The first of his hitting titles came in the same year the KC Royals first made the playoffs. There is little coincidence in this fact.
After being awarded an expansion franchise in 1969, the Royals quickly became competitive finishing second in their division in 1971, 1973 and 1975. The following year, America’s bicentennial celebration also ushered in the dominance of the Kansas City franchise.
By this point, Brett was already showing flashes of greatness to come. He was third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1974 and led the league in hits and the majors in triples in 1975. He would explode the next year batting .333, collect more total bases (298) than any other American Leaguer and led the majors in hits (215) and triples again (14). A runner-up finish to the Most Valuable Player, Thurmon Munson, capped the season off.
The team battled the New York Yankees, in what would become an epic rivalry, to a fifth and deciding game in the American League Championship Series. The Royals fought back to tie the game with three runs in the top of the eighth thanks to a blast by Brett. The Yankees would walk off in the ninth, however, sending the Royals home.
As if all these statistics were not impressive, a picture taken by a National Geographic photographer of #5 during the season eventually led to the song “Royals” by Lorde. Hard to choose between the terrific season and this nugget as your favorite 1976 Brett memory right?
While leading the majors in hits and triples in 1979 did not secure a batting title for Brett, it was good enough for a third-place MVP finish and set the stage for his historic chase the next year that also propelled the Royals to their first World Series appearance.