[Ed.'s Note: Today marks the 25th anniversary of the infamous George Brett pine tar incident. (Even the New York Times is talking about it!) This poetic yarn of unbridled laudation first appeared in the April 4, 1998 issue of The Mag.]
In this era of dehumanizing high-tech chicanery—Diamond Vision, the Fox Box, swimming pools in the outfield—we find comfort in knowing that come Opening Day, there will remain at least one reminder of a purer time. We speak, of course, of that sweet viscous nectar on the rag in the on-deck circle: pine tar.
Yes, pine tar. Long before its 1983 defamation by the high-swabbing George Brett—nay, even before the first handlebarred rogue applied it to the shaft of a Louisville Slugger—we won the West with this glorious goop. You know, railroads, water tanks, hoof-splitting. Even today, this cherished by-product of fractional distillation salves our livestock, preserves our lumber and gives cough syrup that little something extra. What's rubber reclamation without pine tar? Inefficient, that's what. Same goes for Tony Gwynn.
Alas, how many more years will we be able to count our blessings? With the demise of the coopering and wooden-ship industries, the pine tar business is not what it used to be. Apparently, 15th-century science isn't good enough for some people. When Maryland-based Warner Graham Co. discontinued its revered Oriole Pine Tar seven years ago, there were widespread reports of clubhouse hoarding. Sure, other companies have valiantly moved to fill the void, but as White Sox equipment manager Vince Fresso laments, "They're just not as good."
Still, we're thankful that as long as the bats are wood, sluggers will, with quiet manly industry, declare, "Make mine pine!"