March 12, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals coach George Brett before a spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
I, like many a Royals fan, grew up with George Brett in mind as the quintessential ballplayer.
I remember reading a quote from before his playing days were over about how he envisioned his last at bat as a big leaguer:
"I want to hit a routine grounder to second and run all out to first base, then get thrown out by a half step. I want to leave an example to the young guys that that’s how you play the game: ALL OUT."
July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Major League Baseball legend and former Kansas City Royals player George Brett at bat during the 2012 Legends and Celebrity softball game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Say what you want about grit, moxie, the intangibles. They’re overrated and overemphasized when the player isn’t actually that good. They’re offered as a consolation. “Well he can’t hit but look at him get dirty!” George Brett wasn’t that player. He was down the line on the close plays and looking for a spot to turn a double into a triple on the gappers. That’s a hell of an example to a young kid in the midwest and I always felt kind of okay with my last organized baseball at bat being a grounder to second where I ran all the way through. It fit after years of following Brett’s career.
But c’mon. I’m not alone. There are hundreds of kids named Brett in Kansas City who are graduating high school or college today simply because their parents were caught up in Brett-mania in his heyday. I’m pretty sure he really could have outdrawn Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election.
May 15th is George Brett’s birthday – his 60th – and for all the scatalogical references, the weird spring training interviews, and the stories of busted clubhouse sinks, he’s the player I would look to when I needed an example of how to play the game.
So I’ve promised some trivia, and below is a table showing what George Brett’s batting average on his birthday every year as a big leaguer as well as what he had hit on the day of the occasion in each season. In many cases, Brett was injured and thus, did not play on his birthday, so in the 20 possible years, he only played in 12 possible birthday games, and one of those days was a double header (though he did go a combined 4-9 that day).
|Avg on 5/15||5/15 day||Next Game / Notes|
|1979||0.265||2-5, 2-4||Double Header|
|1982||0.311||2-4||3 run homer, triple|
|1984||0.000||n/a||season debut May 18|
|1987||0.343||1-3||wouldn’t play again until June 12|
|1989||0.252||n/a||out 4/29 to 6/10|
|Birthday Totals||12 games||13-49||0.265|
Happy Birthday #5. Lay off the crab legs…