On July 3, 1967, with more than 34,000 in the seats at Busch Stadium the Cardinals exploded for seven runs in the first inning of a contest versus the Cincinnati Reds. The offensive explosion would be the secondary story in this one, as brawl in the top of the fifth inning brought cops, billy clubs, and chaos into the mix in the blink of an eye.
The Reds starter Milt Pappas only retired one batter, and gave up three runs before he got the hook. He handed the ball over to reliever Don Nottebart who inherited a bases loaded situation that Dal Maxvill unloaded with a double, before the shortstop came into score on a throwing error. Nottebart gave up a single to the Birds hurler Bob Gibson, before Lou Brock reached on a fielders choice. The speedster, then decided to steal second, but was gunned down by Don Pavletich. That was the precursor to the melee that was about to follow.
As you could imagine, Brock trying to steal with a seven run lead might not have sat well in the visiting clubhouse, and in the fourth inning Nottebart drilled him in an apparent act of retaliation. Gibson, who was no stranger to retaliation, knew that he would send a message when he came to the bump, and that message came when he sailed one over Tony Perez's head. When Perez popped up he had a few choice words for the Cardinals hurler. Gibby was not one to back down to anybody, and he shouted a few choice words of his own at Perez before the catcher came charging at him.
In the beginning it started as a typical baseball fight with a little bit of pushing and shoving. In the end, it was far from it. Trying to play the role of peacemaker Orlando Cepeda got between Perez and Gibson, only exchanging punches with Pete Rose, before the dust seemed to be settling. Then came Cincinnati reliever Bob Lee running in from the bullpen who stirred it right back up, as all hell broke loose. More than a dozen police officers stormed onto the field, and started swinging billy clubs at anyone who was throwing punches. It took the officers 12 minutes to get control of the situation, that had started with a message pitch.
The win put the Cardinals in a first place tie with the Chicago Cubs who ended up third, while the Birds took home the National League Crown. The Reds were in a tailspin at the time. They had lost eight of their last nine, and were on their way to a fourth place finish.
Gibson reflected on this game in 1981, when Joe Torre brought him onboard with the Mets organization to help teach his young pitchers attitude. If anyone could teach attitude his name was Bob Gibson. The Cardinals legend would knock down any batter in the league if given a reason. Some said that he would knock down his own mother if it meant his team would win. Gibby laughed about the melee with the Reds, saying that when Perez barked, he told him to bring it, and Perez obliged. The next thing he knew he was punching anyone that got in front of him, and he might have even punched a teammate or two. When Torre heard the talk that Gibson would knock down his own mother, he chuckled when he said that he doubted he would do that "unless she dug in and took a hell of a rip." Moral of the story: Don't mess with Bob Gibson.
Check out the box score here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN196707030.shtml