A potential game-winning, two-run homer by Kansas City's George Brett in the ninth inning was disallowed by the umpires because they said there was pine tar too high on his bat, enabling the New York Yankees to escape with a 4-3 victory over the Royals today.
Brett hit reliever Rich Gossage's second pitch into the right field stands for an apparent two-run homer. But New York Manager Billy Martin protested the pine tar on Brett's bat handle exceeded the 18-inch allowable area for foreign substance on the handle of the bat.
Crew chief Joe Brinkman and home plate umpire Tim McClelland examined the bat and declared Brett out after he had circled the bases.
Said Brett, "If they want to suspend me, they can suspend me, and I'll never play again. If I had any guts, I would retire. It was well past at the start of the game, too. Why couldn't they take the bat away my first time at bat?"
Brett and Kansas City Manager Dick Howser charged from the dugout and had to be restrained by other players and Royals' coaches. In the melee, one of the Royals on the field grabbed the bat and tossed it to on-deck hitter Hal McRae, who threw it into the Kansas City dugout. umpires and security personnel ran into the dugout to retrieve the bat.
With two out in the ninth, U.L. Washington singled off Dale Murray (3-1) and Gossage relieved. Brett then hit what would have been his 20th homer before he was ruled out, ending the game. It was the Yankees' ninth victory in 10 games.
"I'm furious," Brett said. "But it's in the rule book."
Rule 1.10b reads, "The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from the end, may be covered or treated with any material (including pine tar) to improve the grip. Any such material, including pine tar, which extends past the 18-inch limitation, in the umpire's judgment, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game. No such material shall improve the reaction or distance factor of the bat."
Said Brett, "I thought they were going to check it for cork. And I wasn't concerned. I was unaware of it (the pine tar rule). It was the furthest thing from my mind. Every time I'm on deck I put pine tar on the bat because I don't use gloves."
Howser first said he would not protest the ruling, then said the team would protest the umpires' ruling in a telegram Monday to American League President Lee MacPhail.
Martin, meanwhile, appeared to enjoy the incident. "It's a terrible rule, but if it had happened to me I would have accepted it," he said. "It turned out to be a lovely Sunday afternoon."