BY: Richard W. Humphrey
Kansas City was in Arlington this weekend, the Royals only trip to Texas this season. They arrived as one of the most disappointing teams in baseball over the first third of the season. The Royals have quietly been developing a terrific farm system in recent years. With players such as Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas having bloomed to be solid Major Leaguers, Kansas City traded top prospects for veteran pitching, and they fully expected to compete for the Central Division title and a playoff berth this season. Instead, they finished the weekend at 23-31 and have lost 10 of their last 12 games, after dropping two of three to the Rangers.
The culprit has largely been the offense, and in an effort to turn their fortunes around, they reassigned hitting coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David on Thursday and named George Brett the interim hitting coach. Brett’s familiar uniform #5 is retired, and he is in baseball’s Hall Of Fame. He’s undoubtedly the most noted Royals player ever, having played all 21 big league seasons with Kansas City.
It is apropos that Brett would start his new assignment in Arlington, as it is the site of his last game in the Majors. The date was October 3, 1993, and it was not only the last day in the big leagues for Brett, but also for fellow Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. It was also the last game ever for Arlington Stadium, as Texas moved into the Ballpark in Arlington the following season. It was a pleasant overcast day. There was a festive atmosphere as the team recounted the history of the park. Brett and Ryan took the lineups to home plate for the pre-game meeting with the umpires.
The game plan was for Brett, who batted third that day, to play until he got a hit. In the ninth inning, Brett was still in the game, as he was 0-3 and scheduled to bat once more. Tom Henke was on the mound for Texas. All of the Royals’ players and coaches rose and stood in front of the dugout. There has always been suspicion that Henke threw a rather fat pitch to assist Brett, who hit a grounder up the middle. Manny Lee was the Rangers’ shortstop that day. When he broke to his left for the ball, he amazingly slipped slightly. It was enough of a delay that he was unable to reach the ball, which rolled into center field for a single.
The crowd roared, as they knew the only thing standing between Brett and election to baseball’s Hall of Fame was the mandatory five year waiting period. There was definitely a tear in Brett’s eye as he stood on first base hearing the roar of the appreciative crowd. His career was complete later that inning as he scored the last run of his career. The final totals were .305 batting average, 3,154 hits, 317 home runs, and 1,595 RBI’s, all of which are Royals franchise records.
As for his new position with the Royals, Brett says he will work for about a month as the interim hitting coach before deciding his future. He turned 60 just last week. He’s got three kids that are college age. Unlike a lot of former players, he’s not married to the game.
“I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it at all,” he told MLB.com’s Christian Carmona. “If we start winning and I see some progress, some success and I’m havinng fun, I’ll keep doing it. For how long? I don’t know.”
It’s hard to believe that almost 20 years have past since George Brett and Nolan Ryan played in the Majors. Before Sunday’s game between the Rangers and Royals, Brett and Ryan re-enacted taking the lineup cards to Sunday’s home plate umpire, Dale Scott. Kansas City won that day in 1993 by the score of 4-1. For Ranger fans, the loss didn’t matter. We all knew we’d seen the end of an historic career. We had the promise of a shiny new ballpark to look forward to. It was a great day.
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