Getty Images/Ron Vesely The pressures of competition can bring out the worst in anyone. And in professional sports, where the stakes can be sky-high, the worst can mean all-out brawls on the field or court, particularly between long-standing rivals. In 2006, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth stomped on the head of Dallas Cowboys guard Andre Gurode, resulting in a bloody scene and dozens of stitches to Gurode’s face. On the basketball court, Larry Bird was notorious for yelling at his opponents, which resulted in the famous 1984 fist fight between him and Julius “Dr. J” Irving. After being beaned by a pitch from Texas Ranger Nolan Ryan in 1993, Chicago White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura charged the mound, sparking a bench clearing for both teams and becoming one of the sport’s most famous fights to this day. And we don’t even have to tell you about Mike Tyson’s infamous 1997 boxing match with Evander Holyfield.
It’s understandable, and even encouraged by some coaches, to harbor ill will toward your opponents. It’s quite another when those feelings bubble over in your own clubhouse. That’s exactly what happened in 1988, when the Kansas City Royals had to put out a fire between left fielder Bo Jackson and third baseman Kevin Seitzer on their own team. Seitzer was a well-known issue on the team. Getty Images/Rick Stewart Kevin Seitzer (above) would go out of his way to be a problem for other players on the team, according to Jeff Pearlman’s 2022 book “The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson.” “”Kevin was annoying,” Jeff Montgomery, a team reliever, told Pearlman, adding, “Not a bad person.” But he pushed when it was better to back down.” Other players described Seitzer as a constant irritant who seemed to relish getting under his teammates’ skin. “He always contributes his two cents. And the guys are like, ‘Will you shut up?’ “Jackson stated.
But, on that fateful day early in the 1988 season, Jackson was unconcerned about Seitzer’s opinion. During batting practice, Jackson quickly went to the locker room to change his gear, and Seitzer, who had already had one at bat, jumped Jackson in line while he was gone. When Jackson returned, he said, “Excuse me… but didn’t you just take your f***ing turn?” According to Pearlman’s book, Seizer responded with, “Well, you should have been here.” According to Jackson, Seitzer crossed the line after some more jawing back and forth. “‘F*** you — you weren’t here,’ Kevin said to Bo.” According to Brian Watley, a Royals batboy. “Saying ‘f*** you’ to Bo seemed a little risky,” he added. “Don’t say anything else to me, or I’m going to kick your ass,” Jackson warned. Seitzer was unable to keep his mouth shut. Getty Images/Focus On Sport Jackson missed his first cut after Seitzer cleared the cage. Seitzer chuckled, seemingly pleased with Jackson’s whiff. That’s when Jackson decided enough was enough. He slammed his bat to the ground, snatched Seitzer’s throat, and slammed his head into a nearby concrete wall. Seitzer’s eyes rolled back in his head, according to Pearlman’s “The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson.” But that wasn’t enough to make Jackson stop. “Look, you f***ed with the wrong motherf***er on the wrong day!” Jackson yelled. “Don’t ever talk to me like that again as long as you’re alive! I’m going to break your neck, motherf***er!”
Nobody could make Jackson stop. “The harder I squeezed, the further back his eyes rolled in his head,” Jackson explained to Pearlman. “And the more they yanked on me, the stiffer my arm became.” Jackson had lifted Seitzer off the ground, and his face had started to turn blue. While Jackson stewed in the locker room, he let go of Seitzer, who was taken to the training room for treatment. He wasn’t finished yet, storming into the training room and hovering over Seitzer: “Don’t ever cross me again,” Jackson warned. “If you do, I will not give those coaches enough time to grab me. I’m going to rip your a**hole, and I mean it with all my heart.” Seitzer, who was unable to speak, indicated that he understood. Jackson informs Seitzer of the situation. Getty Images/Ron Vesely After being firmly put in his place, Seitzer attempted to mend fences with Jackson. According to Pearlman’s “The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson,” about a half-hour later, Seitzer approached Jackson and asked him if they could put the incident behind them and be friends. Jackson replied emphatically, “No!” He informed Seitzer, “That’s not how the s*** works. You’ve said what you want to say, and you mean it, but now you want to come back and lick my ass and apologize? No.”
That year ended up being a disaster for the Royals. According to Sports Illustrated, manager John Wathan had lost the players’ respect and was having difficulty managing the team. The team’s morale was low, and there was open hostility between the bullpen and the rest of the lineup. Racial tensions appeared to be a factor as well. Jackson said goodbye to the Kansas City Royals in 1991, hampered by a hip injury, and did his best to leave without an ax to grind. He even gave Seitzer a hug as he exited the clubhouse. “I don’t want this to be another War of the Roses,” Jackson stated (as reported by Sports Illustrated). Seitzer, for his part, told Pearlman years later that Jackson was “a very good teammate, but not someone I knew that well,” adding, “We weren’t close.”