Two outs, one on, top of the ninth, Yankee Stadium, July 24. Kansas City's George Brett hits a two-run homer off Goose Gossage to put the Royals ahead 5-4. Yankee Manager Billy Martin objects to excessive pine tar on Brett's bat. Umpires confer. Brett called out for using an "illegal, bat." Game over. New York wins 4-3.
WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED:
Pick it up after the home run. Martin charges out of the dugout. Confronts Home Plate Umpire Tim McClelland.
"That's not a home run," rages Billy.
"And just why not?" asks McClelland.
"He has too much pine tar on his bat," Martin says indignantly.
"Hey, guys," McClelland yells to the other umps. "Come on over here. You're going to love this."
"Listen to me," screams Martin. "Our guy, Thurman Munson, lost a hit and we got jobbed out of a run back in '75 because he had too much pine tar on his stick. Rule 1.10 specifically states pine tar can't be more than 18 inches from the handle, and 6.06(a) says a batter is out because of an illegally batted ball."
"Nice try, Billy, but you're wrong," says McClelland. "If the Yankees had appealed the Munson incident in '75, you would have won your case. Almost the same thing happened later that season when Kansas City's John Mayberry hit two home runs against California and K.C. won 8-7. California protested he had pine tar beyond 18 inches. American League President Lee MacPhail—you remember him, don't ya, Billy?—denied the protest, ruling, 'Pine tar is not to be considered in the same vein as a doctored or filled bat under rule 6.06(d).' Billy, pine tar is prohibited only because it might mess up the ball—and that's an advantage for the pitcher."
"Furthermore," interjects Crew Chief Joe Brinkman, who has been looking on in amusement, "American League Regulation 4.23 says, 'The use of pine tar in itself shall not be considered doctoring the bat. The 18 inch rule will not be cause for ejection or suspension.' Billy, it couldn't be clearer than that, could it?"
"But what about all that——pine tar?" Martin stammers.
"If you had screamed before, not after, Brett batted, or if we had noticed the tar ourselves, under 1.10 we'd have tossed the bat out," explains Brinkman. "You didn't and we didn't, so I guess we both made a boo-boo there. It's as simple as that. The homer stands, but nice talking to you."
Martin (chastened): "Gee, guys, I guess I should have known the rules as well as you do."
Chorus (triumphant): "Well, Billy, that's what we get paid for."
In actuality, the umpires' shocking ignorance of precedent, rules and interpretations forced MacPhail to overrule his four-man crew, which also included Nick Bremigan and Drew Coble. If necessary, the game will be completed at a later date with the Royals leading 5-4 and batting with two out in the top of the ninth.
In announcing his decision, MacPhail was unduly kind to the umpires when he said, "The umpires' interpretation, while technically defensible, is not in accord with the intent or spirit of the rules." In fact, their interpretation was completely wrong, but critics of MacPhail's decision, especially the umpiring crew and the Yankees, turned MacPhail's poorly chosen words against him.
"The rule book is the only thing we have to go by," said McClelland. "If somebody wants to make a farce of the rules, then we'll just have to be men and take it."
"The guy has made a joke of the rule book," said Martin.
MacPhail's assistant, Bob Fishel, sympathized with the umpires' plight of "lots of rules and overlapping rules," but made it clear to SI's Armen Keteyian that all umpires attend rules meetings, receive updated bulletins and "are expected to know the rules." MacPhail's decision was correct and courageous.
Thirteen days after he was fired by Philadelphia, Pat Corrales became Cleveland's fifth manager in seven years. One hundred games into a two-season contract, Mike Ferraro had replaced Corrales among the unemployed.
"This has been a very tough year for me," said Ferraro after he was canned last Sunday. "It started with the [cancer] operation. Then came the losing. Right now, I feel like I am in the gutter. I gave up a pretty good thing [as coach for the Yankees the last four years] to come to Cleveland, and I feel like I was shot in the back."
The men who pulled the trigger, President Gabe Paul and General Manager Phil Seghi, had been under heavy fire themselves for the team's disappointing showing. Sixth-place finishers in each of the last five seasons, the Indians had dropped to dead last in the American League East, 19 games out of first, when the change was made.
Paul and Seghi wanted a tougher manager than Ferraro, who admits he was mellowed by his preseason battle with cancer of the kidney. "We are low, and I'm not just talking about the standings," said First Baseman Mike Hargrove.
