The Kansas City Royals aren’t a very good baseball team. They’ve been pretty bad for quite a while. It’s true that the Royals have a bright future, fueled by one of the best farm systems in the game. But for the time being, Royals fans continue to suffer.
Some of you, however, may remember when the Kansas City Royals were a really good team. In the mid-1980s, there were winning seasons, division championships, a pennant or two, and (in 1985) a World Series title. The roster was full of big-name stars with last names like Saberhagen, Cone, and Gubicza. And of course, there was the biggest name on the roster.
The life-long Royal is, in my mind, the most famous of all to wear a Kansas City uniform. He is best characterized by his deep crouch in the batters’ box, the big wad of chewing tobacco, and a smooth, sweet left-handed swing. The results speak for themselves. A career batting average north of .300 (and 1980, when he and Rod Carew came oh-so-close to hitting .400). Batting titles. An MVP award. A bunch of All-Star appearances. A Gold Glove. And ultimately, enshrinement in baseball’s Hall of Fame.
And the Pine-Tar game…remember that? There isn’t a baseball fan from my generation that doesn’t know the story. But just in case…
On July 24, 1983, Brett launched a 9th-inning 2-run homer off Yankee closer Goose Gossage that stunned the Yankee Stadium faithful and gave the Royals a 5-4 lead. As Brett crossed the plate and headed back to the cheers and hurrahs of his dugout, Yankee skipper Billy Martin left his dugout and headed to home plate. He complained that the pine tar on Brett’s bat went too far up the handle.
After the umpires consulted among themselves for a few minutes, they agreed with Martin and called Brett out, nullifying the home run. As you might guess, Yankees fans were thrilled. As you might also guess, George Brett was not. I remember well Brett leaping up the dugout stairs, flying out to home plate with his hands in the air, and politely disagreeing with the decision…or something like that.
Brett was thrown out of the game and the Yankees ended up with the victory…for the time being.
The Royals immediately launched a protest of the umpires’ decision, and the Commissioner upheld the protest. The rules stated that pine tar was restricted to the first 18 inches of the bat. And frankly, George Brett’s bat had about 12 feet of pine tar on it. But the rules simply called for the bat to be removed from play, because pine tar doesn’t help the ball travel farther. The Commissioner didn’t believe nullifying the home run was the proper response.
So later in the season, the teams picked up the game where Brett’s home run left off (with Brett still ejected from the game), and the Royals came away with a win.
Recommended Viewing: The Pine Tar Incident