1983: the Conclusion of the Pine-Tar Game

The conclusion of the Pine-Tar game involving George Brett, the Kansas City Royals, and the New York Yankees came on August 18, 1983. The Omaha World-Herald said:

The Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees completed their suspended pine-tar game Thursday evening before a sparse crowd at Yankee Stadium.

For the record, the Royals retained their 5-4 lead and won the game.

After Hal McRae struck out to complete the Kansas City ninth, Dan Quisenberry retired the Yankees in order in the bottom of the ninth for his 33rd save.

The threat of a storm seemed appropriate for the resumption of what had been one of baseball’s strangest sagas and a game that needed a court order to get it back on the field.

The resumption, called off by one judge earlier in the day, was declared on by an appeals judge hours later.

“”I guess I can state it best in two words: “Play Ball!’ ” said Justice Joseph Sullivan of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Sullivan’s ruling overturned a temporary injunction that had been issued earlier in the day by Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Orest V. Maresca.

“”I am very pleased. We think that justice was done,” said Robert Kheel, an AL lawyer.

The Royals boarded a plane in Kansas City and headed east after Maresca ruled. They didn’t know the game would be played until they had arrived at Yankee Stadium and learned of Sullivan’s ruling.

The dispute stems from a July 24 game when umpires nullified George Brett’s two-run homer for Kansas City with two out in the ninth inning because his bat had too much pine tar on it. Brett was the final out and the Yankees won the game 4-3.

The Royals protested the game, AL President Lee MacPhail overruled the umpires, reinstated the homer, declared the game a suspended one and ordered it resumed Thursday with the Royals leading 5-4.

However, two suits were filed – one in Manhattan and the other in the Bronx – by fans who attended the July 24 game and contended they should not be charged for admission to the rescheduled game. The suits were consolidated this week.

Brett was among the players who started the game but were not around for the completion. He was ejected – along with Royals Manager Dick Howser, coach Rocky Colavito and pitcher Gaylord Perry – for arguing with umpires after being called out. Yankee center fielder Jerry Mumphrey has since been traded to the Houston Astros and was replaced by Yankee pitcher Ron Guidry, who has played center field at least once before in the majors.

Bert Campaneris, at second base for New York on July 24 and now on the disabled list, was replaced by first baseman [and left-hander] Don Mattingly. Ken Griffey was at first.

The Yankees said they needed to charge $2.50 each for admission to cover security and other costs of the game, which they said would run between $20,000 and $30,000. Tickets normally run from $1.50 for the bleachers up to $9 for box seats.

However, late Thursday afternoon, Ken Nigro, director of media relations for the team, said fans who still had ticket stubs from the July 24 game would be admitted free to Yankee Stadium for the completion of the game.

Yankee owner George Steinbrenner said in a prepared statement: “”The Yankees will abide by the judge’s decision. We want to state emphatically that we were not a party to this lawsuit. We resent any implications by the American League office that the Yankees had any part in either of the two suits.”

The Boston Globe didn’t pass up a chance to dig at the Yankees over the sordid affair. It reported:

The best part came when Dave Phillips took the piece of paper from his pocket. That was the true end to all the stalls, all the wails, all the nonsense of the New York Yankees.

The final answer to their final, nagging question.

“I hate to do this,” Dave Phillips said as he reached into his breast pocket in the muggy rush-hour heat early last night at second base of Yankee Stadium. “But I have this piece of paper here . . .”

Lovely. The Yankees were pulling their final, last-ditch, 959th move to win the long-running, forever publicized Pine Tar baseball game and they didn’t have a chance. Dave Phillips had the paper and the game could be resumed for the final, mechanical four outs yesterday to give the Kansas CityRoyals the 5-4 win they mostly accomplished on July 24.

“We were prepared for a lot of things,” said Phillips, who was the chief umpire for this return to work the Yankees had fought so long. “I had lists and papers, a lot of possibilities to cover.”

The specific piece of paper that counted was a signed and notarized statement from the four umpires who had worked the first eight-plus innings of the game. The statement covered the play that had begun all the trouble, the home run with two outs in the top of the ninth by George Brett of the Royals that first was disallowed for the use of too much pine tar on his bat, then reinstated in Kansas City’s appeal to the league office.

“We wanted to be ready for anything,” Phillips said.

Sure enough. Five minutes after six last night and the first move Yankee manager Billy Martin made was to order his pitcher, George Frazier, to throw the ball to first baseman Ken Griffey. The second move was to have Frazier throw the ball to shortstop Roy Smalley at second. Sure enough. The throws were appeals.

