“Take your pictures down and shake it out.” – Foo Fighters
The wife and I took an overnight trip to Kansas City a few weekends ago. We had tickets for the Dodgers and Royals at Kaufman Stadium. My wife doesn’t want to watch baseball on tv, but she’s always very agreeable to a game in person. It’s the atmosphere. It’s the people-watching. Maybe it’s the $9 beers in souvenir cups. Whatever the combination, we found ourselves, KC hats properly worn, amidst a section of Dodger fans. Hell, a stadium of Dodgers fans wearing Kershaw, Betts, and Turner jerseys. Chants of “Let’s Go Dodgers!” rang early and often throughout a night that was scoreless through six innings thanks to the pitching of L.A.’s Tony Gonsolin and the Royals’ Daniel Lynch. I told my wife before the game that it would be a minor miracle if Lynch survived five innings giving up two or fewer runs. Somehow the holder of an ERA north of five gave up two measly hits to the best team in baseball before being lifted after five scoreless innings. The talent of the Dodgers would ultimately prevail in an 8-3 victory.
But whenever the subject of the Kansas City Royals pops up, my all-time favorite Royal comes to mind… Buddy Biancalana! Well actually, in the early to mid 80’s there was one I favored slightly more, and he wasn’t just my favorite Royal, he was arguably my favorite player in baseball at the time.
George Howard Brett.
Tough. Gritty. Emotional. Brett played 21 seasons for the Royals. The Hall of Famer is one of the greatest hitters ever, and also the holder of one the iconic moments in baseball history.
My wife and I walked around the stadium and sauntered into the Royals Hall of Fame located just past the left field bleachers where all of the iconic Royals and newsworthy events through the years can be found. And there it was… in all of it’s glory… the bat.
Sunday, July 24, 1983 at the old Yankee stadium in New York City featured a matchup where both the Yankees and Royals were in the thick of the playoff race in their respective divisions. Temperatures were in the low to mid 70’s and Tim McClelland was the home plate umpire that day. Nearly 34,000 were in attendance mostly to cheer on their Yankees who were two games behind Toronto and Baltimore in the old AL East while the opponent Royals were just one game back of the Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox in the old AL Central.
George Brett was a MVP candidate in the middle of a season that would see him hit .310 with 25 homers and 93 RBI’s. But coming into the 90th game of the season that day Brett was actually hitting over .350 at the time with 19 homers and 60 RBI’s. Those numbers even included a few weeks on the disabled list with a fractured pinky toe that he suffered when he apparently ran into a door jam in his house in an effort to watch good friend Bill Buckner bat on tv.
“Truth or consequence, say it aloud. Use that evidence, race it around.”
The Yankees held a 4-3 lead heading into the 9th thanks to RBI’s from Don Baylor and Dave Winfield. Prior to his final at-bat, Brett was 2-4 and now stood in the batters’ box facing Hall of Fame Yankee pitcher Goose Gossage. Teammate UL Washington was on base when Goose tried to throw a high heater by Brett, who promptly turned on it and hit it over the right field wall. And, well, then it got fun….
A couple of things stand out for me rewatching this video. One is how angry the Royals bench is at the poor bat boy for not getting Brett’s bat back into the dugout at about the 0:49 second mark. You had ONE job! Lol. Second is how well Billy Martin lobbied the umpires during this whole process. Where was Royals’ skipper Dick Howser during the whole time Martin is telling the umpires what should happen? And of course Brett’s manic reaction at being called out. I also didn’t remember that (then Kansas City pitcher) Gaylord Perry apparently took the bat from McClelland down into the tunnel and security and staffers were chasing him into the tunnel.
The Royals obviously appealed the decision to call Brett out. Thankfully then American League President (do the two leagues still have separate presidents?) Lee MacPhail sided with Kansas City citing the “spirit of the restriction” on pine tar on bats was based not on the fear of unfair advantage, but instead on the economics. Any contact with pine tar would discolor the ball, making it unsuitable for play, and requiring that it be discarded and replaced. This increased the home team’s cost of supplying balls for a given game. MacPhail ruled that Brett had not violated the spirit of the rules nor deliberately “altered [the bat] to improve the distance factor.”
The two teams finished the game a few weeks later on August 18th with Dan Quisenberry locking it down for the Royals in the bottom of the 9th officially giving the Royals a 5-4 win. Not surprisingly, Billy Martin and the Yankees played the end of the game “under protest.”
“There goes my hero. Watch him as he goes.”
Heroes come and go, particularly sports heroes when you’re a kid. My 1983 baseball hero, George Brett, was not my 1993 baseball hero, and my 1993 baseball hero was not my 2003 baseball hero and so on. Times and seasons and players change. That’s sports. That’s life. But when your hero is your dad, it’s an entirely different story. That one sticks forever.
The kid lost his dad way too young. I lost mine as a 50 year old in 2021 and it still sucks. I’m probably still oversensitive to stories of men losing fathers, but the kid is only 16. He needs a father more than ever at that age. He’s always wanted to be a drummer even telling comedian Dave Chappelle once that he didn’t skate because he didn’t want to hurt his arm. He wanted to follow in his father’s legendary footsteps.
If you missed the Foo Fighters tribute concert at Wembly Stadium dedicated to their recently deceased drummer Taylor Hawkins, then you missed this stellar performance where Taylor’s 16 years old son, Shane, sat in for a very impressive (borderline tearful) performance for the very fitting Foos’ song from 1997. Check out the Foo Fighters with Shane Hawkins on drums and “My Hero”…
Somewhere amongst the kid’s great hair, flailing arms, and pumping legs, Shane Hawkins is pounding out his hurt and his emptiness and it’s both beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Here’s to you dear reader, and here’s to your heroes.