PHOENIX – Saturday’s game between Canada and Mexico at the World Baseball Classic was marred by a massive ninth-inning brawl.
When Canadian catcher Chris Robinson bunted with his team up 9-3, Mexico third baseman Luis Cruz motioned to picher Arnold Leon to hit the next batter. Leon hit Canada’s Rene Tosoni which led to chaos on, and off, the field.
Canadian first-base coach Larry Walker was in the middle of it all, and later had a ball thrown at him from the stands.
The former Montreal Expos star, and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, describe the scene at Chase Field as only he can:
(Cap tip to Yahoo! Sports baseball writer Jeff Passan for transcribing the below interview.)
Q: Talk about all the things that happened in the ninth.
A: Somebody tweeted it was Chihuahuas vs. the Beavers. International rules, I guess the run thing is important so you try to wrap the score in. In most people's eyes, mine included, there's nothing wrong laying down a bunt up six. I don't think they thought it was a problem, either, because we were up seven and they were holding our runner on first base. They must've thought we'd better hold it on to keep it closer.
Q: Had somebody done that to you during your career, 9-3 in the ninth inning, what would've happened in a regular-season game?
A: In a major league baseball game, yeah, that probably would've been called for. Maybe a brushback or a hit or something crazy like that. Their third baseman was sitting there taking the ball and telling him to hit him right in the ribs. I can't believe he didn't get tossed out of the game for instigating the whole thing. I think something would've been happening in a major league game. It might not have happened that game. You see each other enough during the season, or next year you'll see each other again. It can be done at a later time.
Q: We saw the replay with Cruz doing it. You saw that directly with Cruz pointing.
A: I told Adrian (Gonzalez). Chris (Robinson) was there because he bunted. I said it right there, so Adrian heard me. We all saw it clear as day. It was throwing the ball at his ribs telling him to hit him. He could've made a damn play on it. He was just so pissed that he bunted that he gave up and just sat there. Robinson was running. He's Fred McGriff speed
Q: How close did you come to getting hit by that ball?
A: I think I might have felt it go by me. I really felt something go by me. I thought it was a bug hitting my ear. I felt it nick me.
Q: Once you saw what it was, you saw it was a baseball, what did you feel then?
A: Glad I got a helmet on. I don't know if they tossed anybody. I didn't see anybody getting thrown out for that. Cops went over there and looked around, but I don't think anything got done. We got a little fired up. That's why I started going like this (popping his jersey) and telling everybody to get up.
Q: Did you feel like you were playing again?
A: The adrenaline started running a little bit, yeah. It was good. Like I say, it was probably all uncalled for because it was international ball, and like I say, the runs mean something in the tiebreaker rule. Whether they keep that or not, who knows? It's Saturday night. It's ‘Hockey Night in Canada.’ Don Cherry can't wait to get on the air.
Q: Did the manager of Canada give the order to go out to the fight?
A: No. The pitcher from Mexico did. You drilled our guy. You missed him twice and drilled him. He gave the orders to go out.
Q: How would you settle a tie other than the run differential?
A: I'm a beaver. I don't know. I couldn't tell you. I don't know what the ruling is? Do you play another game? That's probably the worst thing you can do. Couldn't tell you.
Q: Do you think the emotion you felt when you popped your jersey was more that it said Canada than if it had the Rockies jersey or Expos jersey?
A: Without a doubt. I look up there and see a sea of red with Canada written across it. Just wanted to fire the Canadian people up there a little bit.
Q: Even though they were outnumbered?
A: Yeah. Nobody's jerseys were tied down on the back. We could've gone into the stands. See what happens. Pull 'em over their heads and throw some haymakers.
Q: Do you think in a strange way this could actually be good for the WBC, this event that happened today?
A: I don't know if it's good. That's a tough stretch to say it was good. I think it adds to just how neat the tournament is. But I'm not promoting fighting. That's not a good thing, not at all.
Q: Larry, how much do you think this displays that these are not glorified exhibition games?
A: This is the real thing. Like I say, there's a different feeling when you put your country's jersey on your back. Not saying these guys don't play hard for their teams as well, but you're playing for a nation right now. And it brings out a little bit more patriotism in your game.
Q: Chris Robinson played tough, takeout slides ...
A: Right from the beginning, I saw Robby was into it. His base hit in the first inning, he was waving his arms, getting everybody fired up. Then he got drilled in the nuts. Then a collision at home. Then the bunt. Then the fight. It was a pretty intense game for him. I think the boys are ready and up for the challenge tomorrow against the U.S.
Q: Could there be some carryover, Larry, in terms of the emotion?
A: Should be. Yeah. Like I say, the guys are fired up. I'm fired up, and I just stand in the box and say there's two outs. That's a neat thing.
Q: Sometimes in MLB with a brawl, you find a buddy and pair off. Out there, did you feel it was on the verge of danger at any point? Did you think it was going to escalate to worse than it was?
A: I did at the beginning. I grabbed Adrian. I said, "Listen, stay away." I told him later, "You're too important to the game of baseball to be jumping in here and doing something stupid." So I grabbed him. Then I let him go and grabbed somebody else. Is it Acev ... Aceh ... how do you say it?"
A: I had a hold of him, and I think I saw Satan in his eyes. It was scary. I was just hoping he wasn't going to throw punches at me, because that would've been trouble.
Q: So where would you rank this in brawls you've been involved?
A: Um. You know, there's been only a few. I charged the mound only one other time. So I think it was a little more intense when you're the one charging the mound. I got stuck around the outside and didn't want to get too involved with these guys. I'm not young anymore. These are big, strong kids.
Q: Did it get a little scary afterward when there were things coming in from the stands?
A: I played winter ball in Hermosillo, so I've seen a lot worse. Playing over there, there's fights every night in the stands and stuff getting thrown on the field. There's usually bottles, though. I'm just glad it didn't hit me.
Q: (Denis) Boucher got hit by a bottle, right?
A: Yeah. Somebody behind our dugout apparently threw something.
Q: How much are you looking forward to tomorrow, and how much does it mean besides the obvious.
A: You know what? Mexico beat the U.S. yesterday for us, and that was a big help. Otherwise tomorrow's game really doesn't mean as much. It's a win-and-go-on or lose-and-go-home, so I think the guys wish the game was today. Let's get it going. I know I wish I was. I'm fired up for it, and I don't even get to play.
Q: After the game yesterday, Torre said getting to these tournaments is like postseason. Do players recognize that?
A: You play for your country. It's a different feel. It's just adrenaline that flows through you're body. And I'm not even playing. I'm coaching. And I feel it. So I can't imagine what those guys are feeling.
Q: More so playing against the U.S. because it's where baseball is and everything else?
A: It's another team. It is the U.S. It's probably a little more glorifying to knock them out. When we beat them in '06, the first game, that's big for us. Our pool that we get to choose from isn't quite as large as theirs. Our players are a bunch of minor league guys, some of 'em, whereas they're all big leaguers.
Q: Can you tell us what happened, exactly, from your own perspective?
A: Our guy got hit. He was pissed. We all danced and then fought. I mean, it is what it was. It's simple to see.
Q: Larry, the hockey analogies were alive and well in the press conference there. You come from a hockey country. Canadians seem to excel at rough stuff. It's a playful question, but a lot of fans are probably thinking it's a hockey fight at a baseball game.
A: Well, that's going to be a line probably used a lot, and nobody will be surprised that Team Canada was involved. Because that's what they'll say. All those damn hockey players. I don't think this was necessarily started by us. We were invited into it, so we danced.