On July 24, 1983, during the finale of a heated four-game series between the dynastic New York Yankees and small-town Kansas City Royals, umpires nullified a go-ahead home run based on an obscure rule, when Yankees manager Billy Martin pointed out an illegal amount of pine tar--the sticky substance used for a better grip--on Royals third baseman George Brett's bat. Read more...
On July 24, 1983, during the finale of a heated four-game series between the dynastic New York Yankees and small-town Kansas City Royals, umpires nullified a go-ahead home run based on an obscure rule, when Yankees manager Billy Martin pointed out an illegal amount of pine tar--the sticky substance used for a better grip--on Royals third baseman George Brett's bat. Brett wildly charged out of the dugout and chaos ensued. The call temporarily cost the Royals the game, but the decision was eventually overturned, resulting in a resumption of the game several weeks later that created its own hysteria.
The Pine Tar Game chronicles this watershed moment, marking a pivot in the sport, when benign cheating tactics, like spitballs, Superball bats, and a couple extra inches of tar on an ash bat, gave way to era of soaring salaries, labor struggles, and rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs. Filip Bondy paints a portrait of the Yankees and Royals of that era, featuring two diametrically opposed owners, in George Steinbrenner and Ewing Kauffman; a host of bad actors and phenomenal athletes; and lots of yelling. Players and club officials like Brett, Goose Gossage, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Sparky Lyle, David Cone, and John Schuerholz offer fresh commentary on the events along with their take on a rivalry that culminated in one of the most iconic baseball tantrums of all time. Rush Limbaugh, employed by the Royals at the time as a promotions director, offers his own insider's perspective. Through this one fateful game, the ensuing protest, and ultimate fallout, The Pine Tar Game examines a more innocent time in professional sports, as well as the shifting tide that gave us today's modern iteration of baseball.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-05-11
- Reviewer: Staff
During professional baseball’s rough-and-tumble era, Bondy, a veteran sports columnist for the New York Daily News, relives the 1983 Pine Tar game between the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees, with all of the wacky subplots included. Bondy describes the maddening tempo of the dog days of that summer, when bad blood erupted between erratic Yankees manager Billy Martin and club owner George Steinbrenner, and the overall league view of the team was that of “robber barons” buying pennants and plundering talent. He does his homework on Royals owner Ewing Kauffman and his loyalty to the small Midwest city, his anti-union stance and thrifty budget, and his disdain for “King George” Steinbrenner and his Bronx Bombers. There’s a surprising cameo by conservative radio maven Rush Limbaugh, who worked for the Royals as promotions director, and is quoted as saying that the Yankees were “the Darth Vaders from the Northeast.” Bondy packs everything into the contentious finale of the four-game series, which caused a brawl and was replayed due to a rule about excessive pine tar on a Royals player’s bat. With this memorable game, Bondy shows how far America’s pastime has come, with new rules, big paydays, and the specter of steroid use. (July)