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.