The game i'll never forget: Hall of Fame third baseman recalls his "pine tar" home run, ruled an out and later overturned to become a memorable game-winning blast.
Brett played in 13 All-Star games and ranks 18th all-time in total bases, 24th in MVP shares, and 36th in RBI. He's 47th in WAR, 30th in WAR among position players, and 27th in offensive WAR.
On Sept. 19, 1980, Brett was still hitting .400, the latest in a season since Ted Williams was the last to finish a season over .400 in 1941. Brett closed 1980 at .390 and was named American League MVP.
Brett was the MVP of the 1985 ALCS, when he hit .348 with three homers and five RBI against Toronto. He batted .370 in the '85 World Series, when the Royals took down the Cardinals in seven games.
He's the only player to ever hit three home runs in one postseason game against the same pitcher, clobbering the Yankees' Catfish Hunter on Oct. 6,1978. He won a batting title in three different decades, the only player ever to do so. And, oh yeah, he collected 3,154 hits, 16th most in baseball history.
While accumulating this extraordinary resume, there was a stretch in which a portion of his anatomy drew as much attention as his bat--the result of a well-publicized battle with hemorrhoids during the 1980 World Series.
"For three years after that World Series, everywhere I went I was that guy, the guy with a pain in his butt," Brett says now with a laugh. "I was 'The Hemorrhoids Guy' in every stadium. You get people drinking all day and they're sitting near the dugout or the on-deck circle, and you hear every joke you can imagine about me and my hemorrhoids. But that all changed on July 24, 1983."
The story really began about two weeks before that, when the Yankees were visiting the Royals and New York third baseman Graig Nettles noticed something after a Brett at-bat, and said something to Yankees closer Goose Gossage.
"I didn't find this out until many, many years later," Brett explained. "But I guess Nettles thought he saw the pine tar too far up my bat and he told Goose that if I got a big hit in that series, they were going to show the umpires the bat and try to get it overturned. It didn't become an issue then, so they let it go. Little did I know what they had planned for me when we got to New York a couple weeks later."
Yes, the Yankees had been watching for a while and plotting against Brett if the proper situation occurred, and manager Billy Martin was right in the middle of it all.
"Of course Billy was in on it," Brett laughed. "He was always looking for an angle."
America got a lesson in pine tar that Sunday afternoon, and soon every baseball fan knew that pine tar is allowed from the bottom of the bat and could extend 18 inches toward the top.
There was no real reason for the rule, other than the fact that pine tar was ruining baseballs and too many were getting tossed out of play. Pitchers didn't mind its use, because a little pine tar meant a better grip and more control, but baseballs cost money and owners didn't like it.
Everyone knows about pine tar, but the least remembered part of the story is what happened before we learned about pine tar. The Yankees were leading by a run on that July day at Yankee Stadium, with two outs in the top of the ninth and the tying run on first base.
Up stepped Brett, one of the best hitters of all time, to face Gossage, one of the best closers of all time. Gossage tried to fire his trademark fastball high and unhittable, but Brett went up shoulder-high and hammered it deep into the right-field bleachers for a two-run homer and a Royals lead.
"Here's something you probably didn't know," Brett said with a smile. "When a player hits a home run, the bat boy is supposed to get the bat and take it back to the bat rack, where it mixes in with all the other bats. If he had done that, they wouldn't have had the bat. I wasn't trying to hide anything.
"The bat was legal," Brett explained, "but the kid was a George Brett fan in New York. I loved him. He was a good kid, but he wanted to shake my hand after I crossed the plate. So he's standing there holding the bat when I crossed home plate. Just standing there holding it, like a smoking gun.
"That's what gave Billy and those guys a chance to go get the bat and show the umpire. But they wanted the bat and they were going to get it no matter what, whether the kid stood there or not."
With Martin yelling from the dugout, Yankees catcher Rick Cerone grabbed the bat from the batboy and gave it to home-plate umpire Tim McClelland, who got together with his crew and discussed the bat. They examined it, but had no ruler, so McClelland--a rookie umpire--set the bat down on home plate, which is 17 inches across.
"Frank White was sitting next to me on the bench and he said he didn't like what he was seeing out there, four umpires surrounded by Billy Martin and all the Yankees," Brett said. "He said, 'This doesn't look good. They're gonna call you out.' I said, 'Call me out? For what? If they do, I'm going to go out there and raise hell.' And just as I finished saying it, the ump walked over and gave me the out sign."
The game was over, but the firestorm was just about to start. Everyone remembers most what happened next.
"I went nuts," Brett said, laughing. "I was going to get my money's worth."
An enraged Brett came charging out of the dugout and tried to get at McClelland, waving his arms like a madman. He was held back by McClelland's three fellow umpires.
Brett threw a fit worthy of having a game-winning home run taken away from him on a technicality, a ruled enforced without an actual tape measure. The Yankees celebrated and skipped off the field, while Royals manager Dick Howser protested the ruling and the result of the game.
