On July 24, 1983, George Brett hit a two-run homer to give the Royals the lead in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium – or so it appeared until New York manager Billy Martin asked the umpires to check the Kansas City star’s bat, it was found to have too much pine tar, the home run was overturned, and Brett was ejected.
Kansas City played the remainder of the game under protest, and after that protest was upheld – an extremely rare thing in baseball – the Royals returned to New York on August 18 to finish out their 5-4 victory, with Martin staging his own protest, which was denied when the umpires came prepared with a notarized letter affirming that Brett had touched all the bases on his homer.
The Pine Tar Incident played out fully in three weeks, but that was more than enough time to turn it into American business.
Emery Worldwide, which still exists in vestigial form under the umbrella of UPS, was a big player in the shipping game at the time, and acted quickly to become the company that shipped Brett’s bat from the American League office back to the future Hall of Famer after it was inspected. Not only that, Emery got Brett to do a commercial in which he thanked a deliveryman for the safe return of his lumber.
This is relevant today because of the revelation by The New York Times this week that the Red Sox were busted using an Apple Watch to steal signs against the Yankees last month. While stealing signs is legal and very much part of the game, using technological aids is verboten, and Boston got caught on camera doing it.
The Red Sox have the day off Monday, in the middle of a nine-game homestand, and if Chris Young, the outfielder who reportedly was the beneficiary of the cheating operation, or somebody else from the Red Sox isn’t at the Apple Store signing autographs that day, it will be a failure of American capitalism. Apple should give each player on the team a watch, then do a commercial lampooning the whole affair. There are lots of ways to capitalize on this, particularly locally, as Boston fans are plenty accustomed to railing against cheating accusations leveled against their teams.
Speaking of which, where is Bill Belichick’s commercial for video cameras? How does Tom Brady not have a personally-endorsed line of air pressure gauges or phone-smashing hammers? Belichick is a noted curmudgeon, but Brady? The guy has his own book out now to separate idiots from their money in pursuit of “peak performance.” The sports cheating segment of the advertising industry should have grown by leaps and bounds in the past 34 years, but instead we see it cratering, even at a time when shameless fraud in the real world is at an all-time high.
At least we still have Rob Gronkowski. His Dunkin Donuts commercials aren’t as good (meaning make-you-think-you’re-on-drugs bonkers) now with Odell Beckham Jr. as they were with David Ortiz, but currently in existence is the Gronkball wireless speaker. The list price is $79.95, but that only allows it to feel like a deal when you get it for the real price of $69.95. And if you don’t think that’s the real price, then you don’t know a thing about Rob Gronkowski, the biggest 14-year-old boy in the United States of America.
Gronkowski has no shame whatsoever. That’s how you make money. For their own enrichment and our entertainment, here’s hoping the Red Sox and Apple figure that out quickly.