July 24, 2023

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Pine Tar Game. The Pine Tar Game was played between bitter rivals, the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees. George Brett hit a 2-run home off Goose Gossage in the ninth inning to give the Royals a one-run lead.

Billy Martin argued that Brett had pine tar too far up the bat. The rule he referenced had nothing to do with performance but had been added because teams didn’t want to replace balls dirtied by the substance. Brett was called out but an appeal to the American League office overruled the umpire’s decision and the game’s final 4 outs were played on August 18.

I remember watching the end of that game at my grandfather’s house. We used to visit him on Sunday afternoons. I remember being so excited to see Brett homer again off of Gossage at Yankees’ Stadium. He had homered in Game 3 of the 1980 ALCS that propelled the Royals into their first World Series. Then I was so upset that the umpire called him out and the Royals lost.

I read a book this year, The Pine Tar Game by Filip Bondy. It was written by a New York sports writer. It had some great background information about the rivalry and the rule that was at the center of it all. It was one of the craziest incidents in baseball. And it was personal to me because I was a Royals fan and watched the game.

Sports Illustrated interviewed Brett for the 40th anniversary. I have not yet read the interview but look forward to it later today.