His therapy is finished, and Brett can bid his lady friends at St. Luke's adieu. Dorothy is working a jigsaw puzzle. George watches her for a time and then remarks drily, "I wish I could go through that kind of rehabilitation, Dorothy." Being injured has given him a chance to get his day-to-day affairs in order, and he has set a busy schedule for himself on a day that has become a true Kansas City scorcher. The first stop is at the Home Savings and Loan Association, which employs him as a sort of roving public relations man. "Actually," says Brett, driving downtown in his new Ford Bronco, "I do nothing."
He pops into the office of Ray Gifford, Home Savings' president. Brett is unshaven and unshowered from his ordeal with Izzy and is wearing a dark blue T shirt, light-blue jeans and royal-blue running shoes, hardly proper attire for a young banker. At 27, he is what is customarily described as ruggedly handsome—a larger, much younger Steve McQueen, say. He has pale blue eyes, a strong, invariably stubbly chin and sandy hair that remains steadfastly tousled. A gap between his front teeth that once gave a certain antic charm to his smile has been closed by dental wizardry so that now his uppers are as bright and orderly as the incumbent President's. Brett is six feet tall and about 200 pounds, the weight distributed like a running back's—broad shoulders, low center of gravity, thick, strong legs.
Gifford, an affable, pink-faced man in a rumpled seersucker suit, is happy to see Brett. "I wanted you here to meet a woman who was going to make a $200,000 deposit," he says. "She said she'd put the money in only if she could meet George Brett. But what if she's some kind of nut? What if she pulls out a gun and shoots you right here in this office? What a mess that would be—George Brett lying down there bleeding all over this expensive new carpet. We can't have that. Anyway, she never called back. But as long as you're here, how about saying hello to the girls behind the windows?"
Brett allows as to how there are few things he enjoys more than chatting with pretty bank tellers. Dennis Spivak, whose agency handles Home Savings' advertising, opens the door and peeks in. Spivak, an avid Royal fan, is almost as casually dressed as George, in open-necked shirt and slacks. Brett, who is rarely still, jumps up to greet him. "I think the word for George in Yiddish is shpilkes, which means he's got ants in his pants," Spivak says, laughing. "Anyway, I always say he has shpilkes' disease. Now he's telling everybody he's got it." George holds up a hand in protest. "No," he says, "the truth is my P.R. man told me I was losing popularity in the Jewish community so I've started using a few Yiddish words to get myself back in."
There are more errands. He talks to the tellers, he deposits a diamond he has just bought in his safe-deposit box, he buys himself a new tin of chewing tobacco, he has lunch with Gifford and Spivak at a chic little restaurant called Stanford & Sons, and he sees a man about buying a used Mercedes 450 SL. And later there is more therapy at St. Luke's. By four in the afternoon, Brett is ready to drive to his house on the shores of Lake Quivira, Kans., about 25 miles west of Kansas City. He is stopped on the way for running a stop sign. The officer, recognizing the offender, lets him off with a warning, but Brett is distressed nonetheless. "We're losing valuable sun time," he complains, gazing longingly into a cloudless sky.
In 1977, Brett signed a five-year, $1.5 million contract that, in the light of recent developments in baseball economics, seems barely above the subsistence level. Brett employed no agent in negotiating that agreement, but he did some research on the wages paid players of his stature and he asked the Royals to take this information to heart. But contract hassles between Brett and his team seem an unlikely occurrence. Burke says he envisions a long career in Kansas City for George. For his part, Brett says he is happy where he is and is not looking for greener pastures.
"George knows what big city life is like," says Quirk. "He was raised in L.A. He doesn't need any more of it. Kansas City has been good to him, and he's been good to Kansas City." And despite his own protestations—"I haven't had any action since my eighth grade picnic"—he is the city's Bachelor King, reigning benevolently over beauty queens, swinging singles and lonely divorcees.
With it all, Brett lives modestly. His wardrobe of T shirts and jeans might embarrass a high school boy, and he prefers hunting and fishing to nightclubs and the theater. His house, which looks like a mountain chalet, may be his only extravagance, and at a cost of $225,000, it is, in his opinion, "a steal." But it does have four bedrooms and two sundecks, a large bar and a pool table. And it overlooks the lake.
Brett parks the Bronco in the garage, snatches a few beers from the cooler and climbs into his golf cart for a short trip downhill to a friend's dock, where he will rest his injured leg in style. It is late afternoon now, but the sun is still bright. It shimmers in reflection in the dark waters of the little lake. Sailboats, motor launches and water skiers pass in review as Brett slumps into a chaise longue, beer at the ready. He has assumed this position many times before, but mostly on the beaches of Southern California, far from the pastoral Midwest.
"It's not as hectic here," he says, eyes half closed to the sun. "It was good for me to get away from home at a young age. Everybody but me seemed to be maturing. I grew up in El Segundo, out near the L.A. airport, not far from Manhattan Beach. Every day in the summer we'd go to the beach from 10 in the morning till four in the afternoon. Then I'd help clean up the house a little bit, put on my uniform and play ball the rest of the night. Every day it was the same thing. It was really livin'."