Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
It Was Twenty-Five Years Ago Today
2008-07-24 10:32
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to


Jeez, twenty-five years ago?  Dag, I'm feeling old, man.


2008-07-24 10:38:23
1.   Shaun P
And my mom still HATES George Brett.
2008-07-24 10:48:21
2.   3rd gen yankee fan
0 That was awesome.
2008-07-24 10:50:28
3.   Zack
Youtube is an amazing thing. That video was great
2008-07-24 10:59:37
4.   Alex Belth
My brother was a member of the Baseball Bunch fan club. I think he sent away through a box of Cheerios. Saturday mornings on NBC, baby!
2008-07-24 11:17:11
5.   Start Spreading the News
That was an awesome video!
2008-07-24 11:20:29
6.   JL25and3
Well, I can't see the video at work, but I know what it looks like...

I've always thought that McPhail made a terrible, terrible ruling in that case - not because it went against the Yankees, but because he showed up his umpires in the worst way.

The rules were ambiguous and contradictory. Faced with that, the umps made an entirely reasonable interpretation - not the only one, but a reasonable one. The problem was entirely with the rules, and the umpires' decision was perfectly consistent with those inconsistent rules.

That being the case, McPhail's job was to back up his umpires. If he wanted the rules to say something else, then he needed to get them changed. But he shouldn't be ruling on the "spirit" of the rules when the umps had already ruled on the letter.

2008-07-24 11:41:26
7.   Raf
Even back then, cats were snapping on the Yanks...

Great video, I must say, it takes me way back :)

Brett was ejected from the game, but was he ever suspended for bumping an umpire?

2008-07-24 11:41:39
8.   Eric Stephen
Outstanding video! I always have fond memories of the Pine Tar Game for two reasons:

1) A protest of an MLB game was actually upheld; and

2) After the protest, Mattingly played 2B and Guidry played CF to conclude the 9th.

2008-07-24 11:46:59
9.   JL25and3
Brett's reaction makes a very stark contrast with the Musial story that Posnanski posted.
2008-07-24 12:16:26
10.   rbj
I remember that game like it was yesterday. It was yesterday, wasn't it?
2008-07-24 12:59:40
11.   Just fair
All hail YouTube. Man o man, did I love The Baseball Bunch. I think I saw the pine tar game on WPIX, but I was only 9, so who knows. In the video @3:16, what appears to be a Mastiff is walked behind home plate. I don't recall that happening in the real game. : ) And last but not least, Rick Dempsey was some kind of character. Never a dull moment with him around.
2008-07-24 13:18:01
12.   ToyCannon
Way to bring life to my lunch.
2008-07-24 13:37:35
13.   monkeypants
My brother and his the new bride were at the game!

6 How were the rules ambiguous and contradictory? I had always thought that the rules were clear, but the the league felt Billie violated the spirit, so they basically ignored the rules and awarded the HR. But that happened a long time ago. What were the contradictory/ambiguous rules?

2008-07-24 13:40:04
14.   weeping for brunnhilde

Pure genius.

I used to love the baseball bunch. Maybe you guys can all blame that show for my sneering contempt of the homerun and valorization of high contact.


2008-07-24 14:33:51
15.   JL25and3
13 One rule said a hit with an illegal bat becomes an out.

The other rule said that if there was too much pine tar on the bat it was illegal - but went on to say specifically that the bat should be removed from play.

So on the one hand it's an illegal bat, and the penalty for an illegal bat seems clear. But on the other, specifying a lesser penalty suggests that it was intended to be treated differently.

The second rule is written as if the first didn't exist. I don't think there's a definitively "right" answer, because they just wrote the rules badly.

2008-07-24 14:42:59
16.   monkeypants
15 Ah, OK.

It seems to me, though, that the original ruling manages to reconcile the two seemingly contradictory rules. If you have an illegal bat and you are caught, the bat is removed. if you are not caught and you get a hit, and are subsequently caught, you are out.

It's like getting a lighter sentence for attempted murder (getting caught for before using the bat) or murder (getting caught after getting a hit.

2008-07-24 15:26:30
17.   Matt B
I'll never forget watching that game in my basement while bouncing a tennis ball off the wall. It just got weirder and weirder. I called my Mom over from doing laundry to watch the replay of Brett losing his s*%t. I'd forgotten that Shane Rawley started the game, but I recall Dale Murray in relief...and then the Goose.
2008-07-24 15:39:39
18.   JL25and3
16 But wouldn't that be true with any other illegal bat as well?

Your argument is certainly one way to reconcile it, but it's not the only one. They didn't just add "too much pine tar" to the first rule; why make a whole new rule, in a whole different section of the rule book, if it's not meant to describe a different situation?

I happen to agree that the umpires' interpretation was the most reasonable one, but it's not the only one. But as long as they made a decision that was based on the rules as written, and that wasn't clearly wrong, McPhail should have backed them up.

2008-07-24 16:15:44
19.   Chyll Will
16 "It's like getting a lighter sentence for attempted murder (getting caught for before using the bat) or murder (getting caught after getting a hit. "

And boy, do we all know how annoying that is! >;)

2008-07-24 16:29:36
20.   monkeypants
18 I see what you're saying, and there is some ambiguity, but I'm not so sure that the second rule about pine tar (clearly added later) really negates or contradicts the first. Rather, it clarifies an additional circumstance of illegality.

It was obviously assumed that a bat that had ben corked or filled with rubber balls, etc. was illegal, and should have to be removed from play. But since doctoring the bat in such a fashion was a clear attempt to cheat, there was no real ned to articulate "must be removed from play." The only way such a bat would come to anyone's attention is if the player got caught.

Pine tar is a diferent situation, as you suggest, in that players using too much pine tar are probably not doing to with the intent of cheating. Moreover, there is the possibility, given that pine tar is applied on the outside, that an illegal "pine tar bat" could be discovered before being used in play: a vigilant umpire may notice it, for example. Also, the bat would be illegal, but with a different level of intent, allowing for a lower order of penalty.

That said, a hit with an illegal bat is still a hit with an illegal bat. Therefore, the proper penalty should apply (an out).

Or, turn the example around: if a player uses a corked bat, gets a hit, but then gets caught somehow, he is called out. But he is not allowed to use the bat the next time up. The illegal bat is confiscated, no?

2008-07-24 16:55:27
21.   JL25and3
20 But the first rule was specifically geared towards tampering that would give the batter an advantage. Since pine tar doesn't, there's a fair argument that it simply doesn't fall under the first rule at all. It could easily be argued that the use of the word "illegal" - clearly a careless use - shouldn't override the essential and obvious differences between the rules.

I basically agree with you, but I also believe that the umps would have been justified in considering the meaning of the rules - which isn't too hard to see - rather than being quite so concrete. That wouldn't have been a wrong decision, either.

2008-07-25 11:14:33
22.   bartap74
16 "Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel prize for attempted chemistry? Do they?"

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