July 24, 1988: Ozzie Smith and Jose Oquendo fight Giants slugger Will Smith

Nine months after the Cardinals ended the Giants’ 1987 world championship hopes in a hard-fought, seven-game NLCS, the two teams came to blows in a midsummer brawl involving Will Clark, Ozzie Smith, and Jose Oquendo.

Neither team enjoyed the same success in 1988 that they had before. Entering the final game of their four-game series on July 24, the Giants were 49-46, seven games behind the NL West-leading Dodgers. The Cardinals, meanwhile, were just 43-53, 15 games behind the NL East-leading Mets and just two games ahead of the last-place Phillies.

Though the Giants were on the outskirts of the NL West race, veteran pitcher Rick Reuschel was enjoying another strong season, and he entered the game at Busch Stadium with a 12-5 record and 3.13 ERA. The Cardinals countered with Jose DeLeon, who entered the game with a 6-7 record and 4.10 ERA.

The Giants opened the scoring in the second inning when Candy Maldonado tripled, then scored on a groundout. Two innings later, Maldonado singled and scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Giants a 2-0 lead.

Clark put the game away in the fifth with his 22nd home run of the season, a two-out, three-run blast to right field that gave San Francisco a 5-0 lead.

“DeLeon made a terrible pitch,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said. “He’s got to know the guy is hitting.”[1]

Clark was at the center of the action again in the eighth inning when the fisticuffs began. With one out, Clark singled to center field. When Maldonado grounded to the shortstop, Smith fielded the ball cleanly and threw it to Oquendo for the force-out at second. Clark slid hard through the bag, sending himself and Oquendo well past the bag and breaking up the potential double play.

Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described the scene that followed:

Oquendo kicked Clark and then cuffed Clark’s helmet with his hand.

Clark, his attention having been obtained, jumped to his feet and grabbed Oquendo. Smith, coming to the rescue, landed a punch from behind and then missed a roundhouse punch. Smith got in two more blows as Oquendo and Clark continued grappling, with Clark gaining the upper hand.

Maldonado, flying in from the right side, apparently gave Smith a shot that split Smith’s lip. Tom Pagnozzi, who came from the Cardinals’ bullpen, wrestled Maldonado to the ground.[2]

“When I slid, I hit the bag and I bounced off to the side and I was laying against Oquendo’s leg,” Clark said. “He kneed me and said, ‘What are you doing, man?’ or something like that. There’s really no answer to that. I was trying to break up two. When I was getting up, that’s when he hit me in the head. I couldn’t understand what that was all about, then I just went off. I pushed him and from there, it all happened real quick.”[3]

Ironically, the first player to arrive and support Clark, Maldonado, had been in his own fight with Clark in the clubhouse a week earlier.[4]

“You don’t like to fight, but in a situation like that – they’re holding Will Clark down, swinging at Will Clark – you don’t wait,” Maldonado said. “You go.”[5]

Giants manager Roger Craig certainly noticed Maldonado’s effort.

“Tell you one thing,” he said. “That’s the fastest I’ve seen Maldonado from first to second.”[6]

Giants catcher Bob Brenly was one of the next Giants to arrive, getting a couple of shots in at Smith and appearing to bloody his lip. Earlier in the year, Smith had called Brenly and the Giants “scared loudmouths” in an interview with GQ magazine.

“I don’t know if somebody stepped on him or what,” Brenly said. “Maybe his lip got caught rolling over on my hand.”[7]

Oquendo and Clark were ejected for their roles in the fight. Second base umpire Dutch Rennert said he did not eject Smith because he didn’t see the Cardinals shortstop land any punches.

“I saw Clark swing at (Oquendo) and both were ejected for fighting,” he explained. “I didn’t see Ozzie get hit in that mess, to tell you the truth. He got three punches in? I just saw one punch by Clark. I didn’t know Ozzie hit him. If I had seen Ozzie sucker-punch him, I would have thrown him out.”[8]

Though Smith didn’t leave the game that evening, he did it out the following day’s game against the Pirates after complaining of soreness.[9]

When the umpires finally settled matters and resumed play, it didn’t take long for sparks to fly once more when Cardinals reliever Scott Terry’s second pitch to Mike Aldrete came in high and tight. Umpire Randy Marsh immediately ejected Terry and both benches again emptied. Smith and Giants catcher Bob Brenly exchanged heated words, but this time no punches were thrown.

“I know nobody told (Terry) to throw at him,” Herzog said. “I don’t think it was behind him or a dangerous pitch.”[10]

Police remained on the field for the remainder of the game.[11]

Ultimately, the Cardinals landed more blows against Clark than they did against Reuschel, who earned the complete-game shutout in the 5-0 Giants win.

After the game, Oquendo said, “I was just trying to get out of the way and I didn’t think that was a right slide. He slid late. I was ticked off.”[12]

Herzog placed the blame on the umpires. Two nights earlier, he complained when Clark slid past the bag to break up a double-play in that game.

“The rule states that you can slide on the first-base die of the bag and your momentum can carry you on that side of the bag,” Herzog said. “They didn’t call it, so (Clark) did it again. I told them if they had called it the other night, this stuff wouldn’t have happened.”[13]

“(Clark) didn’t slide out of the baseline,” Rennert responded when Herzog’s comments were repeated to him. “He slid over the bag. Straight and directly. A hard slide. Baseball can be a hard game. He’s got a gripe, but … that’s all you’ve got to do – slide directly over the bag.”[14]

For his part, the old-school Clark said he was simply playing hard-nosed baseball.

“In the old days, they went out there and played aggressive,” he said. “That’s the only way I was born and raised to play baseball. So that’s what I do. Evidently, they took it in the wrong fashion. If I have the opportunity to do it again, I’m going to go in there the same way.”[15]

Twelve years later, the Cardinals would come to appreciate Clark’s hard-charging style of play, obtaining him in a trade for minor-league third baseman Jose Leon. Clark played the final 2 ½ months of his career in St. Louis, playing first base in place of Mark McGwire, who was battling patellar tendinitis in his right knee.


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[1] Rick Hummel, “Giants Belt Cards 5-0,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1988.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Giants Belt Cards 5-0,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1988.

[3] Dave Luecking, “Clark Says He’ll Slide Same Way,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1988.

[4] Edvins Beitiks, “Fighting-trim Giants ready for Dodgers,” San Francisco Examiner, July 25, 1988.

[5] Edvins Beitiks, “Fighting-trim Giants ready for Dodgers,” San Francisco Examiner, July 25, 1988.

[6] Edvins Beitiks, “Fighting-trim Giants ready for Dodgers,” San Francisco Examiner, July 25, 1988.

[7] Edvins Beitiks, “Fighting-trim Giants ready for Dodgers,” San Francisco Examiner, July 25, 1988.

[8] Rick Hummel, “Giants Belt Cards 5-0,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1988.

[9] Dave Luecking, “‘Fracas’ Leaves Smith Sore,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 26, 1988.

[10] Rick Hummel, “Giants Belt Cards 5-0,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1988.

[11] Rick Hummel, “Giants Belt Cards 5-0,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1988.

[12] Rick Hummel, “Giants Belt Cards 5-0,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1988.

[13] Rick Hummel, “Giants Belt Cards 5-0,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1988.

[14] Rick Hummel, “Giants Belt Cards 5-0,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1988.

[15] Dave Luecking, “Clark Says He’ll Slide Same Way,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1988.