Wednesday August 7th 1968: Gil Hodges eighth place Mets (52-63) came to the Houston Astrodome to face the tenth place Astros (48-64). Two good pitchers were on the mound tonight; the Mets Tom Seaver (10-7) against the Astro's Larry Dierker (9-9).
The game started out quietly enough, in the top of the 2nd Ed Kranepool doubled & J.C. Martin drew a walk. kevin Collins grounded out to force Kranepool at third, but both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Phil Linz then sacrificed in a run making it 1-0.
In the the 3rd the Astros got a walk a hits batsman a base hit & an error off the Mets putting them ahead 2-1. In the bottom of the 3rd, all the action began. Dennis Menke led off with a single, then Houston's Doug Rader (nicknamed The Red Rooster) tripled to left field scoring Menke, making it 3-1.
As Doug Rader came running into third base he gave a pop up slide & an elbow to the jaw of Mets third baseman; Kevin Collins.
Quotes: “I’m waiting for the throw and here comes Rader. I remember catching the ball but never even coming down to make a tag. He came in with a pop-up slide and a forearm right in my face that broke my jaw. All I remember then was looking up and seeing the roof of the Astrodome. I’m not sure if I was knocked out, but I was dazed. I was like, ‘Wow.’”
The elbow was so violent it knocked Collins to the ground & he needed to be taken off the field on a stretcher. As Collins lie on the ground at third base the the two teams emptied on to the field. Soon there was some shoving, Mets pitcher Don Cardwell, usually known for being a quiet guy went after Rader, he decked him with a right handed punch to the face.
Quotes: "I dont look for trouble, but this time I went on to the field with the thought of hitting the guy (Rader) though. The thought was in my mind because it was such a dirty slide, such a deliberate thing he did. It was one of the dirties slides I've seen in many years."
After that fists were flying everywhere & it was a classic free for all. Tommie Agee came running in from center field & punched out two Astros players on the way to the third base pile. Cleon Jones got into the act & leveled Astro; John Bateman. Even Mets coach; Joe Pignatano got into it with Astros manager Harry Walker.
After all was said & done the sports writers said the brawl may have been a result of hostilities between the two teams dating back to a hard slide by Tommie Agee that injured the Astros’ Joe Morgan in the first week of the season.
Back to the actual game itself: Rader scored on a sac fly from Doug Simpson making it 4-1. The Mets threatened in the 8th, as Agee reached on an error & Larry Stahl walked. Cleon Jones then came through with a double scoring both runs. In the end the Mets fell short 4-3.
When the Astros arrived in Houston the next week, the club received a number of life threatening phone calls geared toward Doug Rader. The NYPD assigned him 24 hour police protection while the Astros were in New York.