White reflects on pine tar anniversary

White reflects on pine tar anniversary

NEW YORK -- Frank White, Kansas City's second baseman at the time of the famous pine tar incident that captured baseball's attention on July 24, 1983, figures the whole affair would be handled differently in the game today.

"I think it was just it was one of those situations that was good for those times," White, now a Royals broadcaster, said Saturday on the 27th anniversary of George Brett's outburst. "I think if a player were to do that today, they'd be talking about a 30-day rehab some place."

White laughed after making that comment. There is much reason to smile recalling that incident at the old Yankee Stadium.

Brett hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Goose Gossage, like Brett a Hall of Famer, that gave the Royals a 5-4 lead. But Yankees manager Billy Martin had the homer nullified by home-plate umpire Tim McClelland because the pine tar on Brett's bat was illegally smeared high up on the barrel.

Brett, who is attending the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown this weekend, burst out of the third-base dugout and erupted in anger like a man possessed. He lost his argument that day, but American League president Lee MacPhail later upheld the Royals' appeal, the game was resumed on Aug. 18, and Kansas City won the game.

"When he went flying out there, it wasn't a surprise to me," White said. "I didn't really think it would be so dramatic. I didn't think it would be where he went off."

White said the steam had been building.

"I think the series before, in Kansas City, Billy Martin noticed that George had a lot of pine tar on the barrel of his bat," White said. "You don't normally wait until you do something that substantial before making a complaint. I think we were in Kansas City and then in Toronto before we came here. Then, when George hit the home run and Billy had the umpires out in the middle of the field and [Royals manager] Dick Howser was still in the dugout.

"I was sitting one player over from George, and I said, 'George, they are going to call you out.'" White said. "George said, 'What makes you think that? You've got to be nuts.' I said, "Well, we're in New York and Billy Martin's got all the umpires out in the middle of the field and our guy is still in the dugout.' He said, 'If they throw me out, I'm going to go nuts.'

And so Brett went nuts.

Fortunately, Brett was restrained before he reached McClelland. Had he not been, it could have been ugly.

"It was one of those incidents that you could get away with in the 1980s that you couldn't get away with in 2010," White said.