Always a man for the moment, George Brett came through in his last game for the KC Royals.
Oct. 3, 1993 wasn’t the last October day the KC Royals wanted to play. A season-ending so early in the month is one without playoffs—a completed, yet incomplete, campaign. Such was the case that day for the Royals, a third-place team with nowhere to go after the game but home.
But the otherwise irrelevant contest between KC and Texas—the Rangers’ season was also ending—had purpose beyond the fact it was the final game to be played at Arlington Stadium before the Rangers headed for new digs, and the ballpark the wrecking ball, the next season.
It was George Brett’s last game, the 2,707th of a 21-season career that began Aug. 2, 1973 when he played third base and singled off Stan Bahnsen for the first of his 3,154 hits. His first double came later that season—he’d finish his career with 665—but the first of his 137 triples, 317 homers and 1,596 RBIs wouldn’t come until 1974.
Manager Hal McRae, Brett’s former teammate turned Royals coach then skipper, penciled DH Brett into the third spot in the day’s lineup. Had fate controlled, Brett would have faced Nolan Ryan, a future Hall of Famer ending his career the same day, but Ryan pitched his last game several days before and would watch the game from the Texas dugout.
Instead of Ryan, Steve Dreyer drew Brett’s final game. He retired Brett on an 0-1 liner to left-center to end the first inning, then got him on a 1-1 fly to left in the fourth. Brett went after Dreyer’s first pitch to lead off the seventh but grounded out to second. It was the last Brett would see of Dreyer, who left after the eighth with his team down 2-1.
The noise started from the 41,039-member Texas crowd with Brett still in the on-deck circle and grew louder as he walked to the plate. Ranger fans—and the Rangers—stood and gave Brett a long send-off ovation; catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who later joined Brett and Ryan in the Hall of Fame, gave Brett a quick hug as he approached the box.
Brett previously told writers in Texas how he wanted his career to end. He wanted to hit a grounder to second and see if he could beat the throw…to have a runner on second and move him over, with the next batter hitting a run-scoring sacrifice fly to win the game.
But it didn’t work out that way. Instead, the final at-bat of George Brett’s career ended the way others wanted it to—he coaxed a ground ball up the middle, by shortstop Manuel Lee and second baseman Doug Strange, for one last hit.
He then scored his 1,583rd and final run on Gary Gaetti’s homer and the KC Royals won 4-1.
With the end of the season and his career, Brett became the Royals’ Vice President for Baseball Operations, a position he holds to this day. He served a short stint as interim hitting coach in 2013 and still works with players in spring training and before home games.
He’s unchallenged as the greatest of all Royals, a status well-earned, well-deserved and unlikely to ever be lost.
Almost 27 years have passed since George Brett played his last few games for the KC Royals. He left us with fond memories of how he played those final contests.