Why Is Pine Tar Illegal in Baseball?

The carbonization of pine wood produces a sticky, gooey material known as pine tar. In the past, it was primarily utilized by seafarers as a sealant for the vessels before being employed in baseball. Baseball players, along with their bat covers, batting gloves, and other gear, are most likely to use it these days. Read on to know why is pine tar illegal in baseball.

Pine Tar Rule (Batters and Pitchers)

Depending on the circumstances, pine tar can be lawful or prohibited in baseball. With few exclusions, it is legal for batters to do so. Pitchers cannot do this in any way.

For not bigger than 18 inches, the bat handle may be coated or treated with any material or substance to increase the grip,” according to Rule 3.02.

The bat will be thrown out of the game if any such material or substance stretches above the 18-inch restriction.

If the umpire learns that the batter does not correspond to the rule above until a time during or after the bat has been utilized for playing, it shall not constitute grounds for ruling the batter out or ejecting from the game.

For example, under Rule 3.02, the umpire can order a hitter to switch to another bat when pine tar runs over the 18-inch threshold.

Only if the hitter removes the extra material may the bat be used later in the game. Rule 3.02 and Rule 1.10 violations do not invalidate any play or action on the field if no complaints are voiced before the bat is used, and protests of such a play are not allowed.

It is against the rules to intentionally harm the baseball by rubbing it with soil, paraffin, rosin, licorice, or any other foreign substance, for example, pine tar, as stated in Rule 3.01.

It is against the rules for the pitcher to put anything on his fingers, hands, or wrists as per Rule 8.02. However, even if the umpire determines that the attachment is a foreign material, the pitcher will not be allowed to throw with such an attachment on his finger, hand, or wrist.

The Pine Tar Mishap

During a game at Yankee Stadium, the visiting Royals were down 4-3 with 2 outs at the top of the ninth. With U.L. Washington on first, Dale Murray lost his position to Rich “Goose,” who came in to face George Brett.

The New York Yankees manager, Billy Martin, approached Tim McClelland, the rookie home plate umpire, demanding that Brett’s bat be checked.

Martin and other Yankees had seen Brett’s extensive use of pine tar before the game, but Martin decided to keep quiet until it was advantageous.

Greasy Nettles, third baseman for the Yankees, remembered an incident with Thurman Munson in 1975 when the Yankees faced the Minnesota Twins.

Nettles states in his autobiography Balls that he notified Martin about the pine tar regulation because he had previously been subjected to the same examination with his own bat when with the Twins.

McClelland and the umpiring crew, including Drew Coble, Nick Bremigan, and Joe Brinkman, evaluated the bat while Brett watched from the dugout.

According to Rule 1.10 of the Major League Baseball rule book, a bat may not be coated with such material more than 18 inches or 46 cm from the tip of the handle.

Using the 17-inch or 43-centimeter width of the home plate as a guide, they found that the pine tar exceeded the limit.

An illegally batted ball was defined under the rules, and any hitter who hit a batted ball unlawfully was called out under the requirements of Rule 6.06.

Consequently, the game ended after the umpires decided that Brett’s home run was rejected under this interpretation.

In the visitors’ dugout, McClelland looked for Brett, pointed at him with a baseball bat, and signaled that he was out, delivering the Yankees a 4–3 victory.

Dick Howser, three teammates, and crew chief Joe Brinkman had to physically hold Brett as he stormed out of the dugout and attacked McClelland. Despite Brett and Howser’s vehement objections, McClelland’s decision stood.

Does Pine Tar Have to Be Banned When It Comes to Baseball?

Is there an easy answer to this question? The MLB rulebook does not explicitly prohibit the use of pine tar. In contrast, Rule 8.02 prohibits pitchers from applying a foreign material to the ball.

Pine tar is therefore unlawful, even though it is not directly prohibited by law.

Why Is Pine Tar Illegal in Baseball?

Because pine tar can provide players an unfair edge, it is banned in baseball to use it. As a result, players can swing the bat faster and more powerfully thanks to the material.

A higher batting average and more home runs might result from this. Improved grip on a bowling ball is another common purpose.

Baseball players utilize it to make it more difficult for the other team to grab the ball. As a result, the batter will have a more difficult time hitting the ball, giving the pitcher an edge.

For this reason, pine tar is not permitted in baseball. Those who are found to be using pine tar will have their account terminated.

Additionally, pine tar has the potential to provide players with an unfair advantage.

Injuries may result if players are unable to maintain control of the bat. Major League Baseball rigorously controls the usage of pine tar because of these reasons.

Our Final Thoughts

We hope that now you know why is pine tar illegal in baseball. Players widely accept pine tar as an effective performance enhancer.

The legality of its usage has varied throughout time and is expected to alter again shortly. The batters are the ones authorized to utilize the sticky substance.

There have been discussions of the introduction by MLB of a versatile sticky material that would assist pitchers’ grip. There’s a narrow line between grip and overkill for performance-enhancing grips.

The league must walk a fine line between encouraging players to give it their all and ensuring that the playing field is equitable for all.

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