Every baseball nerd worth his weight in Topps cards can vividly recall the events of July 24, 1983 at Yankee Stadium. Whether you were alive and in attendance or not, the film roll itself is replayed consistently for us to witness. Legendary Yankee hurler Goose Gossage was on the mound, Royal U.L. Washington was on first and future Hall Of Famer George Brett was on his way to the plate. The Yankees were ahead 4-3 in the ninth inning and with one swing of the bat, Brett sent a meaningless middle of the year game straight into history. Brett connected with a home run, Yankee manager Billy Martin protested, and the Pine Tar Incident was born.
In the midst of the tirade and subsequent arguments, Brett, Royals manager Dick Howser, Gerald Perry and Rocky Colavito were ejected from the game. Brett was called out, the home run nullified and the Yankees won. That is where most fans think the situation ended.
But the Royals protested the game. The rule at the time stated that pine tar could not be used more than 18 inches from the handle of the bat. However, the rule simply stated that if that provision was broken, the bat was to be taken out of play. There were no provisions for the hitter to be called out or there to be an ejection. The home plate umpire, Tim McClelland used his knowledge of other rules and ultimately the rule of “Umpire Prerogative” to decide the consequences of the illegal bat.
The protest was taken to Lee MacPhail, American League President, and upheld. The two teams would meet on a mutual day off to resume the game. The home run would stand, as would the ejections, and the game would resume on August 18.
Pine tar was not outlawed because it would give a player an advantage when striking the ball. It was outlawed in order to keep more balls in play and thus not use more new baseballs then necessary during a game. It was simply because of the black mark it would leave on the ball.
Billy Martin, not to be outdone, filed his own protests to attempt to intervene. In front of a new umpire crew, Martin appealed to each base prior to the first pitch being thrown to Hal McRae on August 18th. Martin contended that Brett did not touch all the bases and the umpire crew could not dispute that fact. However, a signed affidavit from the original umpire crew was produced stating that Brett had come into contact with all four bases. Obviously, the league was ready for Billy Martin.
Not able to change the ruling, Martin took matters into his own hands to make the four out affair as big of a laughing stock as he possible could by sending Ron Guidry, a pitcher, to play center field. He would also send his legendary first baseman Don Mattingly to play second base. Mattingly would become the first left handed second baseman in almost two decades due to the antics of his manager.
The Yankees would send George Frazier to the mound to retire Hal McRae almost a month after the inning started. The Royals closer Dan Quisenberry would pitch a perfect bottom of the ninth to put a win on the board for the Royals and bring to an end a game that is truly legendary.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.