BOSTON -- Boston Bruins Hall of Famer Cam Neely spoke to a group of Red Sox prospects during the organization's Rookie Development Program last January and gave them some great advice.
"During a bench-clearing brawl, leave your purses in the dugout," he told the group of 20-somethings who had no previous knowledge of Neely's legendary NHL status.
The idea of a bench-clearing scrum in baseball seems laughable at first glance. The pitcher hits the batter. The batter charges the mound. The benches empty and the pitchers in the bullpen sprint almost hand-in-hand from the outfield before grabbing each other once they get onto the infield grass.
Normally there are very few -- if any punches thrown as players scream and yell at each for a few minutes before order is restored. Players get ejected, fines are usually levied and the season continues.
Don't be fooled, however, because grudges are held and retaliation is usually the norm before the same scenario occurs again.
In the case of the Red Sox, something as simple as a bench-clearing brawl has a tendency to ignite a bigger sense of camaraderie within the clubhouse, especially when a club is struggling as Boston has of late.
The most recent example of this occurred at Fenway Park on Tuesday night when the Red Sox Kevin Youkilis charged the mound after being hit by a pitch from the Tigers' rookie Rick Porcello in the bottom of the second inning.
Youkilis obviously thought it was retaliation for the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, who was hit by Red Sox rookie pitcher Junichi Tazawa in the top of the first inning. Cabrera was also drilled by Brad Penny in the top of the fourth inning Monday night. Youkilis was drilled in the home half of that inning.
Once Youkilis was hit in the back on the first pitch from Porcello, he rushed the mound, threw his helmet at the pitcher and attempted to tackle him before he was spun to the ground by Porcello. Both were ejected.
When fans talk about Tuesday's scrum, one of the most popular Red Sox bench-clear brawls in recent history will certainly come to mind
July 24, 2004.
Then-Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo drilled the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, who then got a face-wash from Boston catcher Jason Varitek that ignited the all-out brawl.
During that scrum, the Red Sox were 8-1/2-games back of the Yankees and eventually closed the gap, settling for the wildcard berth in the playoffs. Boston then went on to its first World Series title in 86 years.
Fast forward to this season and the Red Sox' recent woes. Prior to Tuesday's game Boston was 9-14 since the All-Star break. The club scratched and clawed its way to a 6-5 victory over the Tigers on Monday, snapping a six-game losing skid.
Maybe that victory, coupled with Tuesday's bench-clear can jump-start the Red Sox for the remainder of the season just as it did in 2004.
Earlier this season Red Sox ace Josh Beckett was suspended for five-games for intentionally throwing at the head of the Angels' Bobby Abreu, which initiated a brawl on April 12 at Anaheim. Boston lost that game, and the next two at Oakland before winning the next 11 straight games.
Another classic case of a beneficial bench-clearing incident was the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. Ironically, it was against the Red Sox, on June 5 at Fenway Park. Rays starter James Shields wasn't too happy with a Coco Crisp spikes-high slide in the previous night's game, so the pitcher wanted to "protect his teammates."
"We've been getting stomped around the last 10 years and that's not going to happen any more," said Shields after that game.
Prior to the Rays losing in the World Series to the Phillies last October, some of the Tampa players pointed to that scrum at Fenway Park as the starting point to their successful season.
Even Red Sox manager Terry Francona got in on the act Tuesday night when he argued a call and was ejected from the game later in the same inning as the bench-clearing scrum. Of course, the players will say all the right things publicly, but once the clubhouse doors are closed to the outside world, an incident like this could help their cause.
Just ask Cam Neely.