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Royals dust-ups has Ausmus recalling brawls of yore

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — When asked what was going on with the brawling Kansas City Royals — who have had benches-clearing altercations with the A's and White Sox — Tigers manager Brad Ausmus deferred.

"I don't know the specifics," he said. "I know the conjecture of why it's happening, but it's not my concern. That's Ned Yost's concern."

But on the general topic of baseball brawls, Ausmus was rather expansive.

"I always left my catcher's gear on for brawls," Ausmus said, laughing. "If we were hitting, I'd have my shin guards on. But I never took my mask off in a brawl. And it was a big hockey-style mask, so you weren't getting to me."

He was asked how good he was at intercepting irate hitters before they could get to his pitcher?

"Probably not very successful," he said.

There is, though, photographic evidence of him stopping former Met Jay Payton from getting to his pitcher.

"There was a picture in one of the New York papers," Ausmus recalled. "He wanted to charge Jose Lima and there is a picture of him with his hand under my chin. Nothing really happened, but I remember getting in front of him."

Ausmus, of course, was part of the famous Tigers-White Sox brouhaha in 2000.

"It started because Jeff Weaver hit Carlos Lee, and then (White Sox pitcher) Jim Parque hit Dean Palmer and Palmer charged and the benches cleared," Ausmus said. "A bunch of people got thrown out."

But that's not the best part of the story.

"Shane Halter got hit and Doug Brocail, who had already been thrown out, charged from the clubhouse," Ausmus said. "It was the first time I've seen someone charge the mound from the clubhouse."

Twenty five players were fined and 16 were suspended for a combined total of 82 games.

"I remember Dean got nine games, (former Tigers coach) Juan Samuel got nine, Robert Fick got a bunch," Ausmus said. "Fick was flipping off the crowd …That was by far the biggest brawl I've been in. There was blood. A couple of people got really nailed. (White Sox pitcher) Keith Foulke was spitting up blood on the field."

Ausmus found himself in the middle of another incident in Philadelphia when he was catching for the Padres. His pitcher, Alan Ashby, hit the Phillies' Mariano Duncan.

"I got in front of Duncan and John Vukovich (Phillies base coach) came and wrapped me up from behind and the benches cleared," Ausmus said. "I swear my feet didn't touch the ground and I ended up at third base.

"I remember I was getting hit from over the top on the back of my head — my mask must've been knocked off. I didn't take a step and ended up at third base."

The next day Ausmus earned a derisive cheer from the Philly faithful when in his first at-bat he took a first-pitch fastball in the back.

"The Philly fans loved it," he said. "And (Darren) Dutch Daulton (Phillies catcher) said, 'All right, we're even.'"

The Tigers will be in Kansas City for a series with the battling Royals next weekend.

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky