Kansas City, Mo. George Brett says he's surprised that people still make a big deal out of his 1983 "pine tar" home run at Yankee Stadium.
The Kansas City Royals Hall of Famer's ninth-inning blast was taken away after umpires ruled the pine tar on Brett's bat extended too far up the shaft. Brett erupted from the dugout in one of baseball's all-time tirades.
The Royals protested the call, it was later overturned, and the two teams finished the game weeks later. The Royals won, 5-4.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the incident, and Brett still can't believe that for all his years in baseball - he won batting titles in three different decades - the pine-tar at-bat is the one fans know best.
"I am so surprised that you play 20 years in the major leagues and you accomplish some things, and that's the one at-bat you're remembered for," Brett said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters.
The July 24, 1983 game has added significance because it was played at Yankee Stadium, which is closing after this season to make way for a new ballpark. If the Royals' protest had failed, and they had not subsequently won the game later, Brett's drive would have gone down in history as the only game-losing home run.
"Only in New York. I think if it happens in Cleveland, it's not that big of a deal," Brett said. "I think if it happens someplace else that isn't New York, it's not that big of a deal."
With the Royals trailing 4-3, Brett hit the two-out, two-run homer off reliever Rich Gossage, who on Sunday will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Brett entered the hall in 1999.
After the blast, Yankees manager Billy Martin immediately protested. Plate umpire Tim McClelland agreed, nullified the home run and called Brett out.
A red-faced Brett charged after McClelland, his arms flailing as teammates forcibly held him back.
"We've had a lot of fun with this thing over the years," said Gossage, who joined the conference call. "Of course, at the time it wasn't fun. ... George was the maddest human being I've ever seen."
Brett said he's amazed at how angry he became after the call. He watches a tape of the game at least once a year with his sons.
"They don't want to watch the whole game," he said. "They just want to watch the aftermath of what happens when the umpire calls me out."
McClelland said Wednesday he "wasn't thinking anything" when Brett charged out of the dugout.
"I knew he wasn't going to hit me or run over me," McClelland said. "If he did I'd probably own the Kansas City Royals now."
Brett, now a vice president of baseball operations with the Royals, kept using the bat after the incident but eventually stopped and gave it to the Hall of Fame.