August 10, 2010: Brawl vs. Reds ends Jason LaRue’s career

On August 10, 2010, the fierce rivalry between the Cardinals and Reds spilled into a violent brawl that ended catcher Jason LaRue’s career.

The two teams had battled one another for the National League Central Division lead throughout the summer. In the opening game of the series, Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter pitched seven innings and second baseman Skip Schumaker hit a grand slam to lift St. Louis to a 7-3 win that pulled the Cardinals within a game of the Reds.

That same day, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips made his thoughts on the defending Central Division champions from St. Louis clear.

“I’d play against these guys on one leg,” he told the Dayton Daily News. “We have to beat these guys. All they do is bitch and moan about everything, all of them. They’re little bitches, all of them. I really hate the Cardinals. Compared to the Cardinals, I love the Chicago Cubs. Let me make this clear: I hate the Cardinals.”[1]

The Cardinals initially appeared to brush Phillips’ comments aside.

“If he wants to hate us, he can hate us,” Carpenter said prior to the second game of the series. “I really don’t care. It’s not going to hurt me either way. We compete the way we compete. We play the way we play.”[2]

“It’s a free country,” Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols said. “You’re allowed to say whatever you want.”[3]

Ironically, the teams probably had more in common than they wanted to admit. The Reds’ roster, crafted by former Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty, included former Cardinals Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Miguel Cairo, and Russ Springer. Meanwhile, the St. Louis roster included former Reds Felipe Lopez, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Franklin, and LaRue.

“If Scott Rolen said something about me, I’d take it a bit harder,” Schumaker said.[4]

Despite the Cardinals’ initial dismissal of Phillips’ comments, they quickly proved to be kindling for a brawl that had career-altering consequences.

The Cardinals already had a 1-0 lead when Phillips stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the first inning. As Phillips stepped into the batter’s box, he tapped catcher Yadier Molina’s shin pad with his bat. Molina wasted no time in responding.

“I was ready to start the game,” Molina said. “He touched me. The comment he made yesterday that he’s got (no respect for us) over there … if you’ve got nothing, why are you touching me? You’re not my friend, so don’t touch me.”[5]

Rising from his position behind the plate, he got into Phillips’ face, yanking his facemask off even as home plate umpire Mark Wegner stepped between the two. A few moments later, both dugouts had cleared.

“It’s 100% defend your guy regardless of what he says or doesn’t say,” Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes said. “Once we get in the clubhouse, we can go over some things, but in between the lines with the opponent, we absolutely got to defend our own.”[6]

While Molina and Phillips were quickly separated, managers Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker exchanged heated words.

“One thing led to another and guys were chirping,” Baker said. “Some guys said to be quiet and (Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo) was talking. I told him to be quiet and Tony told me, ‘Don’t talk to my coaches,’ and I told him a few things. He told me a few things and then I heard something behind my back and then it was on again. I thought we’d calmed it down. It was ugly, not good baseball.”[7]

After La Russa and Baker were separated, another fit of shoving sent the crowd of players and coaches into the backstop behind home plate. In the scuffle, Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto lashed out with his spikes, kicking both Carpenter and LaRue. By the time it was over, Carpenter, who had been pinned against the backstop, had a torn shirt and bruises on his back.[8] LaRue had a bloody lip, bruised ribs, and – though he didn’t know it yet – a career-ending concussion.

“I don’t think anybody was fighting. It just turned into a little scrum. Then it just got out of control real quick,” Carpenter said. “I just turned around and I’ve got Cueto kicking me in the back with his spikes. Like I said, that’s super unprofessional. I don’t know where he learned to fight.”[9]

Carpenter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that one of Cueto’s kicks came an inch from hitting LaRue in the eye.[10]

“All of a sudden you feel someone kicking you in the ribs with spikes for no apparent reason at all,” LaRue said. “That’s what happened. You get kicked in the ribs, you’re going to instantly turn around. As I turned around, you see pointed blades.”[11]

Incredibly, La Russa and Baker were the only ones ejected, though both benches received warnings. Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia retired Phillips on a groundout to second base and the game continued.

Molina gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead in the second inning with a solo home run to left field, but the Reds answered with two more runs in the third. Garcia walked two batters in the inning before Phillips drove in a run on a groundout and Joey Votto hit an RBI single to right.

The Cardinals took the lead for good in the sixth inning as Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus each slugged RBI doubles and Molina drove in his second run of the game with a sacrifice fly to right field.

