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Old 07-09-2013, 03:34 PM  
siberian khatru siberian khatru is offline
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"If they call me out, you're going to see four dead umpires.'"

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...trending_now_3

Pine Tar: The Untold Story

The bat boy tells his version of the pine-tar tale involving George Brett and the Yankees.

By DANIEL BARBARISI

On Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, George Brett will hold a news conference to talk about the most famous moment in his Hall-of-Fame career: the Pine-Tar Game.

Yet absent from that news conference will be a 47-year-old New York cop named Merritt Riley, who feels personally responsible for the pine-tar debacle.

"I really believe the Pine-Tar Game would never have happened if I hadn't done what I did," said Riley.

Speaking publicly for the first time ever about his role in the Pine-Tar Game—which took place 30 years ago this month—Riley said, "I remember it happening like it was yesterday."

On that day—July 24, 1983—Riley was a 17-year-old Yankee Stadium bat boy assigned to serve the visiting Kansas City Royals. His job: When a Royal hit the ball, grab the bat immediately, run it back to the Kansas City dugout and toss it in a rack among the other bats.

But in the top of the ninth, with the Royals trailing 4-3 and down to their last out, George Brett came to bat.

And Brett was just so cool. Bold, brash and charismatic—a perennial All-Star—Brett was also personable. He liked Riley. Treated him like a little buddy. Called him "Spaulding," due to Riley's resemblance to the judge's obnoxious grandson in the movie "Caddyshack."


"George Brett was a very outgoing, easygoing, friendly guy," Riley recalled. "Whenever he would come to the stadium, he'd always bust my chops a little. He called me Spaulding. I thought that was so cool."

So as Brett strolled to the plate that day to face Yankee closer Goose Gossage, Riley—a die-hard New York fan—was secretly hoping his pal would come through.

And that is when he abandoned his duties, facilitating the sequence of events that became known as the Pine-Tar Game.

Brett hit a two-run homer that gave the Royals a ninth-inning lead.

"I'll never forget that ball leaving his bat," Riley said.

"The Yankees had a rule—you had to go to home plate, get the bat, and run back to the dugout," Riley said. "You couldn't stand there and wait for the player to round the bases, to high-five him."

But this was Brett. So instead of grabbing the bat and depositing it in the bat rack as he was supposed to, Riley waited with the bat in hand as Brett rounded the bases.

As it turned out, Riley played right into a Yankee plan.

The Yankees had been keeping an eye on Brett's bats for weeks, according to Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles' autobiography, "Balls." Nettles and Yankee manager Billy Martin believed the pine tar on Brett's bats extended well past the permitted 18-inch mark, and they were waiting for a big moment to pull the rug out from under the superstar.

To do so, they needed access to the bat, and chain-of-custody evidence that it hadn't been mixed in with other bats. Unwittingly, Riley cooperated.

"I was a die-hard Yankee fan, but something kept me there, with the bat in my hand. And I waited there for him as he rounded the bases, sure enough, I gave him a high-five, and then started to go back to the dugout. And that is when Billy Martin started yelling from the Yankee dugout to [Yankee catcher] Rick Cerone, telling him to 'check the bat, check the bat.'

"If I would have just picked it up, and run back, they wouldn't have been able to get to it in time," Riley said.

Cerone ripped the bat from Riley's hands, and began to check it for cork, assuming that was the issue. Finding nothing, he handed it back to Riley.

"I forgot what I was supposed to check the bat for," Cerone said at the time.

But then Martin arrived on the scene to declare that pine tar was the issue. Umpire Tim McClelland took the bat from Riley, who slunk back to the Royals dugout.

There, he incurred the fury of Dick Howser, the now-deceased Royals manager.

"Why did you give them the bat? What the heck were you thinking?" Howser screamed, according to Riley.

But that isn't what sticks out most to Riley. It is the sight of Brett, pacing back and forth in the dugout, vowing vengeance if the umpires ruled him out, which would end the game and hand the victory to the Yankees.

"George Brett was pacing up and down. And he said out loud, 'If they call me out, you're going to see four dead umpires,'" Riley recalled Brett saying. That echoes what Brett, in subsequent interviews, remembered saying in the dugout.

What followed is one of the most famous baseball scenes ever caught on tape. The umpires finished their conference, and McClelland pointed at the dugout, to Brett, and called him out. Brett leapt from the dugout in a fury, colliding with various umpires and issuing spittle and invective in equal parts.

As Riley sat in the dugout, miserable, Royals pitcher Gaylord Perry grabbed the bat itself and made off for the Royals clubhouse, tailed by Yankee Stadium security. Riley sat with his head in his hands as players from both teams made their way back into their respective clubhouses to sort out what the heck had just happened.

"I was 17, and I'm sitting on the bench, and thinking my life is over. At that point in life, things like that seem so big," Riley said.

Current Yankee clubhouse manager, Lou Cucuzza, Jr., back then was a bat boy alongside Riley, working under his father, then-clubhouse manager Lou Sr. He recalled that Royals catcher John Wathan was furious at Riley, insisting that he be fired immediately.

