New York Three decades after his home run and hysterics, George Brett laughs that he’s still known as “the Pine Tar Guy.”
“I thought it was just going to be over with,” the Hall of Famer said. “It’s amazing how much play this has gotten.”
Brett recalled the episode Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium before Kansas City played New York. Now 60, Brett is the interim hitting coach for the Royals.
On July 24, 1983, Brett hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Goose Gossage at the old Yankee Stadium that put the Royals ahead. But the shot was nullified and Brett was called for the game-ending out when plate umpire Tim McClelland ruled there was too much pine tar on the bat.
Brett was wild-eyed when he charged from the dugout to argue. A few days later, AL President Lee MacPhail overturned the decision. The game was completed the next month and the Royals held on to win 5-4.
Brett recalled that on the day he hit the home run he didn’t think the controversy “was that big of a deal.”
Even now, Brett hears about it on a regular basis.
“Pretty much every time I play golf,” he said. “They always want to check my clubs for pine tar.”
Brett said he’d used that bat — it was unvarnished, 34 inches long and weighed 32 ounces — for a few weeks before homering off Gossage. Brett said he used it for two more at-bats before donating it to Cooperstown.
Brett remembered that a week later, he came to bat in Detroit and McClelland was the plate umpire.
“Hey, you wanna have some fun?” Brett said the ump asked him.
“Timmy, let’s just let it ride,” Brett answered.
In those days, the Royals and Yankees were bitter rivals and Brett said he “hated” the team in pinstripes. Brett said he’d never even dealt with Gossage until years later during an exhibition game in Florida.
A person approached Brett before the game and said Gossage was opening a restaurant in Colorado and wondered whether he could have a bat from the star. The request came with a caveat, too — Gossage wanted the bat “all tarred up.”
Brett gladly provided the slathered souvenir. And since then, they’ve formed a mutual admiration club.
The Royals said Gossage wanted to take part in Brett’s remembrance Tuesday, but the hard-nosed closer was vacationing on a river in Colorado.
“We’ve become good friends,” Brett said.