Pine-Tar Home Run Had a Royal Result

“Cheater’s proof!” kids yell when someone accused of playing fast and loose with the rules ultimately fails. In one memorable case, though, the cheater’s proof worked in reverse.

It was the notorious “Pine Tar” incident of 1983, involving George Brett and the Kansas City Royals, and Billy Martin and the New York Yankees.

You remember: Sunday, July 24, two out in the top of the ninth at Yankee Stadium. U.L. Washington on base for the Royals. Brett up. Goose Gossage on the mound.

Brett homers, giving the Royals a 5-4 lead, but Yankee Manager Martin protests. He cites an obscure rule prohibiting a foreign substance--in this case pine tar--extending more than 18 inches up from the bat knob. The umpires agree and declare Brett out and the game over.


Brett, who uses pine tar to get a better grip on the bat, freaks and threatens to quit. The bat is confiscated by the American League. The Royals appeal, citing conflicting rules on the use of pine tar on bats and pointing out that in a similar case in 1975, league President Lee McPhail ruled that pine tar on the bat had no bearing on two homers hit by John Mayberry.

It is also pointed out somewhere along the way that the rule against running pine tar up the bat is to prevent hitters from driving nails into their bats and covering the nail heads with the tar. Obviously not the case here, the Royals say.

Four days later, McPhail overrules the umpires’ decision and on Aug. 24, the game is resumed. The Royals breeze through the bottom of the ninth and win.

Cheater’s proof.