During the melee, however, the Royals' Gaylord Perry grabbed the bat from the umpire and ran toward the dugout.
"Gaylord was big into memorabilia, so he must have thought it would be great to have that bat in his collection," Brett said. "He tossed it to someone else, who tossed it to someone else, and it wound up in Steve Renko's hands at the end of the tunnel before the clubhouse. There was no one else to toss it to. The security guys chased them down and the umpires chased them all up the tunnel and got the bat."
The umpires wanted the bat as evidence to turn over to American League president Lee MacPhail, which was the best thing that could have happened to Brett and the Royals. Four days after "the pine incident," MacPhail ruled the pine tar didn't help Brett hit the home run and awarded the Royals the two runs. At a later date, the game would continue from that moment with the Royals leading 5-4.
A full 25 days later, both clubs were back at Yankee Stadium to finish the game. Minus Brett.
"I watched the last four outs of the game from an Italian restaurant in Newark because I had been thrown out of the game for charging the umpires--even though the game was over," Brett said. "We had flown in from Detroit on an offday on the way to Baltimore. So we stopped and the guys went to the park.
"No reason for me to go, so I went with Larry Ameche--who was Don Ameche's son and our flight rep at the time--to the restaurant and we had a nice meal while the guys went and finished the game. We watched on TV."
Plus, a few others were missing. Bert Campaneris had started the game at second base for the Yanks, but he was hurt, and center fielder Jerry Mumphrey had been traded. Billy Martin was so mad about the MacPhail decision that he offered his own version of a protest.
For the final Royals out in the top of the ninth, he played pitcher Ron Guidry in center field and first baseman Don Mattingly, a left-hander, at second base. Neither saw the ball on the last out in the top of the ninth, and Kansas City closer Dan Quisenberry retired the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth to secure the 5-4 Royals victory.
The bat is now in Cooperstown. Nine years later, McClelland was working the game when Brett recorded his 3,000th hit and congratulated him during the festivities.
"I don't really have any bad memories about what happened. I didn't do anything wrong and I hit a home run to win the game," Brett says with a smile.
"And I went from 'The Hemorrhoids Guy' to 'The Pine Tar Guy,' which was much better for me. So I always said 'thank you' to Billy Martin because I went from something pretty embarrassing to being remembered for hitting a home run. It worked out very well for me." BD
BY GEORGE BRETT
As Told To Barry Rozner
It's homer, by George!
"PINE TAR" GAME BOXSCORE Kansas City 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 2 5 13 0 New York 0 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 4 8 0 KANSAS CITY ROYALS AB R H RBI Willie Wilson, cf 3 0 0 0 Pat Sheridan, ph/cf 2 0 0 0 U.L. Washington. ss 5 1 1 0 George Brett, 3b 5 1 3 2 Greg Pryor, 3b 0 0 0 0 Hal McRae, dh 4 0 0 0 Amos Otis, rf 4 0 1 0 John Wathan, lb/If 3 2 1 0 Leon Roberts, If 3 0 2 0 Willie Aikens, ph/1b 1 0 0 0 Joe Simpson, If 0 0 0 0 Frank White, 2b 4 1 2 2 Don Slaught, c 4 0 3 1 Totals 38 5 13 5 NEW YORK YANKEES AB R H RBI Bert Campaneris, 2b 4 1 2 0 Ken Griffey, 1b 0 0 0 0 Graig Mettles, 3b 3 0 0 0 Lou Piniella. rf 4 1 1 0 Jerry Mumphrey. cf 0 0 0 0 Butch Wynegar. c 0 0 0 0 Don Baylor, dh 4 1 1 2 Dave Winfield, cf/lf 4 1 3 2 Steve Kemp. If/rf 4 0 0 0 Steve Balboni, 1b 2 0 0 0 Don Mattingly. ph/1b/2b 2 0 0 0 Roy Smalley. ss 4 0 1 0 Rick Cerone, c 2 0 0 0 Ron Guidry. cf 0 0 0 0 Oscar Gamble, ph 1 0 0 0 Totals 34 4 8 4 3B: Baylor, White, Slaught; HR: Winfield (off Black), Brett (off Gossage); LOB: Kansas City (8). New York (5) PITCHING KANSAS CITY ROYALS IP H R ER BB SO Bud Black 6.0 7 4 4 0 2 Mike Armstrong (W) 2.0 1 0 0 2 0 Dan Quisenberry (Sv) 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 NEW YORK YANKEES IP H R ER BB SO Shane Rawley 5.1 10 3 3 2 2 Dale Murray 3.1 2 1 1 0 2 Rich Gossage (L) 0.0 1 1 1 0 0 George Frazier 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 Ejections: Kansas City--George Brett, coach Rocky Colavito, manager Dick Howser, pitcher Gaylord Perry.
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|Date:||Jul 1, 2016|
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