George Brett's pine tar home run

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

The image remains one of baseball's most iconic snapshots, as fresh in the minds of New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals fans today as it was in 1983.

On July 24, 1983, with two outs in the ninth and U.L. Washington on first base, Kansas City All-Star third baseman George Brett homered off New York closer Goose Gossage, giving the Royals a 5-4 lead. But while Brett celebrated in the Yankee Stadium dugout following his round-tripper, Yankees manager Billy Martin walked to home plate and informed umpire Tim McClelland that Brett's bat was covered with more pine tar than the rules allowed. Pine tar, a sticky glue-like substance used to give batters a better grip, hardens over time – making the bat more effective.

McClelland carefully measured the bat against the 17-inch width of home plate, determined that the bat violated the 18-inch pine tar rule, turned to the Royals dugout and signaled that Brett was out, ending the game.

An enraged Brett instantly charged McClelland, screaming wildly while being restrained by teammates and Royals manager Dick Howser. But the call stood, the game over.

Or so it seemed.

The Royals immediately protested the outcome, and American League president Lee MacPhail eventually overruled McClelland and ordered the game to be resumed from the point after Brett had homered. On Aug. 18, the teams reconvened at Yankee Stadium, and about 1,200 fans watched as Martin symbolically protested by putting pitcher Ron Guidry in center field and moving left-handed first baseman Don Mattingly to second base.

Martin then protested the game – before the first pitch to the Royals' Hal McRae – on the grounds that Brett did not touch all the bases during his home run and that the current umpiring crew could not verify this. But umpire Davey Phillips produced an affidavit signed by the July 24 umpires stating that Brett had indeed touched all bases. An irate Martin was quickly ejected from the game for arguing.

Yankees reliever George Frazier struck out McRae to end the top of the ninth, and Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth to preserve Kansas City's 5-4 win.


Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series