Toronto Mike

George Fucking Brett

george brett

Join me in my time machine, friends.  We're going back to 1985...

In 1985, I listened to or watched every inning of every Jays game.  We clinched our very first AL East pennant that year, and faced the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS.  Here's a relic from my scrapbook following our game 1 victory over the Royals.

Off And Flying

We went up 2 games to 0 and seemed destined to face the Cardinals in the World Series.  I believed we'd sweep the Royals, we were that much better, but cue George Fucking Brett.

Aw heck, Joe Posnanski does a much better job of telling this story.  Jays fans, if you can stomach it, here's how George Fucking Brett single-handedly brought the Royals back from the brink.

Mark Whiten once hit four homers and drove in 12 runs in a game. Reggie Jackson hit three homers in a World Series game, and Babe Ruth did it twice. Hideki Matsui once got five hits, scored five runs and drove in five in an ALCS game against Boston. And so on.
But for single-handed domination, I’ll take George Brett in 1985. You might know the circumstances. The Royals trailed Toronto two games to none in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series. But that does not begin to describe the moment. The Royals seemed destined for always being almost good enough. In 1976, ’77 and ’78 they had lost to the Yankees in the ALCS. Brett himself had been a monster in those series. He hit .375 combined in the three series, slugged .768. He hit three homers in a game against Catfish Hunter — a game the Royals lost, which probably sums things up well.
The Royals finally beat the Yankees in 1980 — Brett providing the titanic blow against Goose Gossage in the clincher — and then lost to the Phillies in six. That was the World Series where Brett battled hemorrhoids, but he still hit .375 and slugged .679. Anyway, that World Series kind of ended things for the Royals. They did make the playoffs in 1981 and 1984, but they were not the same team, they were swept in both, Brett hit lousy, the window seemed to be closed. The 1985 Royals were a terrible offensive team. They finished 13th in the league in runs scored, and the only thing that kept them from finishing dead last in runs scored was a 99-loss Texas team that often batted an 859-year old Cliff Johnson cleanup*.
*Actually Johnson was only 37; he just seemed 859.
That Royals team had no business making the playoffs in 1985 — they were 42-42 after 84 games and they seemed to be overachieving at that. But they had a couple of things going for them. One, of course, they had George Brett, who put up one of his most amazing seasons (.335/.436/.585 — led the league in slugging) despite being intentionally walked 31 times, the most in the league since Ted Williams almost 20 years earlier.
Two, they had pitching. Bret Saberhagen at 21 won the Cy Young Award. Charlie Liebrandt at 28 was almost as good. Danny Jackson at 23 and Mark Gubicza at 22 has pretty strong years. Dan Quisenberry had his last great year in the pen. Now, that pitching — good as it is — should not have been enough to get the Royals into the playoffs. But the division was weak, Brett hit about .400 for June, July and August, and the Royals snuck into the playoffs with 91 wins.
Point is: There might have been a sense — there SHOULD have been a sense — that the Royals were not going to get this chance again. I mean, nobody knew that they would not make the playoffs for 25-plus years and that they would become the worst team in baseball and so on. But the core was creaking. Time was passing. Brett, who always had a heightened awareness of the moment, turned to his teammates before Game 3 of the Toronto series and said: “Climb on my back.”
First inning, Brett came up with Willie Wilson on base. Then, Wilson wasn’t — he was caught stealing. Brett homered anyway. That made it 1-0.
Third inning, Brett made perhaps the best defensive play of his life. Damaso Garcia on third, one out, Brett fielded Lloyd Moseby’s ground ball, found an angle, and threw Garcia out at the plate. That kept it 1-0.
Fourth inning, Brett led off. He crushed a ball off the top of the wall, inches away from his second home run. He tagged up and went to third on Hal McRae’s fly ball. He tagged up and scored on Frank White’s fly ball. That’s how it was for the Royals in 1985 — Brett scored runs on outs. That made it 2-0.
The Blue Jays had enough of that small-ball garbage in the fifth. Ernie Whitt singled. Jesse Barfield homered. Damaso Garcia doubled. Lloyd Moseby singled. Rance Mulliniks homered. That’s five runs, thank you very much, have a nice day, be sure to tip the wait staff.
The Royals did get a run in the bottom of the inning — on a rare Jim Sundberg homer, no less. That still made it 5-3, and two runs for those Royals was like Mt. Fuji.
Then, sixth inning, Brett came up with Wilson on first. This time Wilson stayed at first. And Brett homered. That made it 5-5.
Eighth inning, Brett led off with a single. He went to second on a bunt. He went to third on a ground ball to short … a fairly daring and risky baserunning maneuver. He scored on Steve Balboni’s single. And that was the game-winner. Brett also caught the final out, a foul pop by Moseby.
All in all: Brett went four-for-four, two homers, four runs, three RBIs, great baserunning and a breathtaking defensive play, all after PROMISING he would do it. The Royals would still need plenty of heroics, a bit of luck, a pretty famous umpire mistake and a Cardinals meltdown to win the only World Series in team history. But were it not for Brett’s “climb on my back” game, none of it would have happened.

I didn't say it would be an easy read, did I?  Let's pretend it all ended on October 5, 1985.

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