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On This Date in Sports May 19, 1998: Rumble in the Bronx

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Facing the Baltimore Orioles in the Bronx, the New York Yankees, who once trailed 5-1, scored six runs in the eighth inning, taking the lead on a three-run home run by Bernie Williams off Armando Benitez. After Williams’ home run, Benitez takes out his frustration by drilling Tino Martinez square in his back. Both benches clear after the meaning, leading to an ugly fight that spills into Baltimore’s dugout as the Yankees win 9-5.

Led by Joe Torre, the New York Yankees, who won the 1996 World Series, were stronger than ever after losing in the ALDS in 1997. Sitting on top of the American League East, the Yankees held a 28-9, with a three-and-a-half-game lead over the second-place Boston Red Sox. Facing the Baltimore Orioles, who won the Eastern Division the previous season for the first time in 1998, there was an extra buzz over the Bronx. A big part of the buzz was due to the Yankees' previous game, two days earlier that saw David Wells throw a perfect game in a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Things were not going so well for the Baltimore Orioles. In 1997, they appeared to be heading for the World Series after winning the East with a record of 98-64. However, they would be stunned by the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS, leading to the departure of manager Davey Johnson. Under new manager Ray Miller, the Orioles were struggling at 20-23 as they came to New York looking to turn things around against the first-place Yankees.

With Doug Johns getting the start, the Orioles got to David Cone early and often. Harold Baines opened the scoring in the second inning with an RBI single. After the Yankees tied it, the Orioles scored three runs in the third, with a double from Roberto Alomar and a two-single from Baines. Jeffrey Hammond made it 5-1 with a sacrifice fly in the fourth as Johns pitched in and out of trouble all night. Sidney Ponson relived Doug Johns in the sixth and retired the Yankees in order. However, in the seventh, the Yankees began chipping away on an RBI double by Paul O’Neill, who scored on a hit by Tim Raines to make it 5-3. Ponson started the eight by getting Scott Brosius to fly out but walked Jorge Posada and Chuck Knoblauch and was relieved by Alan Mills, who retired his only batter, Derek Jeter. Norm Charlton gave up an RBI single to O’Neill to make the score 5-4. He was then replaced by Armando Benitez, the Baltimore closer. With a 2-1 count, Benitez hung a pitch that Bernie Williams smashed into the upper deck in right field, giving the Yankees a 7-5 lead as Yankee Stadium was shaking.

Both benches cleared as the Yankees’ first basemen winced in pain. Armando Benitez, who was immediately ejected, dropped his glove and seemed to challenge the Yankees to a fight. The next pitch thrown by Benitez would be square into Tino Martinez’s back. Darryl Strawberry was one of the first players to approach the mound as both benches cleared. As Benitez backed up to his dugout, Grahame Lloyd coming out of the Yankees bullpen, landed a punch on the Orioles reliever touching off a wild scene. Along with Jeff Nelson, Lloyd perused Benitez towards the dugout, with Strawberry not far behind. The fight would carry down the dugout stairs, with the umpires helplessly looking on. After the dust settled, Bobby Munoz came on to face Tim Raines, who added to the Yankees' lead with a two-run home run on the first pitch thrown by Munoz. Mike Stanton, who pitched the eighth inning, stayed on in the ninth and retired the side to earn the win as the Yankees beat the Orioles 9-5.

Armando Benitez would get an eight-game suspension for his role in the fight, while his teammate Alan Mills was sat for two games. On the Yankees, Darryl Strawberry and Grahame Lloyd got suspended for three games, with Jeff Nelson getting two games from American League President Gene Budding. The game would be symbolic of both teams' seasons as the Yankees posted a record of 114-48 and won the World Series, while the Orioles had a disappointing fourth-place finish with a  record of 79-83.