Video of the raging Royal documents a memorable moment in major league history.
The clip shows George Brett charging out of the dugout at Yankee Stadium, veins sticking out of his neck, furiously trying to get at home plate umpire Tim McClelland. It was July 24, 1983, and the umpire had just called Brett out for having too much pine tar on his bat, negating a two-run, ninth-inning homer off Goose Gossage that had given the Royals a 5-4 lead.
Filip Bondy, in his 2015 book, The Pine Tar Game, quotes Brett’s reaction.
“I just lost it,” Brett said. “I looked like my father chasing me around after I brought home my report card.”
Or, as Yankees television analyst Bobby Murcer observed, “He’s steaming mad.”
The Royals would appeal the decision, since the umpire’s call saddled them with a 4-3 loss. Kansas City won its appeal and the game was resumed Aug. 18. The Royals won the game, but the memory of the Pine Tar Game took on a life of its own.
The bat with the pine tar resides at the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, the powder blue road jersey Heritage Auctions says Brett wore that day is still available for collectors and will be featured in Heritage Auctions’ Winter Platinum Night Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction.
The two-day sale begins Feb. 22.
Resolution Photomatching, a Seattle-based company determined no image from the actual Pine Tar Game was clear enough to provide a certain match. However, company officials said the shirt, comprised of white tackle twill against powder blue, is consistent with photos from a game played July 30 in Detroit.
The company provided a “Letter of Photomatch” for collectors concerned about authenticity. A conclusive photo match, the company said, was made based on “loose and fraying threads” on the custom-stitched lettering and patch on the front and left sleeve of the jersey. Resolution officials said they viewed multiple photos to determine the match, noting that “comparative analysis was conducted to confirm that these characteristics are unique to this specific jersey.”
Heritage Auctions also provided a letter of authenticity.
The jersey is autographed on both sides by Brett in a 9/10 black Sharpie. The autograph on the front of the jersey is accompanied by the phrase, “Pine Tar Game, 7/24/83.”
Brett, now 66, won a World Series with the Royals in 1985 and three American League batting championships, flirting with .400 when he hit .390 in 1980. With batting titles in 1976 and 1990, Brett became the first player to win hitting titles in three different decades. He appeared in 13 All-Star Games and was the American League MVP in 1980.
Still, they are dwarfed by an otherwise meaningless game in the Bronx during the summer of 1983.
“My protests kinda made it famous,” Brett said — in a massive bit of understatement — during an interview marking the 30th anniversary of the game in 2013.
“I think I totally blanked out,” Brett said after McClelland called him out. “Because I don’t … when I saw the video I was amazed with my reaction.
“I had no clue that I did that.”
About that bat: Brett said he sold it for $25,000 to collector Barry Halper, but then changed his mind. He offered Halper the money back and a bat he used to hit three home runs off Catfish Hunter, and Halper returned the bat. Brett then shipped the pine tar bat to Cooperstown.
The jersey is one of several Pine Tar Game items offered in this sale by Heritage Auctions. Other items that will be on the block include the baseball Brett hit for the home run, signed by him and Gossage; the baseball used for the final out when the game resumed Aug. 18, signed by reliever Dan Quisenberry and catcher John Wathan; a letter signed by A.L. President Lee MacPhail that explains the reasoning behind his ruling that mandated the game would continue; and various documents and letters related to the incident.
Brett and Gossage never spoke to one another during their careers, but they broke the ice in 1995. In Bondy’s book, he recounts how the two Hall of Famers were able to laugh about the past.
The Yankees and Royals were playing an exhibition game in Florida at Kansas City’s spring training site at Baseball City, and Gossage sent a message through a clubhouse boy to Brett, asking for a bat to display at his new restaurant in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
After Brett agreed, Gossage sent another message: He wanted the bat to be “all tarred up.” Brett was more than happy to oblige, and a friendship was born.
The bat will always remain a part of baseball lore, but Brett’s uniform is certainly a curiosity and should draw some interest in February.