Ironically, the man who is supposed to provide new inspiration was out of work because the Philadelphia management didn't think he was getting the most from his talent, even though the team was in first place. Corrales will be surrounded by familiar faces in Cleveland, six of the Indians having played for him before in either Philadelphia or Texas.
"I view the Indians as a challenge," Corrales said. He had better, because, as Cleveland Pitcher Dan Spillner said of Ferraro, "He found himself in the driver's seat of a car going nowhere."
After taking an 0-for-3 collar recently against Baltimore's Mike Boddicker, California's Rod Carew described the rookie's pitches as "worse garbage than what I take out at night." Last week, after again going 0 for 3 against Boddicker, Carew tried to clear the air by saying, "I'm going to apologize to him because I don't want the kid to think I have any malice toward him. We all express frustrations at times, and it's nothing personal."
Boston's Carl Yastrzemski, who was batting .298, admitted he was reconsidering retiring at the end of the season. "I'll make up my mind in September," said Yaz. Bosox officials are not happy about that; they've planned a September farewell for Yaz at Fenway Park, and they feel his lack of speed and reduced power hurt more than his hitting helps.... San Diego First Baseman Steve Garvey's National League record for consecutive games played ended at 1,207 after he dislocated his left thumb while sliding into home plate.
As he had done several times in the past when his split-fingered fastball went awry, Cardinal Reliever Bruce Sutter sought advice from Mike Roarke, who used to be his pitching coach with the Cubs. Roarke went from his home in Rhode Island to St. Louis to observe Sutter, and in Sutter's next three games he picked up two saves and a win and looked like his old self. Sutter explained that Roarke had noticed he was throwing the pitch too hard. "The ideal speed is about 78 or 79 miles an hour," Sutter said. "I was throwing it over 80. When I throw it hard, it just won't break." ...After the Cardinals traded Keith Hernandez to the Mets, the first baseman said, "There's going to be a lot more pressure on George Hendrick without me batting ahead of him in the lineup. Now they won't have another experienced RBI man in the lineup to take some of the heat off George." Hernandez was right. Hendrick had 11 homers and 48 RBIs in 186 at bats when Hernandez was traded June 15. Since then, he's had one homer and 19 RBIs in 159 at bats.
Houston Centerfielder Omar Moreno demanded that he be played or traded after Manager Bob Lillis decided to bench him against certain lefty pitchers. (Moreno was hitting .186 against southpaws at the time.) During Moreno's first start after his blowup—against Philly righthander John Denny—he got late jumps on several balls hit his way. One fell for a single that helped cost Joe Niekro a 3-1 loss. "I'm hacked," said Niekro. "On that ball, your centerfielder has got to take charge. That ball had to be caught."
His bat returned, Brett didn't pine in vain.
St. Louis took the first game of a double-header in Montreal 3-2 when Jeff Reardon walked in the decisive run in the 10th. When Reardon's pregnant wife Phebe joined other Expos wives on the field between games for a charity event, the Montreal fans booed her, sending her away in tears. And during Reardon's two innings of relief work in the nightcap, won by the Cardinals 10-1, they booed every strike he threw and cheered each ball call and the two hits he gave up. Reardon, who was tied for the National League lead in saves with 15, was understandably shaken. "You don't do that to my wife," said Reardon. "I can't believe they did that."
A CHANGE OF HEART?
Angel Outfielder Ellis Valentine, who has one of the most powerful arms in the game, has been experimenting with pitching. "If I were 0 for 31, I think I'd want to be a pitcher, too," said Executive Vice-President Buzzie Bavasi of Valentine, whose slump lowered his average to .207. Pitching Coach Tom Morgan, though, felt that Valentine, whose fastball has been estimated at 90 mph, can be a big-leaguer on the mound. It's not all that new for Valentine, 29, who was a high school hurler. The Angels could use a strong-armed pitcher; since the All-Star Game, opponents have hit .317 against them.
BALL PARK FIGURES
In response to an SI poll, big league players named the following as the best burners:
1. Bryan Little, Expos
2. Alan Wiggins, Padres
3. Ozzie Smith, Cardinals
4. Tim Raines, Expos
1. Rod Carew, Angels
2. Jerry Remy, Red Sox
3. Tim Foli, Angels
4. Rob Wilfong, Angels
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TOM HERR: The Cardinals' second baseman drove in the winning run in four of the six games he played, with two sacrifice flies, a bases-loaded walk and a single. He batted .520, going 13 for 25.