“We believe George Brett did not touch first base on his home run,” Martin said after he trotted to meet Phillips at second. “We think we have proof.”

Good argument. Good point. Phillips and this umpiring crew was new. How could any of them know whether Brett or U.L. Washington, also running the bases on the two-run homer, had touched the proper bags?


The paper.

The four original umpires said in their statement that Washington and Brett had touched the bases. That was the statement. Signed and sealed and witnessed.

“I don’t know who it was who thought about that paper,” Kansas City reliever Dan Quisenberry said, “but whoever he was, he should be the next commissioner of baseball. The search is over.”

Lovely. The Yankees still could protest the game – and they did – but the action had to resume. The four outs could run their course in a dull, four-up, four-down 12 minutes. The great flapdoodle about nothing could end.

The Yankees had to play.

“Boorish is the word to describe how they have handled the entire situation,” Kansas City general manager John Schuerholz said. “It’s been frustrating and, to a large part, undignified for our industry the way they’ve acted. I don’t think we have to go to a courtroom to settle matters like this. I know there are supposed to be a million lawyers in this country by the end of the century, but I don’t think we’re the ones who have to keep them in business.”

The boorishness continued to the end. Would the game be played? Would the game not be played? What would happen? No one even knew until 4 o’clock that, yes, for certain, both teams would take the field.

“We were on the plane and we were coming here or going to Baltimore, where we play on Friday,” Schuerholz said. “We didn’t know which. I made a call someplace over Ashtabula, Ohio, and still nobody knew. So we just kept coming here.

“We didn’t know until we walked into the door of the stadium that we were playing,” Schuerholz said. “Some guy told us, It’s on.’ ”

The Yankees simply wouldn’t treat the event with dignity. They were schoolkids, doing something they didn’t want to do, fighting and grumping and harrumphing all the way. They weren’t civil. That was it. They weren’t civil at all.

“We suggested all kinds of things they could have done to make this a fun event,” American League official Bob Fishel said. “Give away little Pine Tar bats. Let a lot of kids come. Have some entertainment. Give the money to charity. Nothing. That’s what they did. Nothing.

“They didn’t even have a sign on the front saying there was a game today.”

The announced attendance was 1245, but the figure must have included the workers and security details. Ushers sat in the good box seats along the third base line. Hot dog salesmen stood in aisles. The few fans walked and moved around, sitting where they wanted.

“We’re worried about security,” Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in one of his many rants on the Pine Tar subject. “There is potential for trouble here. Another Diana Ross situation from Central Park.”

“Maybe some of these people are more vicious than they look,” Kansas City general manager Schuerholz said. “Look at that little kid over there. He might have a club or something hidden in his clothes. Vicious. Threatening.”

“You’ll have to leave the clubhouse,” an attendant told a last knot of reporters in the Yankee dressing room an hour after the game. “There aren’t going to be any comments.”

On August 18, the Globe had reported:

A judge today blocked tonight’s scheduled completion of the New York Yankees-Kansas City Royals game at which George Brett’s ninth- inning home run was nullified because his bat had too much pine tar on it.

Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Orest V. Maresca said he was blocking the game “to protect the rights” of fans who sued, contending that they shouldn’t have to pay to see the completion of the game they attended July 24 in New York.

In a seven-page decision, Maresca also cited the Yankees’ argument that there might be security problems stemming from confusion over admission to the game if it were played as scheduled.

The American League, which had ordered the game resumed at 6 p.m. today, immediately appealed to New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, which agreed to review the case later today.

Yesterday, the Yankees and one of their fans asked for an injunction against the game’s being resumed.

Yankee players were to have voted last night whether to play, but they put off the referendum until Maresca ruled on the injunction request.

Roy Cohn, an attorney for the Yankees, asked for the injunction to allow time for the court to hear suits brought by two fans who argue they should not be forced to pay another admission.

The Yankees are charging $2.50 for what could be four outs.

Some baseball officials have expressed concern over some of George Steinbrenner’s remarks about MacPhail, the American League president, who upheld Kansas City’s protest and reinstated George Brett’s home run. ”If the Yankees lose the division by one game,” Steinbrenner said, ”I wouldn’t want to be Lee MacPhail living in New York. Maybe he should go house-hunting in Kansas City.”

Published in: on February 17, 2009 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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