"You gotta fire that kid," Cucuzza Jr. said Wathan told Cucuzza Sr. The elder Cucuzza advised Riley to hide in the Yankee clubhouse to avoid the Royals' fury.

Riley waited in the Yankee clubhouse for about 45 minutes, hoping the Royals would clear out of their side so he could take care of his postgame duties. In the Yankee clubhouse, pitching coach Jeff Torborg told Riley not to feel bad. "The Yankees pay your salary, not the Royals," Torborg told him.

Finally, Riley ventured over to the Kansas City side—only to find Brett still in the clubhouse, answering questions from reporters. Riley froze.

"I tried to slink away, but as luck would have it, he saw me," Riley said. "We made eye contact. It broke my heart at the time—I'll never forget it. He looked at me and said, "Why the [expletive] didn't you pick up the bat?"

"I wanted to dig a hole again," Riley said. "And then he started laughing. He said, 'Spaulding, I'm only kidding you. But you do owe me.'"

The league eventually ruled that Brett should not have been called out due to the pine tar, and the game was resumed a month later in Yankee Stadium. Riley worked that game, too, as the Yankees lost, 5-4, with Brett's two-run homer standing. The next season, Riley saw Brett again at the Stadium, and asked him to autograph another bat covered with pine tar—a bat Brett had broken on July 23, the day before the infamous game. This was actually the bat Nettles and others were originally targeting, and Riley has kept it as a souvenir ever since.

But he has also always blamed himself, believing his hero worship was responsible for the entire incident.

Thirty years later, Brett says no bat boy was to blame—that the Yankees would have gotten the bat one way or another.

"They were going to do it anyway from what I was told," Brett said Monday in an interview.

"They were waiting in the wings. They were coming out, I know that. They would have gotten it no matter what."

Brett doesn't hold hard feelings for anyone who was part of the Pine-Tar Game—it has helped overshadow Brett's missing a game in the 1980 World Series with hemorrhoids, and gotten him lucrative endorsement deals. So instead of Riley owing Brett one, Brett says it actually turned out the other way around: he owes Riley.

"It turned out to be a pretty good deal for me," Brett said. "Instead of being remembered as the guy who had hemorrhoids, I'm the pine-tar guy. I ended up doing a commercial for Emory Air Freight that paid me six figures. So it turned out pretty well for me. Tell (Riley) I owe him 10%."
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:42 PM   #2
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:43 PM   #3
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Thanks for sharing the story.
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:44 PM   #4
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Today's Royals would just shrug their shoulders and wait for Joel Goldberg to finish interviewing the winning team so they could hit him in the face with a shaving cream pie in the clubhouse, laughing it off.
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:47 PM   #5
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What's the deal with pine tar anyway? I've never understood why it's a problem or why you'd want it anyway.
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:47 PM   #6
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BTW, the ENTIRE Pine-Tar game is on YouTube:

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Old 07-09-2013, 03:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
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What's the deal with pine tar anyway? I've never understood why it's a problem or why you'd want it anyway.
Extra grip on the bat.
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:48 PM   #8
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Great read
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:50 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by WhawhaWhat View Post
Extra grip on the bat.
That seems like a personal issue between the batter and the bat. The game of baseball should want batters to have a good grip on the bat, so why would they limit it? Is it good marketing to see the occasional fan take a bat to the teeth?
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:51 PM   #10
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Extra grip on the bat.
if placed properly, it's grip for the BALL as well when meeting the bat. Which is why it is supposed to be limited where it's used (just on the handle for the hands).
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:52 PM   #11
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That seems like a personal issue between the batter and the bat. The game of baseball should want batters to have a good grip on the bat, so why would they limit it? Is it good marketing to see the occasional fan take a bat to the teeth?
On the handle is fine, but if you approach the barrel if the ball contacts it, it can have affect on the ball. Giving you an advantage.
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:57 PM   #12
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:58 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeke View Post
if placed properly, it's grip for the BALL as well when meeting the bat. Which is why it is supposed to be limited where it's used (just on the handle for the hands).
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptlyon View Post
On the handle is fine, but if you approach the barrel if the ball contacts it, it can have affect on the ball. Giving you an advantage.
Ohhhhhhhhhh. (Nodding in understanding.)
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:59 PM
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Old 07-09-2013, 04:00 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptlyon View Post
On the handle is fine, but if you approach the barrel if the ball contacts it, it can have affect on the ball. Giving you an advantage.
It doesn't affect the ball being hit. In fact, that conclusion was why MacPhail overruled the umpires. The rule was put in in the old days to prevent balls from being discolored and having to be thrown out.

Now, you could argue that if you keep the pine tar-smeared ball in play, a pitcher could gain an advantage by throwing it.
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Old 07-09-2013, 04:05 PM   #15
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“When the rule was originally made, it was actually for the protection of the hitter, because if the pine tar would get on the ball, then the pitcher could grip the ball better and snap off curves and stuff like that,” McClelland said. “So, really, it’s kind of funny how the rule was made for the protection of the hitter, but the penalty was on the hitter.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/sp...i=5087%0A&_r=0
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