"The Pine Tar Game”
Yankee Stadium, New York, NY
Before this game, he was known for his hemorrhoids…in his own words, this incident marked a career highlight, George Brett became a household name in violent tantrums as well as a figurehead for those of us victimized by ‘cheap shots’ for all time.
Graig “Bubba Chump” Nettles admitted later that when the Yankees were called out for ‘excessive pine tar’ in an earlier game, he and Billy Martin had conspired to use the same call in a future game. Brett was the perfect target, well-known for his love affair with pine tar and for seldom breaking bats – therefore, his bat would undoubtedly be covered after weeks of use/abuse, and if the Royals upended the Yanks during a game in this series, the card would be played. Played, indeed it was…and played out in a manner that history showed would vilify the Yankees in terms of ‘unfair play’ and uphold the mighty efforts of George Brett to deliver in the face of impending defeat.
KC 5 13 0
NYY 4 8 0
The Royals were understandably baffled by a Yankee offense that was mild in comparison to other games from the era. The Royals were up 3-1 by the time the Yankees’ 6th began (the Yankees’ only run at that point being a solo homer by the great Dave Winfield); but as Bud Black (KC P) tired and Willie Wilson (KC CF) left with an injury sustained in the 3rd, Bert Campaneris (NYY 2B) reached base on a lead-off single, followed by a well-placed single by Lou Piniella (NYY RF) after Nettles struck out. Yanks DH Don Baylor cranked out a screaming triple, bringing in both Campaneris and Piniella; then Winfiled returns with a run-scoring single but was out on the throw to 2B. The score is NYY 4, KC 3 and stays there until the top of the 9th.
Things began well for the Yankees; Don Slaught (KC C) grounds out to Roy Smalley (NYY SS), then Pat Sheridan (KC CF, in for Wilson) lines out to 1B Don Mattingly in an incredible defensive play (a ‘gem’ on my scoresheet). 2 down, one more to go and the game is done. U.L. Washington (KC SS) reaches on a single, and George Brett is in the batter’s box. In a baffling twist of strategy only Billy Martin could devise, Dale Murray gets the hook in favor of future Hall-of-Famer Goose Gossage.
Knowing what is about to come next is hard to describe; for me, it was like waiting for a punch in the nose. Goose’s first pitch goes, I flinched in reaction: BIG foul tip. The second pitch…BAM! A mighty jack to right-center, Brett brings in 2 runs to topple the game in favor of the Royals, and there goes Graig and Billy…toward the bat…
The rest is true kvlt baseball history…the umps examine the bat, call George out, and he goes beautifully ballistic…
As for the outcome, we all know the Royals appealed the idiotic ruling and the AL ended up not only allowing the HR (as excessive pine tar not only wouldn’t affect the trajectory of the ball…NO KIDDING…but that even so, the appropriate ruling would NOT have been to call the batter out but to have issued a warning instead) but also in ruling that the game be continued.
Brett, Manager Dick Howser, Pitcher Gaylord Perry, and Coach Rocky Covalito were ejected in the ‘original’ game; the game resumed on 8/18/83 with a new umpire crew (already armed with an affidavit from the original crew confirming that Brett touched all the bases…they were surprisingly ready for Billy Martiin after being cheesed by him over the pine tar) and a laughable substituted Yankee lineup…Ron Guidry in center field?!?!?
The remainder of the game took all of 12 minutes to complete, with the Yankees coming up scoreless in the bottom of the 9th at the merciless onslaught of submariner Dan Quisenberry. Q’s unbelievable pitching style was the second best thing about watching this game.
Scoring Notes: I knew my scoresheet would be a mess when this was over, and I was not wrong.
I scored this game on 12/5/09.