It all started with a two-run homer to right field, in the top of the ninth with two outs, to give the Kansas City Royals a 5-4 lead over the Yankees on July 24, 1983. But as future Hall of Famer George Brett settled back into the dugout after his victory lap, he received an unlikely challenge to his big hit. New York manager Billy Martin approached the umpire to ask for a bat examination, saying that Brett had likely exceeded the amount of pine tar legally allowable. Pine tar is used, even today, to help a batter improve his grip on the bat. Official MLB rules state that pine tar can’t reach more than 18 inches from the handle of the bat – and after a quick measure against the 17-inch wide home plate, the umpire determined that Brett was indeed in violation and called him out, reversing the score and ending the inning. As the home-team Yankees were then ahead, the game was immediately over — and recorded as a 4-3 loss for the Royals.
But Kansas City wouldn’t let the issue rest quietly. The team filed a complaint with the American League, whose president Lee MacPhail later overturned the ruling, explaining that the pine tar rule was only in effect to curb its ruinous effect on balls – and that in violation of the rule, only the bat should have been removed from the game, not the batter. MacPhail ordered the game restarted from the point of Brett’s homer. But this didn’t sit well with the Yankees, who fought the ruling with excuses and legal injunctions to avoid having to finish out the game.
Twenty-six days later, however, the Royals would have their due. The team stopped in New York en route to Baltimore to finish out the game on Aug. 18. Brett was ineligible to play the conclusion because he had been ejected from the game amid his frustration, ESPN reported. But his teammates faced the Yankees for the final four outs of the game in a rematch before about 1,200 fans that took less than ten minutes. And after all the blustering, the outcome was the same as it would have originally been: The Royals won 5-4.