It was chin
music, a high inside fastball thrown by Boston lefthander John Tudor. "For
some reason, I just stood there," recalls Kansas City's George Brett.
"I tried to lean away so it wouldn't hit my hands, but I didn't move my
feet, so my momentum put me back on my heels. Then I started backpedaling, but
my feet couldn't catch up with my body. The next thing I knew, I was completely
out of control."
The full backward
somersault that followed was scored a 9.8 by Brett's teammates on the bench.
"That was the best I've ever seen for a stumble out of the batter's
box," Outfielder Jerry Martin said. "Couldn't nobody talk for laughing.
That's got to make This Week in Baseball."
Brett came up
grinning. "I couldn't help myself. The dugout was laughing, all the people
in the stands were laughing." Even Tudor? "I didn't look at him,"
Brett says. "But I'd be surprised if he wasn't."
If there was a
grin on Tudor's face, Brett wiped it off by lashing the next pitch past first
base for a double.
Clearly, Brett is
having fun again. Off to the best start of his splendid nine-year career, the
two-time American League batting champ held the league lead in seven
statistical categories the night of April 20, when he went 4-for-5, drove in
seven runs and belted three home runs in Detroit—including a game-winning
two-run shot in the ninth.
Brett's 420-foot solo blow into the upper deck in the first inning, Royals
Pitcher Paul Splittorff observed, "Anything that goes that far in the air
ought to have a stewardess on it." K.C. Manager Dick Howser feigned being
barely impressed. "I've seen him hit three home runs in a game before,"
said Howser, who was a coach with the Yankees when Brett belted three against
Catfish Hunter in Game 3 of the 1978 American League championship series. At
the end of last week, Brett led the league in hitting (.471) and in RBIs (16)
and was tied for third in homers (four). Also, he had hit safely in 19 straight
games dating back to last season; more, 12 of his last 15 hits had been for
started like this before," a delighted Brett said last Friday night before
the Royals began a home stand against Toronto. "I'm usually atrocious the
first month of the season."
exaggeration. Not counting this year, Brett's career average for April is .263,
against a lifetime .316. Even in 1980, when he hit .390, the highest average in
the majors since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, Brett limped into May batting
only .259. "What I did in Detroit was great," Brett said. "It was
the best game of my life, statisticswise, and especially hitting the third home
run in the ninth to win the ball game. That doesn't happen too often to
start is only part of the story. For the first time in his career—following a
prolonged contract squabble chronicled in Kansas City as "the winter of
Brett's discontent"—he faced a home opener expecting to be booed. "I
knew it was important to prepare myself for this season," Brett
acknowledges. "I knew it from the time we started yelling back and forth at
each other in the newspapers."
concerned a request by Brett and his brother-agent Bobby to extend and enhance
his five-year, $5 million contract, which is only in its second year. "I
can't understand why they would want to make the franchise player unhappy,"
Bobby told The Kansas City Times last October. "Look at the people in the
stands. They don't come out to see Greg Pryor or Amos Otis." Though Bobby
claims that remark was quoted out of context, it nevertheless enraged
Center-fielder Otis' many fans, not to mention substitute Third Baseman Pryor's
immediate family, and led to a round of apologies.