Pine Tar and Its Use in MLB


Pine Tar is a brown, sticky material that results when pine wood is carbonized; this happens when you expose the wood to high temperatures in a closed container. Without oxygen, the wood quickly decomposes under high heat and pressure. This process produces charcoal and pine tar, which has many uses.

What does pine tar have to do with Major League Baseball (MLB), you may ask? Some players in MLB have used pine tar on their bats or fingers to increase their ability to manipulate plays. Since pine tar is sticky, baseball players often put some on the brim of their hats or the end of their bats, which helps them grip the bat or the ball better. If overused, this can create an unfair playing advantage.

It is illegal in MLB to put pine tar on the bat above the bat’s logo (technically not more than 18 inches from the knob of the bat), and it’s illegal for pitchers to put it on the brim of their hats or anywhere on their body. Some players illegally put pine tar on their necks so it looks like they’re just wiping the sweat off their necks. They do this to disguise their use of pine tar. Some pitchers also illegally put pine tar on the visor of their caps.

The photo above is a picture of George Brett’s “illegal” bat used in the infamous”Pine Tar Incident” on July 24, 1983. Brett played for the Kansas City Royals who were losing 4 – 3 to the New York Yankees in the top of the ninth at Yankee Stadium. With two outs and one man on, Brett hit a 2-run homer off Yankee’s reliever Rich Gossage, so it seemed that the Royals had won….Not so fast! Yankee’s Manager, Billy Martin, saw Brett’s bat and filed a complaint that it had too much pine tar on it. The bat was checked and found to be illegal, so Brett’s home run was not counted. Brett charged out of the dugout and was ejected from the game, as was Royal’s pitcher Gaylord Perry, who had tried to sneak Brett’s bat out of the park before it could be checked….Such a commotion — all because of pine tar! (You can check out the video of this crazy ninth inning on MLB’s site at the following link.)

In this reporter’s opinion, Major League Baseball (MLB) players should be able to put as much pine tar as they want on their bat handles only, but not on their hats or helmets or skin. I say this because it is too easy to sneak more pine tar in other areas. For example, what if the helmets or jerseys are brown? Pine tar is also brown and may not be visible, so it can easily be overused and go unnoticed. I think that at the beginning of each game, the umpires should check to see how many players may be using pine tar illegally. If an umpire finds that any player is illegally using pine tar, in my opinion, the player should get three chances, as follows: the first offense should be a warning; if there is a second offense, the player should get fined (amount to be determined by MLB); and, if there is a third offense, the player should get suspended (number of games to be determined by MLB). A suspended player does not get paid for the games they do not play.

What do you think? Should the use of pine tar be limited or banned altogether in MLB? And, if so, what do you think MLB should do to prevent players from illegally using pine tar to improve their performance? Let us know what you think by sending us your comments on this “sticky” subject!!