During the eighth inning of Monday’s Memorial Day baseball game in San Francisco, the Giants versus the Washington Nationals, who were leading 2-0 with two outs, the bases empty, right fielder Bryce Harper up to bat is hit in the leg by a 98 miles per hour fastball by Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland, apparently payback for something that happened in the National League Division Series in October 2014, a two-and-a-half-year grudge.
Harper hit two huge home runs against Strickland in the 2014 playoffs and allegedly gave him a dramatic death stare as he ran by. Harper hadn’t faced him since then.
Strickland had never retaliated for the monstrous hits or the alleged stare, and neither had his teammates, but it wasn’t forgotten. Harper charged the pitcher’s mound after being hit and the fight began, a bench-clearing WWE brawl on a Sunday afternoon, including each team’s 25-man player roster and coaches on the field—a melee.
Asked about his intent, Strickland replied, “To go inside.” It took four of Strickland’s teammates to restrain him and get him off the field and out of the fray.
Christine Brennan, a sports columnist for USA Today, and a contributor to ABC News, CNN, PBS and NPR said, “There’s a message to be sent, not just to players but to the children in America who look up to them,” after a bench-clearing brawl between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets in December 2006 at Madison Square Garden. “Kids take their cues from these athletes, and if there’s not stiff punishment, then what kind of message are we sending to our kids?”
But you never hear this kind of comment made in regards to the frequent fights in baseball or hockey, sports predominantly played by white athletes.
Harper’s three game suspension, originally four, was issued immediately by Major League Baseball for inciting a brawl. He’ll be eligible to return to play Sunday. Strickland was benched for six games. He has appealed the suspension and is still allowed to play until a decision regarding his appeal is made. Both also received fines. San Francisco travels to Washington ,D.C., to play the Nationals three more times in August.