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Old 07-09-2013, 02:34 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, 06:50 PM   #31
displacedinMN displacedinMN is offline
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that is a great story and find. Thanks
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:57 PM   #32
clyde05 clyde05 is offline
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Really enjoyed that article, helps that the pine tar game seems like it was yesterday
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Old 07-10-2013, 12:47 AM   #33
Brainiac Brainiac is offline
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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).
No. That is incorrect.

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.
No. That is incorrect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeke View Post
That's exactly what I thought
You thought wrong. As previously stated by a couple of other posters, the intent of the rule was to keep pine tar from getting on the ball. It had NOTHING to do with any effect that pine tar would have on a batted ball. They didn't want dirty baseballs, and they didn't watch pitchers to gain an advantage by throwing a ball with pine tar on it.

That's why Lee MacPhail upheld the Royals' protest. It was a goofy rule that the Yankees decided to try to take advantage of earlier in the season. They were just waiting for their chance.

One thing I'll never forget is that ****ing idiot Don Fortune laughing about it on that evening's sportscast and saying "Billy Martin is the best manager in baseball". Don Fortune deserved the beatdowns that Fatlock gave him on his radio show several years later.

(Hey, what the hell happened to the Fatlock smiley??? )

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Originally Posted by Deberg_1990 View Post
Billy Butler will look good in pinstripes for 2015 season.
HELL NO. THAT IS ****ING INCORRECT.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:16 AM   #34
ptlyon ptlyon is offline
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Well, I stand corrected. Swore I had heard that on TV way back when tho.

Just goes to prove you can't believe everything you see on TV.

Thanks guys.

Is there a rule about not getting Thai sauce on the ball?
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Old 07-10-2013, 09:29 AM   #35
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I remember sitting on my couch in Columbia, MO watching when that game happened in 1983. I saw the whole thing go down live. Hard to believe it's been 30 years. Seems like just yesterday.
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Old 07-10-2013, 10:46 AM   #36
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This was in the NY papers yesterday:
http://www.newsday.com/sports/baseba...dent-1.5656913
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Old 07-10-2013, 05:55 PM   #37
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It was hot as **** here and I was on my way to play a game, listening to the game on 580 WIBW while rolling down I-70 near Bonner Springs.

Brett hits the HR, myself and one of my brothers' friends go crazy. Several minutes later we are dumbfounded, then pissed, then WTF? It was sorta the 5 stages of grief right there in the truck.

I'm surprised they didn't have the two best quotes from Rich Gossage:

"I felt bad for George..... But not too much" and "If he hadn't hit that ball, it would have hit him in the neck".

And it's true. That was rising fastball that was in. Just a tremendous swing.
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