Finally, Brett hit a two-run home run off Gossage to give the Royals a 5-4 lead in the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. The Royals knew of the plot and tried to whisk the bat into their locker room where it would be lost among hundreds of bats, but Yankee security got it just in time and brought it back to the field. Umpire Tim McClelland measured it against home plate as the plate is 17 inches wide and the rule said the tar could only be applied 18 inches from the tip of the handle.
When McClelland saw the bat had too much pine tar, he declared Brett out, the home run void and the game over. (The decision would later be overturned.) Brett charged the field and the umpire, a visual that has been replayed thousands of times over the years. “That’s the maddest I have even seen a human being in my life,” Gossage laughed.
“I hated George Brett,” he continued, adding that he had thrown the ball inside on Brett. “If he hadn’t hit a home run, it would have hit him in the neck. I don’t know how he did it. He was the greatest hitter I ever faced. I got to face Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, but those guys were older by the time I faced them. George was the greatest hitter I ever faced in my prime when he was in his prime.”
Known for being a fastball only pitcher and for using the inside pitch as well as any pitcher, Gossage – who made nine All-Star teams and finished his career with 310 saves, 124 wins and 1,502 strikeouts – also said he takes exception to the idea that he hit people on purpose. “I only drilled three guys intentionally, and I got them all. I hit every guy I aimed at,” he said. “I didn’t throw at guys. I threw at the inner half of the plate.”