KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — George Brett remembers sitting next to Frank White and Vida Blue in the dugout at Yankee Stadium, his ninth-inning home run having just given the Kansas City Royals the lead.
Yankees manager Billy Martin ambled onto the field from the dugout across the way, and was engaged in a lengthy conversion with umpire Tim McClelland — both of them looking closely at the bat Brett had just used to go deep off reliever Goose Gossage.
"So we're just sitting there watching," Brett recalled Tuesday, "and Frank says, 'Man, you have a lot of pine tar on there. I remember John Mayberry got called out on one of those when I first came up to the big leagues.' And I said, 'If they call me out for using too much pine tar — I've never heard of that rule — I'll run out there and kill one of those SOBs.'
"As soon as I said that," Brett added with a broad smile, "Tim McClelland turned around and starting looking for me in the dugout."
The rest of the story is part of baseball lore.
Brett raced from of the dugout, his arms flailing wildly, and jabbed his finger right in McClelland's face. Fellow umpire Joe Brinkman tried to hold Brett back, eventually putting him in a headlock and spinning him around in a sequence that's been replayed millions of times.
It happened 30 years ago Wednesday.
"It was a positive thing, you know? It wasn't a groundball that went through my legs or a strikeout. It was something that I did good," said Brett, who played his entire Hall of Fame career with the Royals and is now serving as their interim hitting coach.
"I hit a home run off one of the toughest relief pitchers in baseball, a Hall of Fame guy, and if I did not use an illegal bat — which I didn't, it was proven I didn't — but suspected of using an illegal bat, we wouldn't be doing this," Brett said. "It would have been a July 24 game 30 years ago that nobody remembered."