Playing at New York's Yankee Stadium, the Royals were trailing 4-3 with two outs in the top of the ninth and U L Washington on first base. In the on deck circle, George Brett was heard remarking to a teammate, "Watch this baby fly" as he shook his bat. He then came to the plate and connected off Yankee reliever Rich "Goose" Gossage for a two-run home run and a 5-4 lead. As Brett crossed the plate, New York manager Billy Martin approached home plate umpire Tim McClelland and requested that Brett's bat be examined. Earlier in the season, Martin and other members (most notably, third baseman Graig Nettles, who as a member of the Minnesota Twins, recalled a similar incident involving Thurman Munson) of the Yankees had noticed the amount of pine tar used by Brett, but Martin had chosen not to say anything until the home run.
With Brett watching from the dugout, McClelland and the rest of the umpiring crew inspected the bat. Measuring the bat against the width of home plate (which is 17 inches), they determined that the amount of pine tar on the bat's handle exceeded that allowed by Rule 1.10(b) of the Major League Baseball rule book, which read that "a bat may not be covered by such a substance more than 18 inches (460 mm) from the tip of the handle."