Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pine Tar

Tyler Kepner looks back at the Pine Tar incident:
Twenty-five years later, it remains one of baseball’s most riveting images: George Brett, eyes bulging with rage, bolting out of the visiting dugout at Yankee Stadium, intent on enacting a most primal impulse. He wanted to kill the ump.

The object of Brett’s fury, a quarter-century ago on Thursday, was back in the Bronx this week. It was Tim McClelland, then working his first series at Yankee Stadium and now a respected crew chief. McClelland was the umpire who tried to nullify a crucial home run because Brett had too much pine tar on his bat.

McClelland is a commanding figure, at 6 feet 6 inches, and he said he was not afraid of a rampaging future Hall of Famer.

“I knew he really wasn’t going to hit me or run over me,” McClelland said Wednesday before working third base in the Yankees’ game with Minnesota. “If he did, I’d probably own the Kansas City Royals right now.”

For those of you who are under 30 and don't remember it, I can't overstate just how awesome this incident was at the time it happened. It was replayed constantly on local and national newscasts. People who didn't care a lick about baseball talked about it. And not just the blowup -- they talked about pine tar and the rules and the Royals' protest, and all of it. It was beyond riveting.

I can only imagine what the coverage of this sort of thing would be if it happened today. As it is, SportsCenter and its ilk blow up the littlest stories to outlandish proportions, repeating even the most pedestrian video a hundred times before lunch. Can you imagine what it would be like if, say, Albert Pujols tried to kill Hunter Wendelstedt after Lou Piniella convinced him to take a home run off the board because of an equipment violation?

I think the Internets would asplode.


Jason said...

A few years back, a friend sent me a game ticket stub from that very game as a thank you, knowing how cool and crazy that game was. It sits next to the George Brett ball.

What a scene!

Chadillac said...

I have an autographed 8x10 glossy of that exact photograph. Man, I miss the Royals' Dynasty....

Daniel said...

I'm 26 and don't remember the incident from when it happened. But I've seen the replay so many times that I can still picture Brett running crazily out of the dugout when McClelland made the ruling. Awesome moment.

Mr. Thursday said...

I was recently having a conversation with my aunt about the best seats either of us had ever had for a baseball game. Her best seats? Just behind home plate, first row (I think), for this game.

Apparently, sitting in the stands, neither she nor whoever she went with had any clue what had happened at the time, but genuinely though Brett was going to kill the umpire.

I'm impossibly jealous. Oh, and Craig, I think you're actually underselling the unrepeatable craziness of this event. At this point, both teams had playoff aspirations (although neither made it, and the Royals aspirations were a bit far fetched), and the pitcher was Goose Gossage, who was still near the height of his powers. The perfect storm, right there.

Ron Rollins said...

I remember the game. I was watching on tv. It was great. Sweet revenge for Chris f(*&&^^%%$#@! Chambliss.

I don't know what McClelland was thinking, but we serioulsy thought Brett was going to kill him.

Brett never reallys get the credit for it, but he was one of the most focused, determined players to ever come along.

It wasn't about the fact they took the HR away from him. It was the fact that they took the game-winner away from him.

But in the long run, all that matters is, Brett cooked the goose a second time.

And Gossage called Brett the player he least wanted to face. For good reason.