Sticky fingers: The pine tar incident, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals and Gaylord Perry

Sometimes life has a funny way of placing the right people in certain situations. Baseball can do the same thing.

The 40-year anniversary of the Pine Tar Incident was recently celebrated. For those of you who may not know, it involved the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals, a bat with a good amount of pine tar, Billy Martin, and a very irate George Brett. I’ll just let this video speak for itself. It was a crazy game and an even crazier incident.

Remembering the Pine Tar Incident and Gaylord Perry

Now, let look a little deeper in the game within the incident. With all this chaos going on around, there is a man who is sitting in the Royals dugout with a little something different on his mind. He is a man who happens to know a thing or two about bending the rules. A man who made a career fooling hitters and umpires alike if he was or wasn’t doing something illegal. That man was Gaylord Perry.

Of all people to be there, Perry ran onto the field, stole the bat from home plate Umpire Tim McClelland, and ran into the Royals clubhouse. Another account said he tried to give it to a clubhouse employee to hide it. That ranks a close second to the total freak out Brett did on the very best part of that whole incident. As a result, when they resumed play some three weeks later, Perry was ejected for stealing the bat.

Other oddities that happened once the game was resumed was Don Mattingly being the first left-hander to play second base since George Crow in 1958 (minus Sam McDowell, a pitcher playing there to avoid certain hitters) and pitcher Ron Guidry playing center field. All the nonsense came to an end with a 1-2-3 ninth by Dan Quisenberry.

It would be just so fitting for Perry to be at that game in my mind. Perry, who was once ejected by putting a foreign substance on the ball, has always been accused of it, but never caught until 1982. I wrote a previous article about him hitting a home run and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. He always seemed to be at the right place at the right time.

Baseball needs characters like Gaylord Perry. He and all the others before and after him make this game such fun to watch.