Pine Tar Game July 24, August
The 1983 season was an up and down one for
the Yankees. But on July 24, things were on the upside. They were
positioned to take over first place as they prepared to play the Royals
of Kansas City at Yankee Stadium.
The game that was played that day was fairly ordinary. As it moved to
the top of the ninth inning, the Yankees had a 4-3 lead. The Royals came
to bat in the top of the ninth. No one could have forecast what would
There were two outs. Goose Gossage was one out away from the wrap up of
the Yankee victory. George Brett had other ideas. Home run, into the
stands in right field!
The Royal superstar ran out the homer that had apparently given his team
a 5-4 lead. But just seconds after crossing the plate and going into
his dugout, Brett saw Yankee manager Billy Martin approach home plate
rookie umpire Tim McClelland.
"I was feeling pretty good about myself after hitting the homer," Brett
said. "I was sitting in the dugout. Somebody said they were checking the
pine tar, and I said, 'If they call me out for using too much pine tar,
I'm going to kill one of those SOBs.'"
McClelland called to the Royal dugout and asked to see Brett's bat. Then
he conferred with his umpiring crew. Martin watched from a few feet
away. Brett looked out from the bench. Then McClelland thrust his arm in
the air. It was the signal that indicated George Brett was out - -
excessive use of pine tar on his bat.
McClelland had brought forth rule 1.10(b): "a bat may not be covered by
such a substance more than 18 inches from the tip of the handle." The
umpire ruled that Brett's bat had "heavy pine tar" 19 to 20 inches from
the tip of the handle and lighter pine tar for another three or four
The home run was disallowed. The game was over. The Yankees were
declared 4-3 winners. Brett, enraged, raced out of the dugout. Then
mayhem and fury took center stage. Brett, not your calmest player, lost
At one point, umpire Joe Brinkman had Brett in a choke hold. That was
the easy part for the Royal superstar. The next thing that happened to
him was that he was ejected from the game and went berserk. Others did,
Royals pitcher Gaylord Perry grabbed the bat from McClelland who tossed
it to Hal McRae who passed it on to pitcher Steve Renko who was halfway
up the tunnel to the team clubhouse. Then Yankee Stadium security guards
grabbed him and grabbed the bat which was then impounded.
The Royals lodged a protest of the Yankee victory. The Yankees went off
to Texas where they won three games and took over first place for the
first time that season.
The almost comical mess was debated by baseball fans all over the
nation. The media couldn't get enough of it. "Why a .356 hitter like
George Brett," Time Magazine commented would lumber along with a Marv
Throneberry Model (lifetime .237) is the sort of paradox that,
scientists say, has trees talking to themselves."
Eventually American League president Lee McPhail over-turned
McClelland's decision. Acknowledging that Brett had pine tar too high on
the bat, McPhail explained that it was the league's belief that "game's
should be won and lost on the playing field-not through technicalities
of the rules."
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was miffed. "I wouldn't want to be Lee
MacPhail living in New York!" he snapped.
The Brett home run was re-instated. The Royals' protest was upheld. The
contest was declared "suspended." Both teams were told to find a
mutually agreeable time, continue playing the game and conclude it.
The date was August 18th. Play was resumed for the last four outs of a
game that had begun on July 24th. The Yankees, strangely anxious to
make a few more bucks, announced they would charge regular admission for
the game's continuation. There were fan mumblings of protest. The
Yankees quietly changed the charging admission idea. It was too late
and to no avail. Only 1,200 fans showed up.
The atmosphere was bizarre. To show their rage and annoyance at the
whole turn of events, the Yankees for the final out of the top of the
ninth played pitcher Ron Guidry in centerfield and outfielder Don
Mattingly (a lefthander) at second base. Guidry played center field
because the Yankees had traded away Jerry Mumphrey, who had come into
the game for defensive purposes. New York's George Frazier struck out
McRae for the third out. In the bottom of the ninth Royals' reliever Dan
Quisenberry was able to retire the Yankees in order.
The "Pine tar Game(s)" belonged to history.
Kansas City Royals
Name Pos AB R H RBI
Willie Wilson cf 3 0 0 0
Pat Sheridan ph-cf 2 0 0 0
U.L. Washington ss 5 1 1 0
George Brett 3b 5 1 3 2
Hal McRae dh 3 0 0 0
Amos Otis rf 4 0 1 0
John Wathan 1b-lf 3 2 1 0
Leon Roberts lf 3 0 2 0
Willie Aikens ph-1b 1 0 0 0
Frank White 2b 4 1 2 2
Don Slaught c 4 0 3 1
Totals 37 5 13 5
New York Yankees
Name Pos AB R H RBI
Bert Campaneris 2b 4 1 2 0
Graig Nettles 3b 3 0 0 0
Lou Piniella rf 4 1 1 0
Jerry Mumphrey cf 0 0 0 0
Don Baylor dh 4 1 1 2
Dave Winfield cf-lf 4 1 3 2
Steve Kemp lf-rf 4 0 0 0
Steve Balboni 1b 2 0 0 0
Don Mattingly 1b 1 0 0 0
Roy Smalley ss 3 0 1 0
Rick Cerone c 2 0 0 0
Totals 31 4 8 4
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
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"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
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