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George Brett

George Brett

George Brett on sports Illustrated cover

Position(s):
3B, SS, DH, 1B, LF, OF, RF
Nicknames:
Mullet
Born:
May 15, 1953
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Right
Height:
6'
Weight:
185 lbs
Major League Debut:
8-02-1973 with KCA
Allstar Selections:
1980 HA, 1980 ML, 1980 MVP, 1980 SS, 1985 ALCS, 1985 GG, 1985 SS, 1986 LG, 1988 SS
Hall of Fame:
1999

Intro

Line-drive hitting George Brett was "The Franchise" for the Kansas City Royals during most of their first twenty-five years of existence. A line-drive hitting menace, he seriously challenged the coveted .400 batting mark in 1980, and collected more than 3,000 hits in his career. He was one of the greatest post-season performers in baseball history and the first Royal inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Unform Number

#25 (1973-1974), #5 (1975-1993). His #5 has been retired by the Royals.

 

Best Season

Brett won the AL MVP and the Sporting News Player of the Year Award for his 1980 season. His assault on a treasured baseball standard (the .400 mark) also vaulted him into the status as the game's best and most feared hitter and a future Hall of Famer. He also became one of the few batters to ever drive in more runs (118) than games played (117). Brett led the league in batting, slugging, OBP, OPS and Total Average in 1980, the last player to do so in the AL.

Facts:

After George Brett lined a single for his 3,000th career hit, he was picked off first base by Angels' pitcher Tim Fortugno.

Transition

Selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 2nd round of the free-agent draft, June 8, 1971.

Strengths

Clutch performance.

Weaknesses

Injuries in the middle of his career.

Milestones

Brett collected his 3,000th hit on September 30, 1992, in Anaheim off Tim Fortugno. He became the first player to get four hits in the game in which he reached 3,000. George's brother, Ken, was in the Angels' broadcast booth working the game. In 1971, as a high school senior, Brett played in the city championship game for El Segundo High on the same field.

Feats

Won three batting titles, each in a different decade: 1976, 1980 and 1990... Collected three or more hits in six consecutive games (May 8-13) 1976, setting a major league record... Collected 20 doubles, triples and homers in 1979, becoming the sixth player to do so... Hit three homers on July 22, 1979, and April 20, 1983... Hit three homers in ALCS game, on October 6, 1978, vs. the Yankees... Hit for the cycle twice: on May 28, 1979 and July 25, 1990... Only player besides Ty Cobb to lead his league in hits and triples three times... Hit grand slams in 1980, 1984.

The Royals/Yankees Rivalry

George Brett had no love for the New York Yankees. "The Royals and the Yankees hated each other. To this day, whenever I see Lou Piniella or one of those Yankees, we talk about how I hated those guys. It was the way baseball was meant to be played. They were hard-fought games, very, very physical. I can remember Hal McRae knocking Willie Randolph into left field, breaking up a double play, and just laying on him and waving Willie Wilson in from third base." Or there was the time that Piniella slid into Brett at third. "I didn't even have the ball, and he tried to spike me," Brett said. Whenever and wherever they played, the gritty rivalry endured. In the 1978 AL Playoffs, Brett hit a triple and crashed into Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles. "I came up and gave him an elbow, and he stepped back and kicked me in the face," Brett said. "We came to blows right there, but that was the kind of rivalry we had. Unfortunately, we didn't win many of the games." Three straight playoff losses to the Yankees, 1976-1978, were especially frustrating. "In 1980, finally winning, for us it was like winning the World Series," Brett said. It was Yankee Thurman Munson, though, who was a hero to Brett in that '78 fight with Nettles in KC. "Craig and I are throwing haymakers at each other, and the next thing I know I'm on the bottom," Brett recalled. "And Thurman is lying on top of me with his catching gear on and saying, `Don't worry, George. I won't let anybody hit you when you're down.' And they didn't."

The 1985 American League West Race

To put it simply: the Royals and George Brett had been stung by the post-season too often. On three successive occasions they had fallen in the playoffs to the hated New York Yankees, twice in series-deciding fifth game. In 1980 they ruled the AL behind Brett's hot bat but were vanquished by the Phillies in the World Series four games to two. Then in 1984 they were swept in the playoffs by a powerful Detroit team. By 1985 some Royal fans may have thought that a world title was never to be. The season that unfolded proved that assumption false however, and Brett had as much to do with it as anyone. The Royals were the defending Western Division champs heading into '85. Yet few gave them much chance against the Angels, Twins, and White Sox. Brett started hitting in May and put together a great spring and summer, peaking at .359 on July 21st. The Royals chased the Angels all summer behind Brett, veterans Frank White, Hal McRae, Willie Wilson and Dan Quisenberry, and young pitching ace Bret Saberhagen. The Angels enjoyed the lead for nearly the entire season, and seemed poised to lock it up before slumping in late August and September. The final two weeks of September saw the two division rivals tied 7 times for the lead. The Royals were never able to gain the lead themselves however.

