The famous pine tar incident

July 24, 1983 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK • Had you ever seen anyone so angry as George Brett when a home run of his was disallowed? The famous pine tar incident took place at Yankee Stadium on this date in 1983. You knew Yankee manager Billy Martin had to be involved.

Brett’s outburst was the culmination of a dramatic moment:

Two outs, top of the ninth, Kansas City Royals down 4-3 to the New York Yankees. Brett is facing Yankee closer Rich “Goose” Gossage. He hits a 2-run homer to give the Royals the lead.

After Brett circles the bases, Billy Martin marches out to home plate to ask the umpires to examine the bat. Turns out the pine tar, what batters use on the bat handle to improve the grip, extended more than the rules allowed (see below). Home plate umpire Tim McClelland places the bat on the ground next to home plate. When he sees that the pine tar is spread over more than 20 inches of the bat he signals, “Batter’s out!” Incensed, George Brett charges from the dugout to home plate. If Brett had been a fullback and it was 3rd and 9, he would have made the first down.

Brett, his manager, Dick Howser, and a couple other players were thrown out of the game. The Royals protested. The game was suspended. A few weeks later, American League President Lee MacPhail, former president of the Yankees, I might add, overruled the umpires. The home run was reinstated. Play was resumed on August 18th with two outs in the 9th, Royals up 5-4, and that’s how the game ended.

Years later, Brett said he was so furious that day because a home run off Hall of Famer Goose Gossage was so rare, he couldn’t handle it being taken away.

Note the “note” from MLB Official Rules:

Rule 1.10 (c) The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18-inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game. NOTE: If the umpire discovers that the bat does not conform to (c) above until a time during or after which the bat has been used in play, it shall not be grounds for declaring the batter out, or ejected from the game.

MLB Official rules
July 24, 1983 Royals-Yankees box score