of the game. Yankees president Randy Levine later got into a shouting match with Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations, after the game. Levine contended there weren’t enough police and security personnel at Fenway Park.

“It was huge, especially playing here,” Jeter said. “This won’t mean anything unless we come out tomorrow and win.”

The outbursts began just after Matsui’s RBI double put New York ahead 3-2. Martinez’s next pitch was behind Garcia’s head, and plate umpire Alfonso Marquez ruled that it nicked Garcia’s back before hitting his bat. Marquez issued a warning to both dugouts about throwing inside.

“I don’t appreciate when somebody throws at my head,” Garcia said. “You’re messing with somebody’s career.”

Alfonso Soriano, batting with the bases loaded and no outs, grounded to shortstop, with Boston turning a double play as Nick Johnson scored from third.

Garcia slid hard, knocking down second baseman Todd Walker. The two began shoving each other, and both teams slowly came out of the dugouts, yelling. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, Clemens and Zimmer were among the loudest.

Garcia wanted to hit the first Red Sox player he could without getting ejected.

“I’m going to get somebody else [as retaliation],” he said. “That’s the way I play the game.”

After Enrique Wilson’s inning-ending popout, two umpires pulled Clemens aside as he went to the mound for the bottom of the inning.

With the count 1-2 to Ramirez leading off, Clemens threw a high pitch, at the level of Ramirez’s head but not far inside. Ramirez bailed before the pitch even reached the plate, raised his bat slightly and shouted at Clemens, who yelled back.

“The pitch was actually over the plate, I think,” Clemens said. “I was OK with it until I looked up and he was coming toward me, mouthing me. Anybody is going to react when that happens.”

Both dugouts and bullpens emptied, with Zimmer coming all the way across the infield to the first base side. The coach headed for the 31-year-old Martinez and lunged at him.

“I think Zim is a little bit old for that,” Little said.

Martinez sidestepped him, grabbed him by the head with both hands and tossed him to the ground. Zimmer landed face down and rolled over on his back.

Zimmer, the Red Sox manager in the famous 1978 AL East playoff won by the Yankees on Bucky Dent’s home run, declined comment on the fight, saying only, “We won the game.”

Martinez, in a rare comment to reporters, said he was defending himself.

“I could never hit him. I would never do it,” he said. “I was just trying to dodge him and push him away, and too bad his body fell. I hope he’s fine.”

Sitting in the dugout afterward, Zimmer had a small bandage on the bridge of his nose. Later, he was smiling and laughing, but he was taken out of the ballpark on a stretcher after the game and sent to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as a precaution. Yankees spokesman Rick Cerrone said Zimmer simply pulled a muscle.

After a 10-minute delay following the fight, Ramirez struck out on the next pitch. But the fighting wasn’t over. In the ninth, grounds crew member Paul Williams waved a white rally flag in the Yankees’ bullpen, according to Nelson.

“I told him if you’re rooting for the Red Sox, why don’t you go in their bullpen,” Nelson said. “He jumped in my face and tried to take a swing at me.”

It was typical of the night.

“I was very proud of my team,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “They certainly acted like a team.”

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