Of brain cancer, former big league lefty Ken Brett, 55. His 14-year career (he went 83-85 with a 3.93 ERA) began with the Red Sox in '67, the year he became the youngest pitcher to appear in a World Series. Hall of Famer George Brett recalls the older brother he called Kemer.
I might never have become a ballplayer if not for Kemer. It's easier to make it if someone close to you has made it: You think, If he can make it, so can I. One summer in high school, I spent a week with him in Boston. I'd go to the clubhouse, sit in the dugout, watch batting practice and we'd walk back to his apartment together, maybe stopping off for a sandwich. I'm sure I hindered his postgame activities. I mean, he was single in Boston, Jim Lonborg was his next-door neighbor and he had his 16-year-old brother tagging along. But Kemer didn't mind.
He was as competitive as there was. He was pitching for the Angels in '77 when he started a fight against my team, the Royals. Amos Otis was batting with runners on second and third, and Kemer got the sign to walk him intentionally. Amos was standing with his bat on his shoulder, and he yelled, "Throw me a strike, you big p——!" Kemer threw one as hard as he could behind Amos's head, the ball went to the backstop, and Cookie Rojas came in from third. My brother ran to the plate to cover and tackled Cookie, a real Dick Butkus tackle. The dugouts emptied, Kemer was fighting Amos, and I had to wonder, What do I do? Try to kick Amos's ass or my brother's? (I ended up standing around, trying to break things up.) Kemer got tossed, and after the inning I ran through the tunnel under the stadium to California's clubhouse. Kemer had scratches all over his neck and face. I asked what Cookie had done to deserve the tackle. Kemer said, "At the last second I realized what I had done, and I didn't want him to score."
He was a great brother and a great husband and if I can do half as well raising my three kids as he did as a father I'll be happy. I loved being Kemer's teammate on the Royals, in '80 and '81. The first game he pitched, he came out of the bullpen, and I was standing on the mound with Jamie Quirk, our catcher. The gate in rightfield opened, and out came my brother, running, sticking his arms out and veering left, veering right like a plane. I said to Jamie, "Now I know why he's been on 10 teams." Kemer's career wasn't what we expected. He was arguably the best player in Southern California in high school. But after he blew out his elbow in '68 and had surgeries, he was never the same. I never heard him complain, though. I asked him once, "Aren't you tired of getting traded?" He said, "Do you know how many places I've been, how many great guys I've met? I wouldn't trade places with anyone in the game."