George Brett could hit, with a bat or a putter

You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.

ON THIS DATE IN 1953, George Brett was born.

In the final week of his final season in 1993, George Brett was asked how he would like his final at-bat in the major leagues to go. We figured a vicious line drive to left field, a ringing double to right-center or a towering home run down the right-field line. He said, “I want to hit a really hard groundout to the second baseman, and run as hard as I can to first base to show the young guys on the team that this is how the game is supposed to be played.”

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No one played the game harder, and few played it better, than George Brett. He is, by far, the greatest Royal of all time. He is, in my mind, one of the three best third basemen ever. He is a career .305 hitter, he won a batting title in three different decades and, in 1976, he set a major league record by getting at least three hits in six consecutive games. Brett hit a lot of line-drive singles to the opposite field back then, but as he matured, the Royals needed more production. So he started to pull the ball, and with it came a lot more power.

Brett had epic performances in the postseason, none greater than what he did to the Blue Jays in the 1985 American League Championship Series. The Royals were down 0-2 in the series. They had to win Game 3 at home. Brett made sure of it: He went 4-for-4 with two doubles and two homers, leading the Royals to a 6-5 victory. There were other unforgettable moments, including the 1983 Pine Tar Game, which is a story for another day.

The story of George Brett is one of a great hitter. Here’s how good he was. He confirmed this story, as have others: One season, he injured his ankle, and had to go on the disabled list. He attended the Royals’ in-season golf tournament, on crutches, and greeted all the groups as they came to the 18th green. One player decided to have a little fun with the Royals putting on 18. The guy hit into the group from 150 yards away. Brett saw the ball coming. He dropped his crutches, grabbed a putter, and out of midair, using the blade of the putter, hit the ball 150 yards back down the fairway. I challenged him on the truth of that.

“Well,” he said, “it was 1980.”

That was the year he hit .390.

That was the year that every time he swung anything at anything, he hit it hard.

Other baseball notes for May 15

  • In 1941, Joe DiMaggio started his 56-game hitting streak by going 1-for-4. He would strike out five times during the hitting streak — zero times in the last 32 games.

  • In 1975, pitcher Steve Woodard was born. He has been known to play pickup basketball and alternate shooting shots left-handed and right-handed.

  • In 1948, outfielder Bill North was born. Pitcher Bill Lee, the famed Spaceman, once was asked if he had ever met Oliver North. “No,” Lee said, “but I’ve met Bill North.”

  • In 1984, Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andujar hit a grand slam. He pitched 2,153 innings in the major leagues and never gave up a grand slam. But he hit one.

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