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By George, The Jays Are Some Tough Birds
E.M. Swift
October 21, 1985
Toronto survived George Brett's hitting heroics to go home with a 3-2 advantage over the Royals
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October 21, 1985

By George, The Jays Are Some Tough Birds

Toronto survived George Brett's hitting heroics to go home with a 3-2 advantage over the Royals

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For the 34,029 Blue Jays fans—the smallest postseason crowd since 28,136 showed up in Baltimore in 1974—the bottom of the 10th was a blunderful inning. First shortstop Onix Concepcion allowed leadoff hitter Tony Fernandez to reach first when he double-pumped on Fernandez's chopper to short. Fernandez advanced on a groundout. Up stepped the ubiquitous Moseby, who kept delivering at critical moments the entire series. He singled to right. Here came Fernandez. Up went Williams' arms—and by now you know what that meant. There went Fernandez.

Five-five. Strange goings-on out there, not the least of which was the 17 seagulls that chose that moment to congregate in short rightfield, nibbling on the debris flung from the stands at Phillips. Quisenberry tried to pick Moseby off first, but watched his perfect toss bounce bye-bye off Steve Balboni's glove, allowing Moseby to trot into scoring position. One out later Moseby scored on Al Oliver's single to left, and Toronto had a 6-5 win and a two-game lead as the series adjourned to Kansas City.

Asked how many playoff games he had now lost in a row, Howser replied good-naturedly, "I don't know. I lose track when I can't count them on two hands." The correct answer was 11.

But all things must pass, and the Royals, who had a 10-game postseason losing streak of their own dating back to the '80 World Series, finally won one for the popular Howser. More accurately, Brett won one for Howser, putting on a show Friday night in Game 3 that ranks with the great performances of all time. Brett hoisted the Royals back into the series with a 4-for-4 night that included two homers, four runs scored and three ribbies in the 6-5 comeback win. He also made the play of the series.

Brett had already homered off Doyle Alexander (17-10) in the first when he pulled a Brooks Robinson to keep the Blue Jays off the board in the third. Lunging to spear Moseby's shot down the third-base line—robbing him of a double—Brett leaped and threw home as his momentum carried him into foul territory, nailing Damaso Garcia at the plate.

Brett hammered a double off the top of the rightfield wall in the fourth, eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly to give the Royals a 2-0 lead. But in the next inning the Blue Jays erupted for five runs off Cy Young candidate Bret Saberhagen (20-6), chasing the 21-year-old righthander in favor of Steve (The Beast) Farr. Farr responded with 4? innings of scoreless relief. Brett, meanwhile, hauled the Royals back into the game. In his third at bat off Alexander, he hit a towering two-run blast to left center that tied the game 5-5. "The best part about it was seeing the look in the eyes of some of the guys I had played with for so long, guys like Frank White and Hal McRae, when I came back to the bench," Brett recalled later. Big as saucers, no doubt. Thank god, he's on our side.

Leading off the Royal eighth, Brett hit a forkball into right off Toronto's Jim Clancy, who was making his first relief appearance of the season. "We really cursed out George when he only came up with that single," said Royals catcher John Wathan. After a sacrifice, a ground-out and an intentional walk, up to the plate stepped Balboni, the leading candidate for the Royals' No. 1 goat—0 for 11 to that point in the series, four Ks, two errors, a lifetime postseason average of .048 (1 for 21). The mighty Balboni (36 HRs) took a rip and—bloop—up, up, up went the sphere; down, down, down. The 200-foot blast dropped in the exact center of nine converging Blue Jays as Brett scored the eventual winning run.

Fittingly, Brett caught Moseby's foul pop-up for the final out of the game, after which he was mobbed by teammates. They had not won, so much as he had refused to let them lose. "Waiting for that pop-up to come down I suddenly thought, 'I'm going to give this ball to Dick,' " Brett recalled later. And he did, shoving it into Howser's chest.

"It was a Hall of Fame performance," said Howser, who pointed out that Brett had connected on a changeup, slider, fastball and forkball for his hits. "How're you gonna defense him?"

Don't pitch to him. The Blue Jays had learned their lesson, and in Game 4 they followed that old baseball maxim: Never let a player with a lifetime contract beat you. It was Stieb against Leibrandt again, a rematch of Game 1, only this time Stieb took the bat out of Brett's hands. "I'd seen all I needed to the night before," Stieb allowed, a formidable admission given the source.

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