"Pine Tar Incident" Will Continue To Live in Infamy

Published on August 25th, 2022 6:48 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

The Pine Tar incident featuring Kansas City Royals player George Brett. It was just another Sunday at Yankee Stadium in New York.

The Yankees were playing host to the Kansas City Royals. The game took place on July 24th, 1983, so it wasn't of any particular importance - there was a great deal of the season left to be played.

The game, however, would produce one of the most enduring images in baseball's history - George Brett charging out of the Royals dugout, desperately wanting to confront the umpire that had just ruled Brett had used too much pine tar on his bat.


It was 4-3 for the Yankees heading into the top of the ninth inning.

There were two outs in the inning, and the Yankees were close to closing out the win.

With a runner on first base, future Hall of Famer George Brett stepped up to the plate.

After fouling off the first pitch, Brett hit the second pitch into the right field stands, giving the Royals the 5-4 lead.

Or so everybody thought.

As Brett was rounding the bases, Yankees manager Billy Martin exited his dugout and approached the home plate umpire.

Prior to the game, the Yankees had noticed that Brett may have been using too much pine tar on his bat, and they were going to wait for the right time to pounce.

This was the time.

After the umpire crew gathered and conferred, they ruled Brett out, citing Rule 1.10(c), which stated that a "bat may not be covered by such a substance more than 18 inches from the tip of the handle".

Brett's bat had pine tar that stretched beyond the 18 inch limit, they said, so Brett was ruled out, and the game was ruled over.

The Yankees won 4-3.


The Kansas City Royals would protest the game, and American League president Lee MacPhail would ultimately side with them.

Brett's liberal use of pine tar, MacPhail said, did not give him an advantage.

Instead, the pine tar rule was in place so as not to dirty the baseballs too much.

MacPhail ruled that the game should restart from the time that Brett hit the home run.

On August 18th, 1983, the game was restarted, with the Royals ultimately winning 5-4.

Brett, however, was retroactively thrown out of the game, so he was unable to participate in the last half of an inning.


The Yankees were furious and ended up protesting the game.

The Yankees claimed that Brett hadn't touched all of the bases when he hit his home run, so they tried immediately throwing the ball to both first and second base.

The umpire, however, declared that Brett was safe.

In fact, the umpiring crew produced a notarized statement from the four umpires that had worked the July game, with all claiming that Brett had touched all of the bases.

In the end, the Yankees lost, and the game went down in history as a 5-4 win for the Royals.

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