Dance, Dale Braves Throw At Murph, Deck Phils

Posted: June 20, 1991

It came down to this: An Atlanta Braves pitcher threw at Dale Murphy.

Yes, Dale Murphy, the man who all but owns the city of Atlanta (and the state of Georgia, for that matter) and was hugged, kissed and applauded just over two weeks ago at Fulton County Stadium. Granted, Braves starter Tom Glavine did it as gently as possible - throwing four slow-as-syrup pitches to the inside, none holding any danger - but he threw at Murphy nonetheless. And that fact alone tells you how deep the bad blood runs between the Phillies and the Braves at this point.

"I appreciate what Tom did to Murphy," said Braves second baseman Jeff Blauser, whose three-run double in the ninth inning helped ice Atlanta's 9-2 win yesterday afternoon at Veterans Stadium. "That's how it should be. You have to send a message to the other side that if you're going to go after our players, there's going to be a flip side to the coin."

Earlier in the ninth inning, Phillies reliever Roger McDowell had brushed back Braves outfielder Otis Nixon with one pitch, then hit him on the shoulder with the next to earn an immediate ejection from home plate umpire Bob Davidson. Nixon, of course, was the player who stormed Wally Ritchie on the mound on June 4 in Atlanta after Ritchie hit him on the knee. A bench-clearing brawl ensued.

Both Ritchie and Nixon were fined and suspended for the incident - Ritchie $200 and one game, Nixon $400 and four games. The sanctions are under appeal. Ritchie has been on the disabled list since the Atlanta trip as a result of injuries sustained when Nixon put his spike through his shirt and put a gash in his abdomen.

"We were aware of the situation, and, to be honest with you, the first couple of nights Nixon played and there was no problem," Davidson said. "By the ninth (yesterday), I had forgotten about it. But when I saw (McDowell's) first pitch, he brought back my memory real fast."

Davidson said that he was "absolutely, 100 percent" certain that McDowell had thrown at Nixon. Not surprisingly, both McDowell and manager Jim Fregosi denied that he had.

"To be effective (as a pitcher), guys can't be out there diving over the plate," said McDowell, who left the field to a standing ovation. "I was just trying to establish the inside of the plate."

There was no brawl this time, only some visibly vicious remarks between McDowell and Nixon (which neither of them would discuss) and a long, anxious wait to see what the Braves would do when their pitcher took the mound.

It was no surprise they threw at a Phillies batter - retaliation was the name of the game by that point - but it was certainly a surprise that the Braves chose to throw at Murphy, rather than wait for the next batter.

"He plays for another team now," Blauser said of Murphy, with a shrug.

Although it was obvious to everyone what Glavine was doing - and Glavine did not deny that he was throwing at Murphy in retaliation - Davidson waited until the fourth pitch to eject him.

"The reason Glavine got four pitches was because Dale Murphy was hitting," Davidson said. "You don't throw at a crucifix. If it had been anyone else up there but him . . .

"Besides, the pitches were

changeups, they weren't exactly thrown hard."

Glavine played in the Braves' minor league system while Murphy was winning Gold Gloves for the big club in centerfield. He pitched nearly three seasons (August 1987 until Murphy was traded last August) with Atlanta when Murphy was considered a living legend in the Fulton County clubhouse.

Yesterday, he readily acknowledged that he would have preferred to see any other Phillie at the plate when he took the mound in the bottom of the ninth.

"The bottom line is, you've got to try to protect your players," Glavine said. "If it's a different hitter up there, something different might have happened."

To Murphy's credit, he laughed off the actions of his former team.

"We were playing a little dodge ball out there," Murphy said, grinning. ''I don't want to get into reading minds. Whatever happened, happened."

For Glavine, the ejection was an ignominious - but, in his opinion, necessary - end to a beautifully pitched game. The National League's winningest pitcher at 11-3, Glavine struck out the side in the first inning and reached 10 strikeouts - to tie his career high - when he sent Phils catcher Steve Lake down swinging for the first out in the fifth. He finished with 12 strikeouts and allowed no earned runs and only four hits.

"Glavine pitched extremely well," Fregosi said. "He had an excellent changeup and he had a good fastball. He's a fine young pitcher, there's no question about it."

To make matters a little bit more tense, the man at bat for the Phils following Murphy was third baseman Charlie Hayes . . . and the man called in to replace Glavine was Juan Berenguer. Two major factors leading up to the June 4 brawl were Nixon's steal attempt with his team leading by six runs in the sixth inning and three high-and-inside pitches Berenguer threw at Hayes in the following inning.

But Berenguer controlled himself and Hayes hit a fielder's choice grounder to third. The Phils eventually loaded the bases before pinch-hitter Darren Daulton popped out to short and Dickie Thon popped out to first.

The seven-run loss was the Phillies' worst since an 8-1 loss to the Expos on May 27, but it was really the ninth-inning fireworks (fallout: four Braves runs) that made the score look so bad.

The Phillies took a one-run lead in the second, then fell behind in the fourth, 4-1, when starter Terry Mulholland started to struggle. In the sixth inning, an absolutely wacky rundown on a failed suicide squeeze attempt got the Phillies an out when the Braves wound up with two men on third base (scored 2-5-4-2), but left Braves catcher Greg Olson in a position to score on a Glavine single.

"We messed up a couple of plays defensively," Fregosi said. "We fouled up the rundown play. It wasn't very pretty. It looked like the picnic (held after the game for the Phillies' families) had started a little early."

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