Woke baseball’ needs another pine tar fight
Baseball, the love of my life since I was a kid in Cuba, is now boring, and a “woke commissioner” does not help matters.
The game is now about hitting home runs or strikeouts. Complete games are now a thing of the past, replaced by managers who make decisions from computer stats that would make the late Billy Martin blow up in the dugout. Martin counted pitches but looked at the man’s eyes when he went to the mound.
So let’s get in a time tunnel and remember baseball when it was fun watching games.
Back on this day in 1983, I caught the highlights of the Royals vs. Yankees “pine tar game” on ESPN when the network used to do sports rather than political commentary.
All of a sudden, Hall of Famer George Brett was on the umpire’s face and Billy Martin was up to one of his tricks. It was great. Today, they would call it “toxic masculinity.” Back then, it was two guys going at each other.
This is how it was covered by The New York Times:
Baseball games often end with home runs, but until today the team that hit the home run always won. At Yankee Stadium today, the team that hit the home run lost. If that unusual development produced a sticky situation, blame it on pine tar. With two out in the ninth inning, George Brett of the Kansas City Royals hit a two-run home run against Rich Gossage that for several minutes gave the Royals a 5‚4 lead over the Yankees. But Brett was called out by the umpires for using an illegal bat-one with an excessive amount of pine tar. The ruling, after a protest by Billy Martin, the Yankees’ manager, enabled the Yankees to wind up with a 4‚3 victory.
“I can sympathize with George,” Gossage remarked after the game, “but not that much.” The outcome, which the Royals immediately protested, is certain to be talked about for years to come, because it was one of the more bizarre finishes any game has ever had. “I couldn’t believe it,” Brett said, infinitely more calm than when he charged at the umpires after their controversial call. “It knocks you to your knees,” added Dick Howser, the Kansas City manager. “I’m sick about it. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. I don’t expect my players to accept it.”
The umpire did not use a ruler to measure the pine tar on Brett’s 341/2-inch bat; they didn’t have one. So they placed it across home plate, which measures 17 inches across. When they did, they saw that the pine tar exceeded the legal limit. The four umpires conferred again, and then Tim McClelland, the home plate umpire, thrust his right arm in the air, signaling that Brett was out…
Thankfully, the AL president reversed the decision. They finished the game on a future date and KC won because of the Brett home run!
The “pine tar” game was the last chapter in the Yankees-Royals rivalry. It started with very intense post season series that saw New York beat Kansas City in 1976, 1977 and 1978. KC finally beat NY in 1980 and most of the players were still around when the “pine tar game” happened in 1983.
In other words, these two teams did not like each other at all — baseball at its best, tough rivalries, players leaving it on the field.
No wokism, just baseball. I miss those days.
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