Morgan describes Madlock as a "pure" hitter. "One time he'll beat out a chopper, another time he'll hit a bullet. Even the balls he doesn't hit well have a way of getting through and he seldom hits a line drive at someone."
Madlock is a natural hitter, as is Carew. Brett and McRae, by their own acknowledgment, are "created" hitters, their Dr. Frankenstein being the Royals' respected batting coach, Charley Lau. McRae was strictly a pull hitter when he came to Kansas City from Cincinnati in 1973. "I was a fastball hitter in a breaking-ball league," he says. "I got so fouled up I couldn't hit anything. Charley got me to go to the opposite field. He flattened out my bat, got my feet closer together. You look at pictures of the old hitters—not the power hitters, the high-average guys—and you'll see they carry their bats flat off the shoulder. What has Charley meant to me? Oh, I'd say about a hundred grand."
Brett similarly credits Lau with adjusting his style to cope with the generous dimensions of Royals Stadium, with its 385-foot power alleys. Both he, a left-handed hitter, and McRae, a righty, now specialize in liners to the opposite field.
Of the nine serious candidates for the batting titles—Philadelphia's Garry Maddox should be included—five are lefties, three hit right-handed and one switches; five are infielders, three are outfielders and McRae is a designated hitter. This is not because of any defensive inadequacy—McRae is a respectable outfielder—but because, as Manager Whitey Herzog suggests, "he plays with such enthusiasm out there, he's always getting hurt." If McRae were not so industrious about staying alert during a game, his relative inactivity could well prove a liability; it could affect his concentration.
Rose, 35, and Morgan, 33, are the veterans of the group. The junior member, Brett, 23, is, naturally enough, the least nonchalant, the least successful at hiding his eagerness for the title. "I try not to notice my average, but of course I know it," he says. "I try not to think about it. Then I come up to the plate here in K.C. and there it is, in giant numbers on the scoreboard—'Brett .333.' There's no way I can't notice it."
When the calculators stopped flashing Sunday, the contestants stood: McRae .335, Brett .331, Carew .326, Bostock .325; Griffey .339, Madlock .336, Maddox .330, Rose .326, Morgan .324.
Yes, George, it would take a heap of false modesty not to notice.