George Brett Pine Tar Incident July 24, 1983
July 24, 1983 – It was the top of the 9th inning. The Kansas City Royals were down to their last out, trailing the Yankees 4-3. However, U.L. Washington breathed some life into the Royals, hitting a single to left, off of Dale Murray. That brought up George Brett, hitting .352. Billy Martin decided to bring in Rich Gossage to face him. After fouling off the first pitch, Brett crushed Gossage’s next one into the right field stands, and it appeared that the Royals had taken a 5-4 lead.
Not so fast, George
Newsday reporter, Derrick Jackson wrote:
As the home run was in flight, Operation Seize the Bat had begun. Martin lighted out of the dugout and ran to home plate umpire Tim McClelland. Martin and the Yankees yelled to Cerone grab the bat. Cerone spun, looked toward the Royals dugout and his heart started sinking. The bat boy was carting it away. Cerone yelled at the bat boy, 18-year-old Merritt Riley of Levittown, N.Y. Riley returned the bat.
Simple enough? Not quite. Cerone had a lapse of his own, took a look at the bat and surrendered it to Riley again. “I forgot what I was supposed to check the bat for,” Cerone said. “The only thing I remembered at first was that everybody told me it was an illegal bat. Since I couldn’t remember that it was supposed to be pine tar, I checked for cork in the bat. Since there was no cork, I flipped the bat back down.”
But the Yankees kept screaming at Cerone and McClelland. McClelland retrieved the bat. Martin stated his case to the umpires. The Royals started screaming at Riley for giving up the bat. Then all sides grew quiet as the umpires, McClelland, Drew Coble, Nick Bremigan and crew chief Joe Brinkman fondled the bat.
“I was laughing at the umpires when they were deciding what to do,” said Brett, who admitted that umpires had mentioned to him on other occasions to clean the tar on his bat. “Judge Joseph A. Wapner (of the television show The People’s Court) wouldn’t have called it back.”
Without a ruler to measure 18 inches, the umpiring crew decided to lay the bat across the top of the plate, which is 17 inches wide. “The pine tar clearly extended more than another inch,” McClelland said. Now came the matter of what to do with Brett. Rule 1.10 (b) said only that the bat shall be removed from the game. But there is also Rule 6.06 that states that if a bat has anything foreign on or in it, or is altered, the player would be called out and ejected.
Of course the Royals appealed,
and AL President Lee MacPhail ruled in their favor. The home run stood, but Brett was still ejected from the game.
So on August 18, the two teams were back in Yankee Stadium to complete some unfinished business. It was still the bottom of the 9th, the Royals still had two outs, but now they led 5-4. George Frazier, pitching for the Yankees, struck out Hal McRae. Then the Royals took the field, with Dan Quisenberry on the mound. Don Mattingly flew out to center, Roy Smalley flew out to left, and Oscar Gambled grounded out to 2nd. The whole thing took 9 minutes and 41 seconds, not including the 25 days that elapsed from the time of The Pine Tar Incident.