Amid anger over apparent head-hunting pitches, punches flew and eight were ejected. The benches cleared three times before it was all over.
"You don't see games like this very often, for good reason, because of injury concerns," said Detroit manager Brad Ausmus -- one of those tossed from the game. "I hope I never see one again."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi and New York relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle were ejected in the sixth inning after Kahnle threw a fastball behind Cabrera's head.
Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman had finished his warmup pitches when Cabrera approached home plate and traded words with Romine.
Romine flung off his face mask and Cabrera shoved him with both hands before throwing a series of punches as Romine wrestled him to the ground.
Players from both dugouts and bullpens poured onto the field in wild scenes as Romine was ejected for the first time in his career and Cabrera for the ninth.
Cabrera said he was trying to calm things down when he got into it with Romine.
"First of all, when they threw at me, it was OK. I was cool with that," Cabrera said. "They started to argue with the umpire and I said to Romine to calm down. He said, "I'm not talking to you" and I said 'Oh, wow.' ... When I got back to home plate, I tell him, 'You got any (expletive) problem with me?'
"He said, 'Why?' I said because I try to calm (things) down and you try to act tough. And he said something like, 'You want to fight?'"
- Tensions rising -
Tensions had risen earlier, after Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer hit Yankees designated hitter Gary Sanchez with a pitch in the previous inning.
Sanchez had homered earlier in the contest -- his fourth home run in the three-game series between the teams.
Girardi was certain Fulmer hit Sanchez intentionally. The Tigers said Fulmer, who recently came off the disabled list with elbow irritation, felt a 'zinger' when he released the ball.
"If you can't see that Fulmer clearly hit Sanchez on purpose, there's something wrong," Girardi said. "I think it could have really been avoidable."
And the sixth-inning melee that followed was far from the end of it.
Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances and bench coach Robby Thomson were ejected in the bottom of the seventh inning after Betances drilled Tigers catcher James McCann in the helmet with a 98 mph (157.72 Km/h) fastball -- which again caused the benches to empty.
Tigers reliever Alex Wilson was thrown out of the game after hitting Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier on the thigh with a pitch in the eighth -- again bringing players out of their dugouts and leading also to the ejection of Ausmus.
Girardi was unhappy with the officiating in general, and especially angry that Betances was ejected by crew chief Dana DeMuth after home plate umpire Carlos Torres didn't.
"To me, there's a lot of confusion and that's not to mention the strike zone late in the game. Just a very poor job on their part, very, very poor," Girardi said.