SI Vault
INSIDE PITCH (Through July 31)
Herm Weiskopf
August 08, 1983
WHAT HAPPENED:Two outs, one on, top of the ninth, Yankee Stadium, July 24. Kansas City's George Brett hits a two-run homer off Goose Gossage to put the Royals ahead 5-4. Yankee Manager Billy Martin objects to excessive pine tar on Brett's bat. Umpires confer. Brett called out for using an "illegal, bat." Game over. New York wins 4-3.
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August 08, 1983

Inside Pitch (through July 31)

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"But what about all that——pine tar?" Martin stammers.

"If you had screamed before, not after, Brett batted, or if we had noticed the tar ourselves, under 1.10 we'd have tossed the bat out," explains Brinkman. "You didn't and we didn't, so I guess we both made a boo-boo there. It's as simple as that. The homer stands, but nice talking to you."

Martin (chastened): "Gee, guys, I guess I should have known the rules as well as you do."

Chorus (triumphant): "Well, Billy, that's what we get paid for."


In actuality, the umpires' shocking ignorance of precedent, rules and interpretations forced MacPhail to overrule his four-man crew, which also included Nick Bremigan and Drew Coble. If necessary, the game will be completed at a later date with the Royals leading 5-4 and batting with two out in the top of the ninth.

In announcing his decision, MacPhail was unduly kind to the umpires when he said, "The umpires' interpretation, while technically defensible, is not in accord with the intent or spirit of the rules." In fact, their interpretation was completely wrong, but critics of MacPhail's decision, especially the umpiring crew and the Yankees, turned MacPhail's poorly chosen words against him.

"The rule book is the only thing we have to go by," said McClelland. "If somebody wants to make a farce of the rules, then we'll just have to be men and take it."

"The guy has made a joke of the rule book," said Martin.

MacPhail's assistant, Bob Fishel, sympathized with the umpires' plight of "lots of rules and overlapping rules," but made it clear to SI's Armen Keteyian that all umpires attend rules meetings, receive updated bulletins and "are expected to know the rules." MacPhail's decision was correct and courageous.

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