The Wrong Sort of Pitch: The 7 Most Infamous MLB Pine Tar Incidents

 -- source - J?CK VI?W , Flickr

Michael Pineda, pitcher for the New York Yankees, got tossed from a baseball game recently for the use of pine tar. Per the official rules of baseball, anything you put onto your hands could be reasonably classified as a foreign substance. Per the unwritten rules of baseball, no one really cares. Red Sox player Clay Buchholz described an earlier incident (which was suspensionless) to the Boston Globe:

“I had stuff all over my body. You can use rosin, water, and sunscreen stuff. Either you have a grip on the baseball and have a semi-idea of where it’s going, or get somebody hurt. As hard as [Pineda] was throwing early, nobody wants to get hit by that, especially around the head,” said Buchholz. “If you’re scuffing the ball that’s one thing — or creating more control. If it’s giving you an edge that’s one thing. But I’ve never seen any pitcher have an edge by using it. You use it to get the best grip possible.”

Maybe so. However, there have been a few times in MLB history when players have been thrown out of games for being caught with pine tar. Here are the seven most memorable.

Keith Allison / Flickr


7. and 6. The first and second Michael Pineda incidents

Though we’re lumping them together because they were so close they might as well be one, let’s break down what made the two different, and why Pineda was tossed the second time but not the first. The first time, which we previously covered, was a relative non-incident. David Ortiz went on record saying “everyone does it,” and that Pineda was pitching really well anyway. The consensus was, essentially, that the Sox were going to lose anyway, and that the tar, which you can see in this video, was discreet enough that no one said anything during the game.

The second time, Pineda was quickly ejected. That video is below. It was the bottom of the second, and Red Sox Manager John Farrell quickly came out to talk to the home plate umpire. The difference? Essentially it boils down to the blatant nature of the second offense — while the pine tar was on the base of Pineda’s hand the first time and was explained away as dirt, the second time it was hanging out on the side of his neck (there’s a great view at :46 seconds and 1:06), in full view of anyone who cared to see. So Pineda got tossed, very quickly, and that was that.

source -- jmd41280, Flickr

5. Brendan Donnelly sparks a war of words

It was June 2005 when Brendan Donnelly, then a relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, was approached by the umpire crew at the behest of Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson. They found pine tar on his glove, and Donnelly was tossed. Easy enough, right?

Of course not. After being informed that his guy was getting tossed, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia let Robinson know that he was planning on having every Washington pitcher checked in response. Per The Washington Post, that was when things got hectic: “Robinson responded by getting in Scioscia’s face, the glove in question was confiscated, the benches and bullpens cleared, and [Jose] Guillen — the Nationals right fielder and erstwhile Angel, who left Anaheim under controversial circumstances — appeared to snap.”

Unfortunately, the MLB seems to have cleared all visual evidence from the internet, but ESPN still has an article where Guillen responds to the incident, calling Scioscia “a piece of garbage.” It’s not the same as real footage, but it’s still a pretty feisty write-up. Donnelly was ultimately suspended for ten games, and Scioscia and Robinson each earned a one-game vacation.

source -- MissChatter, Flickr

4. Julian Tavarez sullies the good name of Cardinals fans everywhere

That’s right — even The Keepers of the Cardinal Way have had one of their own tossed for using a banned substance to help with putting that pill right where it needs to go. Ten years ago, Julian Tavarez was playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and got tossed (and suspended for ten games) for having pine tar on his hat. It was in the eighth inning, according to, and, from the man himself, it went down thusly:

“He asked me if it was pine tar and it was like ‘No, it’s just a dirty hat,’” Tavarez said. “Every pitch I throw I touch my hat, just like a lot of guys. I asked him if I could wear another hat and he said, ‘No, you’re out of the game.’”

While that video also seems to be banned, there is another fan shot video of Tavarez being tossed, so it’ll have to serve as a happy substitute for what was allegedly a fairly colorful abandonment of the field.


Photo Courtesy of Brendan-c, licensed through Flickr via Creative Commons

3. Jay Howell blows an NLCS game for the Dodgers

It was game three of the National League Championship Series, at the dearly departed Shae Stadium, when LA Dodger Jay Howell was confronted by umpires at the behest of the New York Mets manager. While the Dodgers would eventually win the series, they would crumble under the duress of Howell’s expulsion and drop Game 3, 8-4.

“I thought at the time they would throw the glove out of the game and let me continue,” Howell told the LA Times. “I didn’t think they’d throw me out. I’ve used it in cold-weather situations when the rosin bag doesn’t work. I know a lot of pitchers who use pine tar, because when the weather’s cold like it is today (43 degrees and raining), rosin makes the ball slick.” Sound familiar? Baseball truly is a game steeped in history.

2. Kenny Rodgers rubs dirt on the World Series

“It was a big clump of dirt,” Rogers told ESPN after the second game of the 2006 World Series. “I didn’t know it was there. They told me about, but it was no big deal.”

Click that link. Not only does the excuse sound just like every other pine tar excuse, but the pictures therein look like every other pine tar image we’ve seen so far. Because it was pine tar, and that lie is just a formality. Rodgers was ejected (but not suspended) at the bottom of the eighth. Who’s the real gambler now, other famous Kenny Rodgers? You can see Rodgers’s pitching performance from Game 2 below:

 source -- Keith Allison, Flickr

1. Joel Peralta is ejected before he throws a pitch

There’s no better way to summarize this other than “petty.” Here’s the run down: Joel Peralta, pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays against the Washington Nationals, was checked for pine tar almost as soon as he took the mound. The reason? Peralta had previously played for the Nationals, and the team figured he might be using pine tar when he checked in.

“To utilize information based on the fact that the guy played here?” Ray’s manager Joe Maddon said to the Associated Press at the time. “If you want to talk about — I don’t know if that’s a form of cheating or what — but that’s really kind of underhanded, I believe, to use that kind of information.” Mandon also told reporters that pine tar was a common occurrence in Major League Baseball, and that it was widely employed throughout the league. Because every time someone gets caught with pine tar, they tend to say the same things.

For his part, Washington manager Davey Johnson essentially confirmed the insider knowledge. “If somebody has been known to use a foreign substance on their glove or their hat, a nice hot night is the time to use it,” he told USA Today. “And so I asked them to check; obviously he had it.”