On This Day: KC Royals win after George Brett steals home

A walk-off winner in the most unexpected manner from George Brett.

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Third baseman George Brett made several amazing plays in the KC Royals uniform. The team won their first World Series in 1985 under his leadership, with him winning the franchise's only MVP award in 1980 after a historic season. Brett's skill on the field earned him a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame and a spot in fans' memories around the world. He had several great showings on a game level, but individual moments shined brightest. A young Brett made a risky call on Aug. 17, 1976, that ultimately ended in a late-season Royals win.

The KC Royals won on Aug. 17, 1976, thanks to George Brett's baserunning.

The Royals hosted the then-Cleveland Indians at Royals Stadium. The two ballclubs were in separate divisions at the time, with the Royals remaining in the AL West and the Indians in the AL East. They both entered the game with very different outlooks on the remaining season. The Indians, 57-60 at the time, were 14.5 games behind the division-leading New York Yankees. Meanwhile, the Royals held a commanding eight-game lead over the second-place Oakland Athletics. Kansas City had grown from a forgettable expansion team in 1969 to a 91-win team in 1975. But their lead over Oakland and a promising core set up the Royals for the organization's first postseason appearance. Brett was going to make sure that happened, no matter the risk.

Royals starter Doug Bird stifled the Indians' bats through eight innings, surrendering just one run. But the Royals did not give him much room for error, as the score read 3-1 entering the ninth inning. Bird started off the inning by allowing two baserunners and recording zero outs. Those two runners eventually scored thanks to a throwing error from shortstop Freddie Patek. Closer Mark Littell recorded the final two outs, but the damage was already done. After the Royals batters went down in order in the inning's bottom half, extra innings started in Royals Stadium. It would not last long, though.

Littell retired the Indians in order to start the 10th inning. Amos Otis, who once had an inside-the-park home run, started the Royals batting with a flyball, but Brett followed up with a single to left field. This is where the chaos emerged. He then stole second base, one of his 21 total stolen bags in 1976. But a throwing error by Cleveland's rookie catcher Rick Cerone allowed Brett to advance to third. The winning run stood 90 feet from home plate with only one out.

A John Mayberry strikeout ratcheted up the intensity as Dave Nelson came to the plate. Brett was not going to take a chance. On a 1-1 count, Brett sprinted to home plate, successfully stealing home, and the Royals won on the elusive walk-off steal of home. It was a thrilling end to a competitive game.

Brett stole home twice more in his Royals career, but never in a walk-off situation. The man known for winning games with his bat secured a dramatic win with his feet nearly 50 years ago.

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