The New York Times bestseller—“a rollicking account” (The Kansas City Star) of the infamous baseball game between the Yankees and Royals in which a game-winning home run was overturned and set off one of sports history’s most absurd and entertaining controversies.
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 game was a watershed moment, marking a change in the sport, where 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 strikes, and rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs.
In The Pine Tar Game acclaimed sports writer Filip Bondy paints a portrait of the Yankees and Royals of that era, replete with bad actors, phenomenal athletes, and plenty 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 and their take on the subsequent postseason rivalry. “A sticky moment milked for all its nutty, head-shaking glory” (Sports Illustrated), The Pine Tar Game examines a more innocent time in professional sports, and the shifting tide that resulted in today’s modern iteration of baseball.
Some watchers of the Royals’ 2015 World Series win over New York’s “other baseball team,” the Mets, may see it as sweet revenge for a bygone era of talent flow and umpire calls favoring New York.
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.
Kansas City is small town??? Puh-leez!!!
Amazing look behind the scenes
I grew up in KC and attending many of the classic battles between the Royals and Yankees in the late 70’s-early 80’s. The author does a fabulous job of providing first hand unfiltered details from all the key players and executives, I felt like I was there again yet seeing it from a whole new vantage point. Extremely well written and accurate.