On Father's Day in 1987, the Reds literally tussled with the Braves for the second day in a row. Tracy Jones - believe it or not - sparked the brawl after taking umbrage with a HBP and then going after Gentleman Jim Acker. Jones gets on top of Acker initially but emerges later from the bottom of the dog pile, dirt smearing the backside of his jersey.
It's all hilarious because 90% of it is on Jones. He leans into the pitch, loiters around home plate rather than take his base, and then belatedly goes after Acker after Acker (or Catcher Ozzie Virgil) say something. I have a hard time seeing intent since it was the eighth inning of a one-run game, with Jones representing the winning run. Then again, first base was open after Kal Daniels swiped second, and Jones wasn't beloved by the opposition. Or his own teammates, for that matter, who don't exactly rush out to his defense. At the 4:28 mark, Marty notes that Jones is talking to "anybody who cares to listen" before finally exiting the dugout. Jones was the only player ejected.
The display of Jones' hot temper is no surprise, but it's easy to forget that he was actually a very good player at the time. 26 years old and in his first full season, Jones' slash line stood at a robust .348/.398/.594 at the end of the game. His hot first half followed a promising but injury-abbreviated rookie year (.860 OPS in 46 games). Post-dustup, Jones would OPS an abysmal .602. He never again finished a season with at least 300 PAs or 1 WAR. It's awfully convenient to think that the fight led to his decline. Who knows, of course.
Tracy Jones Fights the Braves (via Sportbuff99TV1)
* * *
1987 was probably the peak of my Reds fandom. That summer was spent inspecting cicadas, tracking the juvenile stock market of baseball cards, and intensely following the Reds. And what a team to follow. The Reds went oh-fer-'80s as far as playoff appearances, but the '87 team featured the first full season for a HOF shortstop, a budding superstar in Eric Davis, and a couple of young, blossoming outfielders to play alongside him (Daniels OPSd 1.046 - impressive even for the best slugging year of the decade). After Buddy Bell hit a walk-off HR to end the Father's Day game, the Reds held a half-game division lead. They'd still be in first in late August before finishing second, again.
1987 was also our last full summer in Cincinnati before moving out of state. For the next decade, Reds coverage for me would be limited to boxscores, generic game summaries, and talks with my dad - the only other Reds diehard I knew.
I never moved back to Cincinnati, which means I'm 25 years into displaced fandom. I've wondered why it's stuck with me so hard. Plenty of people move and adopt their new town's sports team, but for me, the bonds of childhood aren't so easily broken. And my dad - whether it was a game of catch, or tossing a ball over a fence so I could imitate Davis robbing a homerun, or feeding me fake trades over breakfast ("Wow! Reds trade Parker for Mattingly!") - was the one who molded my nascent fandom.
Now I have children of my own - two little ones. I feel a bit silly for encouraging them to root for a team that plays in a faraway city they'll probably never live in. But I don't really have a choice, do I? I mean, I felt compelled to drag them to Cooperstown last summer so they could meet Barry Larkin. I guess I want to pass on something to them that my dad gave to me. My hope is that I do it as well.