On September 30th the Royals hosted the Angels in the first of four games in Kansas City. The Angels came in leading by a game, led by veterans Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Bobby Grich, and Bob Boone, with Don Sutton, Mike Witt, and Donnie Moore pacing the pitching staff. The game of the 30th pitted Saberhagen against lefty John Candelaria. The young Royal had command the whole way and tamed the Angels 3-1 on five hits, striking out 10. Brett tied the game in fourth with a solo homer, his 26th - a career high to that point. Later, in the sixth he had a ball caught at the wall but it didn't matter. Kansas City had tied the race. "If we'd lost," Brett said, "we would be two down with six to play. Tonight was probably the most important game of the year. Tomorrow's game will be the most important too, and so will Wednesday's" The next night the Angels lashed back and grabbed the lead with a 4-2 win. Witt took a shutout into the eighth before KC tallied two runs to slice the lead in half, 4-2. Brett singled and drove Wilson home in that inning, but Moore slammed the door shut and preserved the win in the ninth. Unfortunately for Brett, his throwing error led to an Angel score in the game, but he would atone for it later in the series. The next night the Royals opened up early on the Angels. Lonnie Smith blooped a single, Wilson reached on a pitch that Angel starter Ron Romanick threw up and in - nicking the speedster. Brett followed with a sinking liner off the end of his bat that drifted near the foul line in right. Outfielder Juan Beniquez tried to make a diving catch rather than cut off the ball, but it bounced under his glove and rolled to the wall. Gary Pettis arrived from center to field the ball, but his relay to the plate was late as Brett slid safely under the tag of Boone. For Brett, it was a sprint around the bases for an inside-the-park home run. For the Royals it was a first-inning 3-run lead. Bud Black shut down the visiting Angels on three singles, and the Royals won 4-0. The race was again deadlocked. The final game of the four-game series saw the Royals use the long ball to tame the Angels and grab the division lead. Again, Brett was in the middle of things. After drawing a two-out first inning walk, White planted a Don Sutton pitch into the fountain in center, putting the home team up 2-0. Steve Balboni homered in the fourth and in the fifth Brett hit a solo shot to close the KC scoring. It was his third circuit clout of the crucial series. The Royals would go into their final weekend series at home against the A's leading by 1 over the stunned Angels. "To dominate the whole season and see it come down to the end is pretty tough to swallow," California infielder Doug DeCinces said. "But the season is not over. I've seen crazier things happen." On Friday, October 4th, the Angels found themselves in Texas while KC entertained Oakland. The Rangers played spoiler, taming the faltering Angels 6-0 while the Royals got a clutch performance from starter Mark Gubicza. Brett again homered and again it was of the inside-the-park variety. This time it was a solo homer in the 7th that increased the KC lead to 4-2, the game's final score. Ace reliever Dan Quisenberry pitched the last 2 2/3 innings for his 37th save and the Royals clinched at least a tie. It left them a step closer to another trip to the post-season. "If that happens," Brett said, "you're gonna see a lot of celebrating. If they win, then we have to come out here and win too. If they lose, it doesn't matter." Brett made a critical defensive play in the 9th, backhanding a Dave Kingman bouncer near the line, then throwing the ponderous slugger out. The play was the second out of the game and it kept a baserunner at second base. But the Royals leader was more concerned with his bat, which was heating up for a possible post-season return. "When you have a September like I had you'd be happy going 1 for 4 every day. But when I got to the ballpark Monday I was physically and mentally ready to play. I could feel it in batting practice." Asked about his second inside-the-park home run in three days, Brett said, "I'd like it the other way better. It's less exciting for the crowd but not as much work." The following night the Angels beat Texas 3-1, putting the pressure on KC. It looked as if the race may tighten as Oakland posted a 4-0 lead on the Royals after five and a half innings. Saberhagen lasted just 4 innings but the KC pen staved off the A's, allowing for a dramatic charge by the offense. In the bottom of the sixth Brett belted his fifth homer of the week and 30th of the season with a man on base to chase A's starter Tim Birtsas and close the gap, 4-2. In the seventh the Angels avoided Brett with first base open, walking him and setting up Frank White's RBI single. Balboni followed with a single that scored Brett with the tying run. Quisenberry did his job over the last three innings and the home team won it in the 10th. Willie Wilson singled up the middle to score Pat Sheridan and the franchise had it's sixth AL West crown in ten years. Brett had nearly been a one-man wrecking crew: going 9-for-20 [.450] with seven runs, five homers, and nine RBI in the critical six games, five of them victories. He set a major league regular season record by hitting four homers in October. He was involved in nearly every scoring rally the team had during the stretch. The victory was sweet. Royals fans and players sensed that this time the post-season may finally end happily for the franchise.

Notes

Brett hit .292 (7-for-24) with two doubles, one triple, one homer and five RBI in 10 All-Star games. In 1980 he was voted as a starter but did not play due to injury, and in 1987 he was a reserve but was injured... Brett hit .692 (18-for-26) from May 8-13, 1976, when he set a ML record with three or more hits in six straight games... Brett played long enough that he was actually managed by two ex-teammates: John Wathan, and Hal McRae - the man he had narrowly defeated to win the 1976 American League batting title.

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Tagged:
1980 World Series, 1985 World Series, 3000 hit club, Batting title, George Brett, Gold Glove, Hall of Fame, Kansas City Royals, MVP

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