Today Jack no
longer questions George's playing skills. After all, as Bobby points out,
"It's hard for my dad to say, 'Goddamn, you should of hit .400!' "
Meanwhile, George's love of family has begun to overcome his frustration and
rage. "There's a part of him, I think, that still hates his dad," Clint
Hurdle says, "but George isn't the type to really hold a grudge, and I
really think he can see things now from a father's standpoint. I think they've
probably pulled together from that aspect. His dad realizes he might have made
some mistakes, not been as close as he should. Jack's probably kicking himself
in the butt for everything that went on at home. And now, to see his son do all
this...." Hurdle shakes his head. "He's probably enjoying it, but can
you imagine how much more he'd be enjoying it? How much prouder he could
Jack doesn't deny
that he has always felt closest to Ken in his glory moments. "Yeah, because
Ken has been much more...." He hesitates. "Ken is a very gentle guy
inside. He's very considerate. Ken is the most considerate guy in the world.
Bobby a little less so...George a little less...and John a little less. That's
the sequence." He struggles for an example. "Ken is the kind of guy who
will call me up and say, 'I haven't taken you out to dinner for a couple of
weeks. Let's go to dinner.' Or 'What time's dinner? I'm coming over.'
do that occasionally. Ken does it because he feels that's the thing to do;
Bobby does it because it's a meal." Jack chuckles. "It's a meal and 'I
like to see my dad.'
do it if the others are there. Then he'll come.
will never do it."
Ken can smile at
his dad's comparisons. The smile derives from the impression, shared by all the
Brett brothers, that their father has changed. "Sometimes I think he's a
little narrow," Ken says, "but he's getting better. Now you can argue
with him a little bit." "He's really mellowed out," George admits.
"I don't know what made him change so much. Possibly the divorce. Maybe my
success had something to do with it."
Jack sees it as a
natural cycle common to families. "When they get to be 14 or 15, kids think
their parents are terrible," he says. "They love them...but they wish
their parents wouldn't do the things they do, like try to make them study or
yell at them when the report card comes home. But as they grow older..."—he
sighs—"I think they come back to the parents again. When they really become
adults, then they come back to the family." That philosophy, he says,
sustains him now that his children are grown, their glories captured in his
overflowing scrapbooks. He doesn't feel a deep hurt, he says, at the sometimes
jaundiced eye with which they remember his iron hand; he doesn't begrudge them
their independence. "There'll always be a closeness," he says. "I
really believe that the parent shouldn't intrude on the children's lives.
Naturally, I wish they'd call me up every day, but I don't call my mother every
day, so I understand." His voice turns wistful again. "I'm glad to be
around them. I enjoy just standing there and looking at them. Not only from
pride, but the closeness and the love. I've been to parties and they'll be
sitting down, the four of them, laughing and talking and having a great time.
And I'll just stand off 10 feet and look at them and just say, 'Isn't that
great...that they're such good friends?' But to go over and try to join in with
them...." His voice trails off.
There is one
Brett son who might understand the emotional pulling and tugging a father
feels, especially a father like Jack. John is the only brother to have a boy of
his own. When his son Kemer, a 13-year-old who plays in Pony League, struck out
four times in a game early this summer, John admits he was beside himself.
"I wanted to shoot him!" he says, laughing. "When I was growing up,
struck out four times, and it was rough. But here's my little kid doing it.
He's taking shots right down the middle! I'm going, 'I don't believe it! He's
been around baseball all his life!' And he's saying, 'Well, the umpire was
lousy.' I said, 'Kemer, if the umpire was lousy, then you've got to swing at
the bad pitches!'
watching TV on Sunday night, reading the sports pages before dinner, and I'm
saying"—John's voice drops to an embarrassed hush—" 'You know, I sound
just like my damn dad!' I could see my kid resenting it. So I went out and
said, 'Hey, Kemer, look...I just want you to do the best you can. I don't want
you looking like a jerk out there.' "
To an outsider,
the words sound more like an explanation than an apology, but John sensed that
he had revealed a truth that his son would understand someday, if not now.