Owner George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees, still angry that American League President Lee MacPhail allowed George Brett's ninth-inning home run in Sunday's Kansas City-New York game, said yesterday he doesn't want to play the Royals again until the season is over, and then only if a game would determine first place in a division.
There are no regularly scheduled games remaining this year between the teams. Steinbrenner is opposed to playing the now-suspended game Aug. 18, an off-day for both clubs.
"I'd rather forfeit than play on an off-day," Steinbrenner told UPI. "Lee's made enough of a mess of this already. I'm not going to let him take away my team's off-day in the middle of a pennant race."
On Thursday, MacPhail overruled his umpires and allowed Brett's two-run, two-out home run, taking away what had been a 4-3 victory by the Yankees. The umpires had disallowed the home run and called Brett out after Yankee Manager Billy Martin said Brett was using an illegal bat because it had pine tar more than 18 inches from its base. Brett protested strongly and was ejected from the game, which was then over.
Although the umpires' decision may have been technically correct, MacPhail said, it violated the spirit of baseball law that games should be won or lost on the playing field.
In Chicago, Martin said angrily, "There are all kinds of technicalities you can win a game on, but not all are spiritual, like this one. I thought spiritual had something to do with pastors, and that sort."
If play is resumed in the game, the likely date would be Oct. 3, the day after the regular season ends. The Royals would be at bat leading, 5-4, with two out in the ninth. Brett's status as a participant in the contest was unclear.
Before leaving yesterday for baseball's Hall of Fame observances in Cooperstown, N.Y., MacPhail released Brett's bat. It was to be sent by air freight to Detroit in time for the Royals' series with the Tigers.
Earlier yesterday, MacPhail appeared on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" and denied he had circumvented any rules. "The rules say a club has a right to protest, and the league president must decide if the rule was properly interpreted," he said. "The hitters have not been called out for excessive pine tar. Pine tar is on the bat of every hitter."
"There's no provision that says the batter should be called out. It was very hard for me to overrule the umpires because I've always tried to support them. I don't blame the umpires. The rules are not clear and precise, and they should be rewritten."
But Steinbrenner, appearing on NBC-TV's "Today Show," called the ruling "a poor decision . . . We have a rule that says it's illegal and he (MacPhail) said the umpires were right in following the rule.
"Here is a veteran ballplayer who has been warned several time this year yet continues to flirt with the rule . . . This was a gutty call, but now we have something called the spirit of the law that changes the rules."
Steinbrenner said MacPhail at least should have decided that Brett must bat over with a legal bat.
Joe Brinkman, the umpire crew chief who made the call that disallowed Brett's home run, said on "CBS Morning News" that he was unhappy with the ruling.
"Mr. MacPhail is president of the league and he has the right to bend the rules, where I don't. I still think I was right," Brinkman said.