Remembering Mets History (1996) A Huge Brawl on John Franco Day Ends with a Walk Off HR

Saturday May 11th, 1996: On this day 23,237 fans came out to Shea Stadium to celebrate John Franco Day. The Mets honored the Brooklyn born pitcher who, was a graduate of nearby St. John's University, in a pre-game ceremony. 

The Italian / American John Franco had recently recorded his 300th career save, less than two weeks earlier.

On this afternoon, Dallas Green's New York Mets (15-19) hosted Jim Riggleman's Chicago Cubs (16-20). Pete Harnisch took the mound for New York, and Kevin Foster for the Reds, in what turned out to be a wild brawling afternoon.



In the top of the 1st inning, the Cubs Sammy Sosa hit a two run HR to start out the scoring. 

In the bottom frame, with one out, the Mets Jose Vizcaino singled & Bernard Gilkey walked. Next up was catcher Todd Hundley, with two strikes on him, Kevin Foster threw a pitch straight at his head. Hundley was not happy & neither was pitcher Pete Harnisch. 

Hundley ended up popping up making the second out. Next up, Rico Brogna singled scoring both Mets runners to tie the game at two. 

In the top of the 2nd, the first two Cubs flew out to start the inning. With two outs & no one on the 
Reds pitcher Kevin Foster came to bat & Pete Harnisch answered back. He drilled Foster with a pitch that hit him on his left elbow in front of his left side. 

When asked later if it was intentional, Harnisch relied "I'd rather not answer that". 

By the bottom of the 2nd inning, everyone was anticipating more trouble, especially as Pete Harnisch was due up. 

The Mets Butch Huskey led off with a walk, then Rey Ordonez singled. Now with two men on with & no one out in the tie game, Pete Harnisch came to bat. Kevin Foster could not retaliate, due to the game situation but that didn't stop Cubs' catcher Scott Servais. He & Harnisch exchanged words at home plate.

Harnisch would sacrifice the runners over. Lance Johnson was intentionally walked to load the bases. Then Jose Vizcaino struck out for the second out of the inning. Bernard Gilkey then singled to left center field, bringing home Huskey & Ordonez as the Mets took a 4-2 lead.

In the top of the 3rd, Ryne Sandberg led off with a double. With one out, Sammy Sosa lined a shot in the gap in left center that Bernard Gilkey made a fine play on the grab the out.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Rico Brogna led off with a HR making it 5-2 Mets. Kevin Foster was pulled out of the game & new pitcher Rodney Meyers came on.

The Mets Jeff Kent walked, Butch Huskey singled & Rey Ordonez was walked intentionally, to load the bases to pitch to Harnisch. The Cubs Meyers couldn't risk any more runs, he had to pitch to Harnish who grounded out to first, the force play was made at home retiring Kent.

The next batter, Lance Johnson hit a sac fly scoring Huskey making it 6-2, Mets.

All hell broke loose in the 5th inning. With two outs & no one on base, Pete Harnisch stepped in for his third at bat. The Cubs new pitcher, Terry Adams' first pitch was aimed at Harnisch's knee, but it went behind him. The umpire warned Adams, but it was too late. 

As Cubs manager Jim Riggleman was walking to the mound, Harnisch was having harsh worlds with the Cubs catcher Scott Servais. Harnisch swung a right hook punch around the umpire hitting Servais in the face, then the ugly scene erupted.

Both benches emptied, and a brawl broke out swirling around the home plate area toward the Bubs dugout like a tornado. 

The Cub's Mark Grace was one of the first to get to the home plate area to try to break it up but ended up on the bottom of the eventual pile. The Mets Butch Huskey who weighed 245lbs & stood at six feet four inches tall was held back by about five Cubs players.

Mets bullpen coach Steve Swisher even went at with Cubs manager Jim Riggleman. 
The fight spilled over toward the Cubs dugout & down the steps. There Rico Brogna was pinned to the wall & caught a punch to his cheek.

The bullpens had emptied out as well, Mets reliever, the honoree of the day John Franco was caught up in it as well. He had a gash on his face & claimed he never threw a punch, but the umps saw it differently as he was ejected from the game.

Quotes: John Franco: "I'm too old to be doing that kind of stuff. I could have been out there in the 9th."

Fans around the Cubs dugout started up with the players & the Cubs had words with Shea fans above the third base box seats. 

Overall, there were nine ejections including Pete Harnisch & Scott Servais who were actually good friends, from their time in Houston together.

Order was eventually restored, there were caps & gloves all over the infield. The Shea crowd screamed at the Cubs & gave their Mets a standing ovation.

Dave Mlicki came on to run for the ejected Harnisch & stayed in the game to pitch in the 6th inning. He pitched two scoreless innings, then allowed a run in the 8th.

With no John Franco available, Dallas Green stuck with Mlicki, but he started the 9th giving up a single & a walk. Dallas Green went to Bob MacDonald in the bullpen who faced just one batter, getting Mark Grace to fly out.

Next, Green brought in Doug Henry who struck out Sammy Sosa for the second out, then intentionally walked Luis Gonzalez loading the bases. Jose Hernandez singled bringing in the tying runs & it was a 6-6 game.

The Cubs sent seven men to the plate in the inning.

In the bottom of the 9th, Rico Brogna came to the plate facing Doug Jones with one out. He ended the whole crazy afternoon hitting a walk off HR to right field to win the game. 

It was his Brogna's second HR of the game & his fourth of the year, as the Mets won it 7-6. Doug Henry got he win & Doug Jones the loss.

Quotes: Mets manager Dallas Green: "That was a donnybrook, No question about it. That was a dandy."

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