In the bottom of the sixth, Garcia walked two more batters before he was replaced by Fernando Salas, who allowed a two-run single to Drew Stubbs that cut the St. Louis lead to 5-4.

Facing Reds reliever Logan Ondrusek, the Cardinals rallied for three runs in the seventh. After intentionally walking Pujols to load the bases, Ondrusek allowed a two-run single to Holliday, and Pujols scored on a throwing error.

From there, Trever Miller, Kyle McClellan, and Ryan Franklin closed the door, with Franklin retiring Phillips on a ground ball to end the game and claim his 20th save of the season.

With the win, the Cardinals moved into a tie with the Reds for first place in the NL Central. Garcia earned his 10th win of the season after allowing four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings and Holliday finished with four hits and three RBIs, raising his average on the season to .306.

However, the Cardinals would deal with the day’s long-term ramifications for months to come. Cueto was suspended seven games, while Baker and La Russa each were suspended two. Phillips, Springer, Carpenter, and Molina received fines. MLB’s release announcing the punishments noted Cueto’s “violent and aggressive actions during the incident” while Springer, who was not actively involved in the brawl, was fined for going on the field while he was on the disabled list.[12]

Those suspensions and fines, however, were relatively little compared to the repercussions for LaRue. On September 18, he announced his retirement after 12 major-league seasons.

“I’m done,” he said from his home outside San Antonio. “It’s a simple decision.”[13]

LaRue, who estimated he suffered “close to 20” concussions dating back to his days as a high school football player, initially considered his injury minor.[14] However, symptoms soon emerged that convinced him otherwise. Small activities caused excruciating headaches and nausea, leaving him unable to drive or cook for himself. His doctors sent him home to Texas because he was in no condition to live on his own.[15]

“Riding in a car going to the doctors, I’d have to close my eyes,” he said. “It’s one of the hardest things in the world to explain. You don’t feel right. It’s been a little more than a month since it happened and I’m finally starting to feel more normal.”[16]

At the time of his retirement, LaRue could drive and watch TV again, but he was restricted from strenuous activity. Doctors cautioned him that the next concussion could result in equal or even worse symptoms than what he was currently experiencing.

“As a catcher, you’re so vulnerable to getting another (concussion),” LaRue said. “All it takes is a foul ball to the head. Even as a backup, that happened three to five times last year. It’s not a question of if it would happen again, it’s when.”[17]

With a wife and three young sons at home, LaRue didn’t need to wait until the offseason to make his decision. He retired with a .231 career batting average, 96 homers, and 348 RBIs in 922 games.

“From day one, I played like it was going to be my last when I walked on the field,” he said. “I surpassed all my goals playing 11 years. Did I think it might be my last even before what happened? Absolutely. You never really know. But I know now.”[18]

When asked about LaRue’s retirement following the announcement, Cueto declined comment.[19]


Enjoy this post? Find similar stories listed by decade or by player.


[1] Joe Strauss, “Phillips sticks to comments,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 2010.

[2] Joe Strauss, “Phillips sticks to comments,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 2010.

[3] Joe Strauss, “Phillips sticks to comments,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 2010.

[4] Joe Strauss, “Phillips sticks to comments,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 2010.

[5] Joe Strauss, “Cardinals win brawlgame – Contest opens with a fight, but it’s the Cards who throw final punch,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 2010.

[6] John Erardi, “This day, only sky is ready to rumble,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 12, 2010.

[7] Joe Strauss, “Cardinals win brawlgame – Contest opens with a fight, but it’s the Cards who throw final punch,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 2010.

[8] Joe Strauss, “LaRue is suffering from concussion,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 12, 2010.

[9] Joe Strauss, “Cardinals win brawlgame – Contest opens with a fight, but it’s the Cards who throw final punch,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 2010.

[10] Joe Strauss, “LaRue is suffering from concussion,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 12, 2010.

[11] Joe Strauss, “LaRue is suffering from concussion,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 12, 2010.

[12] John Fay, “Cueto hit hard for fighting,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 13, 2010.

[13] Joe Strauss, “LaRue says career is now over,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 19, 2010.

[14] Joe Strauss, “LaRue says career is now over,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 19, 2010.

[15] Joe Strauss, “LaRue says career is now over,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 19, 2010.

[16] Joe Strauss, “LaRue says career is now over,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 19, 2010.

[17] Joe Strauss, “LaRue says career is now over,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 19, 2010.

[18] Joe Strauss, “LaRue says career is now over,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 19, 2010.

[19] Tom Groeschen, “Baker considering contract extension,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 20, 2010.