Originally written on Hall of Very Good  |  Last updated 11/14/14

In 1955, team owners were in a bind…they were losing too much money on baseballs that were stained and smudged with the pine tar being used on bats. To combat that loss, baseball implemented a rule…MLB Rule 1.10(c).  It was a simple one really.  Basically, you can treat your bat with anything to help “improve the grip”.  But here's the catch.  That material cannot extend past 18 inches.  If it does…the hit is deemed “illegal” and the batter called out. On July 24, 1983 the “Pine Tar Rule” received national attention when Kansas City Royals great George Brett hit a go ahead two-run home run off New York Yankees closer Goose Gossage. Pretty sure we know how that played out. Your browser does not support iframes. Two guys that witness the madness up close were Brett’s Royals teammates…Don Slaught and Leon Roberts. HOVG:   From your perspective...what happened? SLAUGHT:  We enter the top of the ninth down by one run.  Goose Gossage on the mound for the Yankees and George Brett coming to the plate. Premiere stopper versus premiere hitter in the league.  But there is history between the two.  In  1980, Game 3 (of the ALCS) George hit a home run off Gossage to sweep Yankees.  Can he do it again? ROBERTS:  Billy Martin was looking for a chance to get Brett if got an important hit…it started in KC the week before.  And sure enough, he hits a clutch homer off Goose. What was crazy was a bunch of things.  How do they measure the pine tar?  If (we’re) in KC, do they call him out?  HOVG:  How crazy was the aftermath? SLAUGHT:  After the celebration of the home run, George takes a seat on the bench.  As Billy Martin walks out to home plate, someone starts to explain to George what Billy was doing.  George’s response…“if he calls me out, I’ll kill him”.  Just seconds after the comment, Tim McClellan, the umpire, calls him out and the rest of the team is trying to catch up to George because we believed (he’d kill him).  Some players were trying to get between George and umpire and others were trying to get possession of the bat. ROBERTS:  Gaylord (Perry) grabbed the bat and tried to run up the tunnel to hide the evidence!  (What followed) was crazy.  We had to wait for a ruling of the protest from the American League president.  (We) sat on the airport runway for two hours waiting for a ruling from a judge. SLAUGHT:  When the game was resumed, I was the most nervous of any game I played.  We were at Yankee Stadium, with all the media of an All-Star Game and no fans in the stands.  We went through preparing for the game and then it was over in just minutes.  Don Mattingly playing second…Ron Guidry in the outfield. Dan Quisenberry was on the mound. "I was taking (Gaylord) Perry’s picture during batting practice at Fenway Park and we were chatting. I said it would be great to get a picture of you and (George) Brett with the bat. Perry got Brett, they went into the dugout and we took the picture." Former Fleer photographer Steve Babineau HOVG:  At the time, MLB Rule 1.10(c) stated: "The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from the end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18-inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game." At the time, such a hit was defined in the rules as an illegally batted ball, and the penalty for hitting "an illegally batted ball" was that the batter was to be declared out, under the explicit terms of the then-existing provisions of Rule 6.06. Were you aware of Rule 1.10(c)? ROBERTS:  In baseball?  Yes, most hitters are aware of the rule.  But, there have been a lot of bats that are doctored. SLAUGHT:  As defined by the rules at time, the umpire ruled it correctly.  I also believe (American League president) Lee MacPhail got it correct by determining that the pine tar on the bat had nothing to do with the home run. HOVG:  It’s been 30 years, is the game an afterthought at this point?  Does it still get brought up?!? SLAUGHT:  It is brought up all the time…mostly because of how many times it has  re-played on ESPN Classic. ROBERTS:  Yes, I hear about all the time. HOVG:  Lastly, did baseball get it right? SLAUGHT:  Yes. ROBERTS:  The protest was done right.  Pine tar does not help in any way. "Pine Tar Game" t-shirt, created and distributed to team by Gaylord Perry.  Courtesy: Greg Pryor. ABOUT DON SLAUGHT Don Slaught was the starting catcher for the Kansas City Royals on July 24, 1983.  He went 3-for-4 with a triple and an RBI.  He played for seven teams during his 16-year big league career.  Slaught is currently the owner of RightView Pro…a training aid for young baseball and softball players. ABOUT LEON ROBERTS Leon Roberts was the starting leftfielder for the Kansas City Royals on July 24, 1983.  He went 2-for-3.  He played for six teams during his 11-year big league career.  Roberts is currently the hitting coach for the Oklahoma City Redhawks, the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.

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