When former Brave great Henry Aaron returned to Milwaukee's County Stadium on the opening day of the 1975 season to play for the Brewers, one of the first players to greet him was the team's young shortstop. "Hello, Mr. Aaron," said the 19-year-old who was entering his second season as the youngest player in the majors. "I'm Robin Yount."
Mr. Yount and Mr. Aaron will undoubtedly be reunited in Cooperstown in the summer of 1998. That's when Yount, who announced his retirement last Friday at the age of 38, after 20 years with the Brewers, figures to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He should be part of a banner class, alongside Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Carlton Fisk, recent retirees who will all become eligible for the Hall in '98. But Yount, in typically laconic fashion, downplayed that prospect. "It's not my position to make that decision," he said last week. "I can only say I'm happy with the way my career went."
Only four men—Pete Rose, Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski and Ty Cobb—have more big league at bats than Yount's 11,008. He was MVP at two positions, shortstop in 1982 and centerfield in '89, and his 3,142 hits place him 13th on the alltime list. Once asked to name the game's three most dangerous hitters, Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens said, " Robin Yount in the first, Robin Yount in the fourth and Robin Yount in the seventh."
Even though Yount hit .258 with just eight homers and 51 RBIs last season, the Brewers offered him $3.2 million to come back in '94. His role, however, would have been diminished, and his competitive nature would not allow him to sit on the bench. Word of his retirement was delayed while he and the Brewers worked out a package that will bring him back to the club in some nonplaying capacity after a one-year sabbatical.
If Yount's greatness was often overlooked because he played in a small market, Milwaukee nevertheless was the perfect place for someone who shunned the spotlight as much as he did. The Toronto Blue lays were interested in reuniting him this season with his old teammate Paul Molitor, but Yount wanted to end his career in the same uniform he wore as an 18-year-old kid from Woodland Hills, Calif. At the retirement press conference, a tearful Bud Selig, the Brewers' owner, said, "I don't think many people understand how rare it is for a player to come to a franchise, play two decades and never cause one iota of a problem. He played the game every single day the way it's supposed to be played."
For now Yount will devote himself to his family—he and his wife, Michele, have four children—and his dual passions of golf and motor sports. Back in 1978 he actually contemplated giving up baseball for the PGA Tour. And over the years he has crashed cars, go-karts, dirt bikes, even a golf cart. One enduring image of Yount is from the ceremony after the '82 World Series (which the Brewers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals), when he roared into County Stadium, fist raised, on his "hog."
Before Christmas, Yount found himself playing golf with future Chicago White Sox minor leaguer Michael Jordan. Yount, who won the match, said, "Michael told me how great retirement was, playing golf all the time. That didn't last long. In a week or two I might go to the [ Milwaukee] Bucks and ask for a tryout."