George Brett is the only player in Major League Baseball history to win batting titles in three different decades (1976, 1980 and 1990).

George Brett is the only player in Major League Baseball history to win batting titles in three different decades (1976, 1980 and 1990).

The Hall of Fame Kansas City Royals third baseman was a 13-time all-star, member of the 3,000 hit club and a world champion, leading the only team he ever played for to a World Series title in 1985.

He won the 1980 batting title with a .390 average that was such a big deal at the time, The Today Show would often lead off its programing with what Brett did at the plate the night before. That seems like such a strange remark as we now live in a time of 24-hour, round-the-clock news and sports programing.

Brett is the first full-time Kansas City Royals player to be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, and he has enough credentials to fill an entire sports page, but the one incident that serves as his calling card was a sticky situation that happened 30 years ago today in Yankee Stadium.

With the Royals trailing 4-3 in the top half of the ninth inning, Brett hit what appeared to be a two-run, game-winning homer off fire-breathing Yankee closer Rich “Goose” Gossage.

When Brett touched home plate and returned to the visitor’s dugout, Yankee manager Billy Martin came to the plate and began talking to umpire Tim McClelland about the amount of pine tar on Brett’s bat.

Pine tar could not exceed more than 18 inches on the handle and the umpiring crew ruled that the amount of pine tar on the bat went past that limit.

Brett was called out and the Yankees were declared a 4-3 winner.

That’s when the fireworks started.

Brett came screaming out the dugout, looking for McClelland. Umpire Joe Brinkman got Brett in a headlock as his Royal teammates came out to join the protest.

“I had no clue I did that, I looked like that, when I ran out of the dugout,” said Brett, who held a pre-game news conference Tuesday afternoon to talk about the incident. “I wore my emotions on my sleeve – and the incident became a phenomenon.

“We had one-year and two-year, and 10-year and 20-year anniversaries and here we are 30 years later.”

After hitting the home run, Brett sat between Vida Blue and Frank White on the bench.

“We’re talking about what’s going on at home plate and Frank says, ‘You had a lot of pine tar on that bat. Remember when Big John (Mayberry) was called out for having too much pine tar on his bat?’ I told him, ‘If they call me out I’m going out and killing that SOB.’”

As the words left Brett’s mouth, McClelland turned to the dugout and signaled Brett out.

Brett looked like a man possessed as he roared out of the dugout.

“Tim is 6-6 and weighs 250 and I’m 6-foot and weigh 200, so what was I going to do?” Brett said, laughing as he recounted that moment. “Tim does a lot of speeches and he likes to say that he’s that big, had a mask, a chest protector and a bat in his hand. He was feeling pretty safe.”

Who knows, had the incident happened in Cleveland, it might have been forgotten. But it happened in New York against the best reliever of his era and that bat wound up in the Hall of Fame.

Royals front office officials John Schuerholz and Dean Taylor wrote letters to American League president Lee MacPhail protesting the call and he upheld the protest and stated that the game would be re-started from the moment following Brett’s home run.

The game was re-started Aug. 18 and the Royals – minus Brett – won the game 5-4.

“I’d been kicked out, and I didn’t want to get off the plane, fight the traffic, go to the game and just watch, so our airline rep, Larry Ameche, and I found a restaurant near Newark airport and watched from there,” Brett said.

“Until that home run, I was the hemorrhoids guy because I played in the 1980 World Series with hemorrhoids. After the home run, I became the pine tar guy. It’s what I’m known for, and believe me, I’ll never get tired talking about it.”

And I never get tired listening.

Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6333 or Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC