For all intents and purposes, baseball is an extremely passionate sport. The guys on the field love the game, the coaches love the game, and even the fans in the stands are die-hard about baseball.
With that much passion and drive fueling the sport, it really comes as no surprise when emotions occasionally boil over on the field. Sometimes players will lash out against their competitors, the umpires, heck … sometimes even the fans themselves.
But it’s not very often when you’ll see members of the same team go at it. For this week’s Flashback Friday, we take a look back at the infamous spat between John Gibbons and Ted Lilly.
The day was August 21st 2006; the first place Oakland A’s rolled into town to face the Blue Jays during the dog days of summer. Ted Lilly was making his 25th start of the season, and things did not get off to a good start.
Lilly started off the game by giving up back-to-back singles, but luckily was the benefactor of a double play and strikeout to get out of the first inning unscathed. Lilly sent the Athletics down in order in the second inning, but after that is where the wheels came off.
Ted Lilly walked the first batter in Eric Chavez and proceeded to give up five consecutive hits for five runs. After watching his starter struggle against A’s, John Gibbons had apparently had enough and decided to give Lilly the hook after just 2.1 innings of work.
Needless to say Ted Lilly wasn’t too happy about being yanked midway through the third inning, and he exchanged some words with his manager out on the mound. After giving up five runs in one inning, I suppose Lilly thought that didn’t warrant getting the hook so soon.
After some tense dialogue between Gibbons and Lilly, he reluctantly relinquished the ball and Jason Frasor was called upon to clean up the mess. Ultimately Ted Lilly was charged with 7 earned runs on 8 hits through 2.1 innings.
But it didn’t stop there; as Lilly headed towards the tunnel under the Blue Jays dugout towards the clubhouse, Gibbons followed and there were even more words exchanged between the two in the tunnel.
Mere moments later, trainer George Poulis bolted to the tunnel and the rest of the team rushed down to break up the fight. What actually happened between Gibbons and Lilly is all hearsay, but it’s rumoured that the two threw punches and Gibbons ended up with a bloody nose.
Perhaps the most telling quote from the entire encounter came from Ted Lilly during his postgame interview, in which a Freudian Slip may have said it all :
“There were no punches thrown, so I don’t think John had a bloody nose. I don’t know how that would have happened.”
While both Ted Lilly and John Gibbons were adamant that merely words and not fists were exchanged, I got the sense from the video above that Lilly wouldn’t have mentioned the bloody nose unless there was in fact a physical altercation.
The incident was a black eye on the organization, as the very next day I remember media outlets everywhere covering the story. Not exactly the way you’d expect the Blue Jays to be making headlines south of the border.
And of course the John Gibbons/Ted Lilly incident came shortly after a much publicized spat between John Gibbons and Shea Hillenbrand in which Gibbons allegedly challenged Hillenbrand to a fight. So this altercation didn’t do any favours for manager John Gibbons.
Following the altercation, needless to say Ted Lilly saw the writing on the wall and knew his time with the Blue Jays would be coming to a close. At the end of the season he walked as a free agent and signed with the Chicago Cubs.
John Gibbons and Ted Lilly may not have always seen eye to eye, but they taught us one very important lesson from their altercation; at least wait until you get to the clubhouse to air your dirty laundry.