George Brett and the Pine Tar Incident


One of the most iconic and controversial sporting events that occurred in the 1980s was the Pine Tar Incident, which was also known as the Pine Tar Game. It was a debatable incident in 1983 during an American League baseball game that was played between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals. It was held on July 24, 1983, at Yankee Stadium in New York City. 

George Brett was the third baseman of the Kansas City Royals. His team was trailing 4-3 in the top half of the 9th inning and 2 out when he hit a two-run home run which will give his team the lead. However, the manager of the Yankees team, Billy Martin, had noticed a large amount of pine tar on his bat, which exceeded the amount allowed by rule. With this, Brett’s home run was invalidated, and he was called out. As he was the 3rd out in the 9th inning with the home team in the lead, the game was won by the Yankees. 

The Royals protested about this, and their protest was supported by the American League president Lee MacPhail. The game was ordered to be continued from the point of Brett’s home run. With this, the game was resumed on August 18, 1983, which was 25 days later. It officially ended with the Royals winning 5-4. 

If you’d like to know more details about what happened in this incident, read on as we’re giving you more information about the Pine Tar Incident. 

The Incident

Before the game started, Martin and other members of the Yankees had noticed the amount of pine tar that Brett used on his bat, but Martin chose not to say anything until it was strategically useful to do so. Pine tar is usually added to baseball bats to increase the player’s grip on them. The third baseman of the Yankees team recalled a similar incident that involved Thurman Munson in a game back in 1975 against the Minnesota Twins. 

As Brett crossed the plate, Billy Martin requested Brett’s bat to be examined. While Brett watched from the dugout, McClelland and the other members of the umpiring crew inspected the bat. They measured it against the width of the home plate and found out that the amount of pine tar on the bat’s handle was more than the amount allowed on the rule book. During that time, that hit was defined as an illegally batted ball and any batsman who hit it was automatically called out. With this, the umpires concluded that Brett’s home run was not allowed, and he was out, which ended the game. 

With this, Brett was enraged. He ran out of the dugout and confronted McClelland, which required him to be restrained by his manager Dick Howser, physically, together with some of this teammates and crew chief Joe Brinkman. However, despite his protest, the ruling of McClelland stood. 

The Protest and Reversal

After four days, the Royals protested the game, and the president of the American League, Lee MacPhail, upheld their complaint. According to him, the limit on pine tar on bats was based on simple economics and not on the fear of unfair advantage. He said that any contact with pine tar would stain the ball, render it inappropriate for play, and require it to be changed, which will then increase the cost of the home team to supply balls for a given game. This means that for him, Brett did not violate the spirit of the rules nor purposely altered his bat to improve the distance factor. 

With his decision, Brett’s home run was restored, and the game was ordered to be continued with two outs on top of the 9th inning with the Royals leading 5-4. However, even though MacPhail ruled that Brett’s home run counted, he retroactively evicted or ejected Bret due to his outburst against McClelland. At the same time, he also ejected coach Rocky Colavito and Howser for arguing with the umpires. 

The Continuation of Play

the bat that George Brett used in the Pine Tar Incident in 1983

The game was recommenced on August 18, 1983. It continued from the point of Brett’s home run. There were about 1,200 fans in attendance at this game. Brett himself did not attend this game. After the team arrived in New Jersey, he left directly for Baltimore, where the Royals were scheduled for a game the next day. 

Martin was still furious during this time due to the game’s continuation. With this, he symbolically protested by placing pitcher Ron Guidry in center field and first baseman Don Mattingly at second base. This will enable him to avoid wasting a possible pinch hitter or runner. 

Frazier hit out McRae to end the top of the 9th, 25 days after the inning started. Dan Quisenberry, Royals’ closer, retired New York in order for the save, preserving the Royals’ 5-4 win. The loss had placed the Yankees in 5th place, 3 and a half games out of first. However, neither team advanced to the postseason. 

The Popularity of the Incident

The Pine Tar Incident was so iconic that the bat is displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame since 1987. According to reports, Brett used the batt for a few games after the Pine Tar Game until being cautioned that it would be worthless if broken. After that, he sold it to famed collector Barry Halper for $25,000. However, he had second thoughts and repurchased it for the same amount before donating it to the Hall of Fame. The home-run ball, on the other hand, was caught by a journalist named Ephraim Schwartz. He sold it along with his game ticket to Halper for $500, which is equivalent to around $1300 today. 

In 2018, as part of the Royals’ 50th season, before a game against the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium, the game the fans who attended the game a George Brett Pine Tar bobblehead to celebrate the incident and the victory of the Royals. It represents Brett after his home run was nullified, rushing at the umpires in anger. 

There was even a song in 1985 that was dedicated to the event, which was titled “Pine Tar Wars” by C.W. McCall. The song’s lyrics featured the accurate telling of the relevant facts of the event. 


A lot of unexpected things can truly happen in sporting events, and the Pine Tar Incident is one of the most iconic examples of this. It is a kind of occurrence that many people would find challenging to forget about. And things like this are also something that can make sports personalities very popular, aside from the skills that they have. We hope this helps you learn more about George Brett and the Pine Tar Incident. If you want to discover more popular sporting events back in the 1980s, check out our list of the Top Iconic Sporting Events of the 80s for more interesting information.

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