10,000 days since a very famous mid-season homer

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.

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  1. Michael Caragliano said...

    If memory serves me right, the affidavit was laminated, so Martin couldn’t tear it up. He pretty much made a mockery of it, anyway- Mattingly at shortstop and Guidry in center.

    I worked with a guy who was a stringer for Sportsphone at the time. He said they opened Yankee Stadium just like it was an entire game being played, right down to the upper deck concession stands, and they got a few hundred fans, at the most. He said only ticket holders from the July 24th game were admitted, so you couldn’t walk up and buy a ticket to see the final half inning.

  2. Max said...

    When the Royals were in NY this past summer, they showed the video a few times on the Royals telecast. One thing they pointed out, much to amusement, was that color analyst, and then second baseman Frank White was sitting a few feet from George when Brett erupted into madness, and never so much as removed his feet from the rail they were resting from.

  3. Rasputin22 said...

    I have never in my life, either before or since, witnessed a human being more on the verge of having his head explode, than GB was that day.

  4. John Shreve said...

    It’s a good thing Brett didn’t get too close to the umpire, Tim McClelland, as McClelland stood 6’6”, weighed 260 lbs, and still had the bat in his hands.

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