Thursday, December 09, 2010
10,000 days since a very famous mid-season homerPosted by Chris Jaffe
Most mid-season homers are easily forgettable. It doesn't matter how long or clutch they are, because we typically only remember the ones that take place in the most clutch of games. Carlton Fisk in Game Six. Kirk Gibson's homer off Dennis Eckersley. Bobby Thomson's Giants-Win-the-Pennant homer. Bill Mazeroski's jubilant Bambi-beats-Goliath Game Seven walk-off. For a regular season homer to be remembered, it must be quite special or unusual.
And boy, they don't get any more unusual than the one that happened 10,000 days ago today: George Brett's pine tar home run.
On July 24, 1983, the Yankees led the Royals 4-3 in the top of the ninth with two out and one on. George Brett, representing Kansas City's last hope, stepped to the plate against fellow future Hall of Famer Rich Gossage and went deep for an apparent game-changing homer. KC now led 5-4.
Or did they? Yankee manager Billy Martin charged out of the dugout armed with an obscure rule. A batter could only put pine tar on 18 inches of the bat to improve his grip. Martin knew Brett used too much pine tar, but wasn't going to make an issue of it - unless it could help his team to do so. Well, now it could help his team to do so. Martin conferred with the umps and the homer was disallowed because of the contraband bat. Brett was declared out and thus the game over.
Then came perhaps the most famous moment of Brett's career: not hitting the homer itself, but finding out his shot was disallowed. He rampaged out of the dugout out for blood and for the home plate umpire. The way he ran out, you would've thought he just saw the umpires stomp on some children.
As it turns out, the play and game didn't end there. The commissioner overruled the umps, saying that though they made the technically correct call, it was against the spirit of the rules. The decision actually went to court, and the bottom of the ninth was replayed - or actually, just played since they never played it on the original day after all (no need, it looked like the Yankees won) - almost a month later.
There was one final great twist in the saga. When they played the ninth, Hal McRae stepped up as the next batter for KC (he was after Brett in the lineup). Before the first pitch, Billy Martin, ever the schemer, claimed that Brett's homer should be disallowed because he hadn't touched every base. The umpire crew was a different one from July 24 and thus unable to verify it. However, Billy Martin had been a schemer for so long, MLB knew how to handle him. The original umpire crew signed an affidavit that they saw Brett touch all the bases. The homer was allowed, and the Royals went on to win 5-4.
That last part didn't come for a month, but the homer itself was 10,000 days ago today. And it might be the most famous mid-season homer of them all.
Brett, older and calmer than when he heard his homer was disallowed.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.