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Today in Cubs history: A Cubs-Cardinals brawl

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And when it was over, not a single player was ejected.

Bill Madlock, pictured in 1976, was at the center of the kerfuffle
Photo by Diamond Images/Getty Images

This video, “lost” for many years (though freely available on YouTube through all that time), surfaced earlier this month when Ted Simmons was inducted into the Hall of Fame, because he was one of the principals in a wild Cubs/Cardinals brawl that happened in St. Louis on this date, September 22, 1974.

Have a look and then I’ll explain what happened:

It’s the top of the ninth and the game is tied 5-5. Al Hrabosky was pitching for the Cardinals and Bill Madlock was to lead off the inning for the Cubs. Hrabosky had already pitched the eighth inning without incident, but apparently Madlock didn’t care for the pre-pitch ritual Hrabosky, nicknamed “The Mad Hungarian,” used to perform. If you’re not familiar with that, it looked something like this (since it’s not shown in the Cubs clip above):

Richard Dozer of the Tribune wrote about what happened in his game recap:

The whole fracas was incited by Al Hrabosky, the chunky St. Louis relief pitcher whose antagonizing habit of turning his back to leave the batter waiting on a “long count” has made him infamous almost overnight.

The Cubs plan here was to stall right along with him, and Madlock, who led off the ninth, retreated for a sticky rag to rub pine tar on his bat.

The score was 5-5, and [plate umpire Shag] Crawford ordered Madlock back into the box.

“He didn’t hear me, so I told him again,” a trembling Crawford said later. Then he told [Cubs manager Jim] Marshall the same thing, and the Cub pilot said, “Ok, you’ve got him.”

Marshall recalled taking a step toward getting Madlock back in the box. But Madlock was near [Jose] Cardenal in the ondeck [sic] circle. Marshall turned and saw Crawford signal “strike one” as Hrabosky delivered under orders to the empty batter’s box.

That’s where the video picks up and you can see a free-for-all break out. Simmons wound up punching Madlock and the benches emptied.

When order was restored, the Cubs learned that first baseman Andre Thornton had suffered an injured finger. Thornton missed the remainder of that season (only 10 games remained).

The remarkable thing, especially if you look at the melee happening on the Busch Stadium field, is that the only person ejected was Marshall. Dozer explains:

Marshall was banished as the aftermath of the scrap, only because he apparently challenged Crawford to throw Simmons out of the game.

“That’s what really got me tossed out, because I had some choice words for him along with it,” Marshall said.

It was Marshall’s first ejection as a manager. In four seasons as a MLB manager and 555 games, the mild-mannered Marshall had just six ejections.

Anyway, when order was restored the Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the ninth. In the bottom of the inning, the Cardinals had runners on first and second with two out when — who else? — Simmons singled in the winning run. At the time it put St. Louis up 1½ games in the NL East with nine remaining. But the Pirates won eight of their last 10 to pass the Cardinals and win the division, and there’s another Cub-related story there.

On the last scheduled day of the season, October 2, the Cubs were in Pittsburgh. If the Cubs could defeat the Pirates, that would leave the Pirates with an 87-75 record and force the 86-75 Cardinals to play a makeup game against the Expos — in Montreal! — to see if they could tie Pittsburgh.

The Cubs led the Pirates 4-2 going to the bottom of the ninth. Two walks and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out. A groundout scored a run to make it 4-3 and put the tying run on third.

Then Rick Reuschel struck out Bob Robertson. The game should have been over in a 4-3 Cubs win. But the ball got away from catcher Steve Swisher, and his throw to first to get Robertson sailed into right field. The tying run scored, and the Pirates pushed a run across in the bottom of the 10th to win 5-4 and clinch the division title.

That was a very, very bad Cubs season in which they lost 96 games and finished badly, losing 10 of their last 13.

And that Cubs/Cardinals brawl happened 47 years ago today.