This is a special bonus edition of our “This Day in Braves History” series, because this story deserves more than just a footnote. Today, we are going back to June 19, 1991 when a young Tom Glavine was ejected for throwing at Atlanta Braves legend Dale Murphy.
It was a wild sequence of events that unfolded over a two-week period that ultimately led to this moment. It started back on June 4, on none other than Dale Murphy Appreciation Night at Fulton County Stadium. Atlanta had traded Murphy, along with RHP Tommy Greene, to Philadelphia on August 3, 1990, in exchange for Jeff Parrett, Jim Vatcher and Victor Rosario.
This was Murphy’s first trip back to Atlanta as a member of the Phillies, and the Braves were committed to making it a special moment. Below is video package honoring Murphy.
Dale Murphy Appreciation Night would also be remembered for a brawl that erupted after Philadelphia’s Wally Ritchie hit Atlanta’s Otis Nixon with a pitch. Nixon charged the mound and landed a straight leg kick to Ritchie’s stomach before both players wrestled each other to the ground. It was only a matter of seconds before both dugouts emptied into a vicious pile of humanity at the mound.
Nixon was given a four-game suspension for his role in the brawl, while Ritchie received just one. The situation was still on everyone’s mind when Atlanta rolled into Philadelphia two weeks later. Both teams made it through the first two games of the series without incident, but things heated up again in the series finale on June 19.
Nixon came to the plate in the ninth to face Roger McDowell, who would later join the Braves’ coaching staff in 2006, replacing Leo Mazzone as the team’s pitching coach. McDowell’s first pitch sailed up and in but Nixon was able to get out of the way. His second pitch nailed Nixon in his right shoulder. McDowell was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Bob Davidson. Nixon stared McDowell down on his way to first base but didn’t go to the mound as coaches Pat Corrales and Jimmy Williams played peacemaker along with Terry Pendleton.
Legend has it that Bobby Cox was pretty upset that the Phillies threw at Nixon again, and he informed Tom Glavine to throw at the first batter of the next inning, which just happened to be Dale Murphy. Glavine reportedly asked if he could hit the second guy, but Cox held strong, saying, “No, you gotta hit Murph.”
The result was Glavine throwing four of the softest pitches possible at Murphy, who no doubt understood what was going on. Glavine was immediately ejected by Davidson after the fourth pitch and walked silently off the mound.
When asked about throwing at Murphy and his ejection, Glavine responded by calling the situation “uncomfortable.”
‘When he was here and things were going bad for me, he was always there to pat me on the back and give me some encouragement,’ Glavine said. ‘It was an uncomfortable situation, that’s all I want to say about it.’
Murphy, to his credit, understood the situation and wasn’t going to bury his former teammate. He gave about the most gracious response possible.
‘We just played a little dodge ball,’ Murphy said. ‘I don’t want to read minds or anything. Whatever happened, happened. I don’t know how to evaluate it or characterize it.’
The Braves won the game 9-2 and improved to 32-30. They went on to win the NL West division and advance to the World Series. Some look back on this event and point to it as the time when they came together as a team. That was reflected in shortstop Jeff Blauser’s comments following the June 19th game.
‘(Glavine) was sending a message to the other side,’ he said. ‘If you go after our players, there’s going to be a flip side to the coin. I have a lot of respect for Tom. He stuck up for his teammates and his teammates appreciate that.
‘(But) if it had been a different hitter, something different might have happened.’
What are the odds that a fight would erupt on the night that the team was honoring one of its legends and even more so, that Murphy would be the first batter to step to the plate two weeks later after Nixon was hit again? I certainly wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.