Mental toughness? "He's among the first I'd pick if I were going to war," says Macfarlane. Through last week Montgomery had 134 saves, a 2.37 ERA and one All-Star Game appearance as a Royal. His save totals have gone up over the last five seasons 1-18-24-33-39. If he saves 40 this year, he will become only the second pitcher ever to increase his save total six years running (the first was former Oriole Sammy Stewart. 1979-84). Finally, Montgomery is getting some recognition. "My first three or four years here." he says, "I could walk around town virtually unnoticed."
So could most of the rest of the Royals, except, of course, Brett, who remains an icon in Kansas City. A surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, Brett has played the game brilliantly—with grace. Hair and passion—for 20 years, but he says this season might be his last. He doesn't want his final at bat to be a home run or a line-drive single but a groundout to the second baseman in which he busts his butt running to first, then turns to the rookies in the dugout and says, "That's how the game is played."
"Every time I go 0 for 4, I want to retire," he says. "Every time I get three hits, I want to play. Every time I do something to help us win, I want to play. Every time I feel overmatched up there—that's a lot—I want to retire."
Through Sunday, Brett was still hitting in his customary No. 3 hole, had 31 RBIs and, after his four hits on Sunday, was batting .250. Three weeks ago, when Hal McRae told him he was doing a great job, Brett replied. "What in the hell are you talking about? I'm hitting .240."
"Hal told me, 'I don't care if you hit .220, your job now is to produce runs,' " Brett says.
The ease with which McRae now moves among his players, including a former teammate like Brett, is partly the result of Royal owner Ewing Kauffman's having sent him to a leadership seminar in the off-season. McRae, who's the first to admit that he wasn't a good manager at first, went gladly. "The seminar helped me understand how to deal with my bosses, my peers, my subordinates," he says. "I was badly prepared when I came in, but I'm learning. You need methods, procedures. It taught me to categorize individuals, and how to deal with them."
A career .290 hitter who appeared in eight league championship series and four World Series, McRae was a winner as a player—and now he's finally winning as a manager. "I don't understand how you can have fun in this job when you're losing more than you're winning," he says. "I manage to win, not just to manage. You play golf to play golf. But golf isn't my profession, this is. And I'm enjoying it."