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Ex-Las Vegas 51s manager kept helmet on during infamous 1984 brawl

Updated August 17, 2019 - 4:56 pm

It happened Aug. 12, 1984, and on the 35th anniversary of one of the most celebrated — if that’s the right word — brawls in baseball history, Jerry Royster said a year doesn’t go by without somebody asking why he was filmed during most of it wearing a batting helmet.

The former Las Vegas 51s manager said it had nothing to do with self preservation during multiple fights between the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres in which 17 players as well as managers, coaches and fans were ejected.

“We had four fights that day, and all of them I was on deck, because the last hitter (before the fights broke out) was Pascual Perez,” Royster, 66, said of the animated Braves pitcher.

Perez hit Alan Wiggins leading off the game and then was thrown at each time he batted per edict of former longtime Las Vegan and then Padres manager Dick Williams.

“I was up next. That’s why I didn’t take off my helmet,” said Royster, the Braves’ leadoff hitter. “(But) it actually came off. I think somebody took it off for me, and I don’t think it was one of my teammates.”

The versatile infielder, who played 15 seasons in the majors, recalls being a peacemaker. “I did not get punched, and I did not punch anybody. I did get wrestled to the ground by Terry Kennedy,” he recalled.

Royster went 2-for-5 with two RBIs in the game — and almost had it expunged from the record when the umpires considered forfeiting the game in favor of the Padres. When cooler heads at last prevailed, any players not ejected were banished to the clubhouse until it was their turn to bat, pitch or play defense.

After spending 41 years in professional baseball, including a season as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, Royster is now coaching high school baseball in Southern California, where his players often ask about fighting the Padres after watching the YouTube videos.

“I tell them do as I say, not as I did,” he said with a wry chuckle.

Triple-A title town

The Aviators and the Pacific Coast League will hold a news conference Monday to announce that Las Vegas Ballpark will host the 2020 Triple-A National Championship Game.

The one-game playoff pitting the PCL and International League champions will be Sept. 20. It will be the fourth time Las Vegas has served as the championship site following the short-lived Triple-A World Series, a best-of-five matchup played at Cashman Field from 1998 to 2000.

Trolling Tate

If I were to give advice to Tate Martell, the Bishop Gorman High product who has lost the starting quarterback job at Miami and might be considering a switch to wide receiver, it would be this: Do not transfer to a school with a direction or ampersand in its name, or Duke, so he can be the big man on campus.

I’d share a history lesson — how, in 1977, Rusty Lisch started the first three games at quarterback for Notre Dame before being replaced by a backup named Joe Montana.

I also would suggest that Martell turn down the volume on his social media posts from 11 to about 8½, even if he is dating a Brazilian swimsuit model.

Around the horn

■ Fewer than seven months after undergoing his second heart transplant and a kidney transplant, former UNLV soccer star Simon Keith will host his annual foundation golf tournament and dinner Oct. 11 at Revere Golf Club. Information: SKF19golfgivesmart.com.

■ The Harlem Globetrotters will appear at Orleans Arena on Aug. 25, which probably means veteran ’Trotter and former Bishop Gorman standout Scooter Christensen will be in town a few days before spinning a basketball on his finger or shooting one into a hoop from off a tall building. Tickets: Orleansarena.com.

■ Interesting stat: The introduction of beer and wine sales at University of Arizona football and basketball games last season did not result in a single fight, with ejections dropping by more than 50 percent from the previous year. More interesting stat: The seasons showing a spike in ejections and fights — 2014, 2016 and 2018 — were years in which the Wildcats played Arizona State at home.

0:01

Yahoo Sports baseball writer Mike Oz, on Aviators outfielder Skye Bolt: “Skye Bolt is definitely the most Vegas name in baseball.”

But only if you discount Derek Vegas, a minor league catcher in the Miami Marlins’ organization, or former big league infielder Joe Stripp.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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