30 years later, Brett still loves talking Pine Tar
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- George Brett sat down with the Kansas City media on Tuesday to talk about the Pine Tar Incident, on the eve of its 30-year anniversary.
Q: Do you ever get tired of talking about the Pine Tar Game?
Brett: "Not at all. It was a positive thing. It wasn't a ground ball that went through my legs or a strikeout. I hit a home run off one of the toughest pitchers there was, a Hall of Fame guy.
"If I did not use an illegal bat, which I didn't, it was proven I didn't, we wouldn't be doing this. It would be just a July 24 game 30 years ago that no one would remember. But when the umpires called me out and my protest kind of made it famous. And then the reversal by Lee MacPhail, who was then the president of the American League. ... And then the reversal and having to go back and replay the game from that point.
"All in all, I'm very proud of my actions, obviously, during that time and after that time. It showed the type of player I was."
The first time you saw the tape of you charging from dugout....
"I couldn't believe it. I had no clue that I did that. I really had no clue. I knew I ran out on the field but ...
"What team did the bobblehead of me this year? (Double-A) Northwest Arkansas? They had a George Brett bobblehead and the head doesn't bobble but the arms do. (Laughs.) I'm still trying to get some of those because I think they're pretty funny.
"That's the type of player I was. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and play hard. When a call like that goes against you, you're going to react. Again, if it was Cleveland, would it be that big a deal? I don't think so. But it was New York. And New York is New York. As a result, we did (a press conference) about three weeks ago (in New York) and we're doing it again today."
I bet you never thought this would become such a phenomenon.
"I had no clue. At the time, it was just a game. But every year it's a one-year anniversary, a two-year, a five-year, a 10-year and now 30. Some of the umpires are dead, no longer around. Tim McClelland is still umpiring. Wouldn't it have been great if he could have umpired here tonight?"
(Note: The Royals talked to the league about that possibility, but McClelland's assignment in Houston couldn't be changed.)
Do you ever talk to McClelland?
"Sure, whenever I see him. I had seats about five years ago right behind home plate here in the Crown Seats. And I was sitting with some friends from out of town and between innings I started calling him a bum and saying 'You suck' and all that.
"Finally, I got the ballboy's attention and told him to tell the home plate umpire that the guy yelling at him is someone he knows. Well, the next half inning, Tim came over and we laughed."
Why do you suppose the pine tar rule was put in place?
"Back then, there was an owner (for the Twins) named Calvin Griffith. Well, let's start with the bats back then. Nowadays, you go into the Royals' bat room and a player like Mike Moustakas might have six dozen bats. Back when I played, you might have ordered a dozen at a time. ...
"When bats weren't as plentiful, you might put little finishing nails in them and stuff pine tar around those nails. So everyone did that with pine tar. And the balls would get scuffed. Balls would get that black smudge on them and balls would have to be tossed out.
"And so they decided to come up with a rule that you could not put pine tar 18 inches above the handle, to save the number of balls being tossed out. Nowadays they throw out a ball every time it gets dirt on it. Back then, they didn't like using all those balls, guys like Cal Griffith. That's why he doesn't own the Twins anymore."
Who were you sitting by in the dugout when they were examining the bat?
"I believe I was sitting by Frank White and Vida Blue. Someone asked me if I corked my bat. And I said, 'No, I never corked a bat in my life.' Back then, people corked their bats.
"Frank then told me, 'Hey, you have a lot of pine tar on that bat and John Mayberry once got (checked) for pine tar.' And I said that if they call me out for that rule, which I had never heard of, I'm going to go out and kill one of those SOBs. And as soon as I said that, Tim McClelland turns around and starts looking for me in the dugout.
"Like anything, you don't realize at the time. ... I think I totally blacked out. I saw the video and I am amazed at my reaction.
"You know, Timmy stands about 6 feet 6 and 250 pounds. His line today, everywhere he speaks, is that 'George is 6 feet 2, 205 pounds, and I'm 6 feet 6, 250, and I got shin guards, a chest protector, a mask in one hand and a bat in the other. What were you going to do to me, George?'"
What were you yelling at him after he called you out?
"I know (laughing). I know what I said. It wasn't something you say in front of children or on the news or on live TV."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.