Story of the Week
In 1980, George Brett recorded the highest batting average since Ted Williams’ .406 in 1941. This great third baseman joined the exclusive 3,000-hit club on September 30, 1992. He was already the only player to win batting titles in three different decades, and a 13-time All-Star.
The younger brother of pitcher Ken Brett, he led the American League in hits and triples in 1975, repeated in both categories in 1976, and added his first batting title that same year, hitting .333 to edge Rod Carew and Kansas City teammate Hal McRae, later his manager. From 1976 to 1978, the Royals lost three straight playoffs to the Yankees despite Brett’s three-run homer in 1976, and his three consecutive homers in 1978 off Jim "Catfish" Hunter.
Just before the All-Star break in 1980, Brett was hitting .337 when he strained ankle ligaments trying to steal a base. However, he got hot in July and even hotter in August (it’s the lovely Missouri humidity), going 4-for-4 on the 17th. of the month to reach the magic batting average of .400. He ended the season with a .390 batting average. He also led the league in slugging at .664, and, to absolutely no one’s surprise, was named league MVP.
That year, the Royals broke the playoff jinx against the Yankees as Brett homered in Game One, and hit an upper-deck home run off "Goose" Gossage to win Game Three. Although the Phillies beat K.C. in a six-game World Series, Brett homered and went 9-for-24 in the Series. The Royals finally won a championship in 1985 against the Cardinals as Brett starred offensively and defensively; he was 4-for-5 in Game Seven, robbed the Cards of five potential hits, and went 10-for-27 in the Series, scoring five runs.
On July 24, 1983, Brett made history in a different way. With New York leading the Royals 4-3 in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, he hit a home run with two out and a man on to put K.C. in front, 5-4. Yankees manager, Billy Martin, contended that Brett should be declared out and the runs shouldn’t count because Brett’s bat had pine tar more than 18 inches from the knob to the barrel, thus violating the rules for same. The umpires agreed, awarding the win to the Yankees. George Brett, to say the very least, went nuts. The Royals protested the verdict, and AL president Lee MacPhail ended the Great Pine Tar Incident by overruling his own umpires, and declaring a resumption of play at a later date.
George Brett won his third batting title in 1990. This great third baseman spent his entire 20-year career with the Kansas City Royals, retiring after the 1992 season. He was one of the fiercest competitors I have ever seen, and all of his stats, as good as they were, don’t tell the whole story. The guy was flat-out great!
Last Week’s Trivia
How did the Lakers get Magic Johnson? In the 1979 NBA draft, L.A. acquired the first pick as part of compensation from the New Orleans Jazz for Gail Goodrich, a tremendous player in his own right. Jerry Buss was brilliant; the drafting of Johnson was a condition of the sale of Goodrich.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the only major leaguer known to have ever been fined for smoking in the dugout during a game? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.