Monday, March 05, 2007

July 24, 1983

As the baseball season approaches, I'm going to post classic moments from time to time, to get us all in the mood. (I might dim the lighting at some point, too, and throw on a Marvin Gaye record. Get ready.)

I'll kick it off with the "pine tar incident," which I was thrilled to find in full, in which George Brett of the Royals has a two-run homer nullified because he used too much pine tar on his bat. It was an insane call, even if it was technically right, because that just never happens. One of the many reasons I like baseball more than football (though I like football, which I have to say partly so that my football-playing friends, of whom I have surprisingly many, won't pulverize me) is the certainty that an unfolding play is going to stand. Yes, balls and strikes are subjective, much like spotting the football after a play is subjective, and I'm fine with both. But every year, there are dozens of exciting plays (many of them touchdowns) called back because of highly subjective decisions by the refs. This is the only really similar moment I can remember in baseball -- it happened nearly a quarter of a century ago, and it almost led Brett to commit homicide, as you'll see.

The clip contains a lot of Proustian details for me, seeing as how I was watching this game (and many others) on TV on Long Island at the time. Yankees manager Billy Martin makes an appearance, as do two great closers -- Rich "Goose" Gossage, who serves up the pitch to Brett, and later, in a cameo milling around the field, Dan "Quiz" Quisenberry, one of those relief pitchers from that era who looked like he could double as a high school physics teacher. (The most obvious other example of this species being Kent Tekulve.) On another anachronistic note, Quisenberry wrote three books of poetry. Sadly, he died in 1998, at 45, of cancer.

I also love the fact that one of the announcers says, "Bobby, let me say this to you. The fact that they tried to take the bat away and secrete the bat lends credence to the umpire's call in my estimation." You don't hear this often, but I miss 1983. Enjoy:



Anonymous JB said...

John - this is awesome - keep them coming. For me the clip begs the following question: Where the pro-athletes of bygone eras that much more competitive than the overpaid stars of today, or were they (Brett) so hopped up on "greenies" they were incapable of rational thought?

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, good times. As a then-seven-year-old, it's the first time I ever remember seeing an adult totally lose his mind (the second time happened three years later, when I "borrowed" my Dad's car).

But . . . if you remember, the umps were overruled by commissioner MacPhail. A few weeks later, the game was continued from the Top of the 9th, and the Royals held on to win.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good work... This was always my favorite video for the fact that Brett goes from 0-1000 instantaneously!


2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It still makes no sense that this call was over turned.... sure it was a dumb rule.... but it was the rule!

2:47 PM  
Blogger Newshound said... of the great memories from my early days of watching baseball; seeing this game on my grandmother's black and white console, while getting fired up at that bleep Martin ;)

4:03 PM  
Blogger Clint said...


Great post. That is a CLASSIC moment in baseball history. If you like baseball, make sure you stop by sometime, and leave your thoughts for us.

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Netsrak said...

"Highly subjective decisions by the refs"?!? There was nothing subjective about the pine tar decision at all. Regardless of whether or not the rule was a good one, Brett's bat was in clear violation of that rule, and therefore the umps made the correct call. Lee MacPhail was a chump for overturning it.

Next you'll tell us that the Buffalo Sabres didn't get jobbed in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals...

6:36 PM  
Blogger CraftyLefty said...

You pointed out Goose and Quiz milling around; but what about the first baseman; old #46 himself, Don Mattingly? Donnie Baseball wond up over at 2B when the game restarted from that point, as part of Martin's protest at the call being overturned. Guidry wound up in CF as well.

10:46 PM  

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