30 years later, peers still marvel at Brett’s .400 run


By Greg Echlin

FOXSportsKansasCity.com
August 23, 2010

It was around this time 30 years ago when George Brett�s push to hit .400 for the season was as hot as the summer sun.� In the open air cauldron at Royals Stadium, the Royals concluded a homestand for the ages on an August Sunday afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays.
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There was no drama in the American League West race.� The Royals enjoyed a 14-game lead over Oakland.
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The Royals were hoping to add to their lead in the bottom of the eighth after breaking a 2-2 tie the inning before on a double by Brett that drove in two runs.� The hit knocked Blue Jays starter Jim Clancy out of the game.� Ken Schrom took the mound in the eighth, and John Wathan stepped to the plate looking for a two-out hit with Frank White on third.
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�George was hitting right behind me. �I was hitting second and he was hitting third.� I was just trying to get a hit myself,� Wathan recalls.� �I get up to the plate.� Ball one.� And the people start cheering.� I was trying to figure what the heck was going on.� Then ball two and they�re cheering louder.� Finally I walked and I got a standing ovation for my walk.� It was the loudest ovation I had in my life.� I figured out later that it was for George to come to the plate.�
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After Wathan drew the base on balls, the Blue Jays made a pitching change.� So Mike Barlow faced the unenviable task of trying to retire Brett who extended his franchise record hitting streak to 29 straight earlier in the day.� Brett greeted Barlow with a double that scored White and Wathan.
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It was moment was frozen in time.� You�ve seen the snapshot.� Brett raised both arms above his head while holding his batting helmet,� his updated batting average displayed on the scoreboard.� .401!
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Three years earlier, when Rod Carew finished with a .388 batting average for the Minnesota Twins, he wasn�t above .400 anytime after July 10.� �I really got tired in August.� My arms were tired because I was swinging so much,� Carew said recently during an appearance at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
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There was some talk last year with Minnesota�s Joe Mauer hovering around .400, but that discussion died when he faded from consideration in late June.� No one since Brett in 1980 has come close this late in the season to becoming the first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941.
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In early May of �80, when Brett was batting in the .250s, the injury bug started to hit.� The longest stretch of games he missed was in late June and early July.� But Wathan for one thinks Brett probably benefited from being sidelined earlier that year.
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�He had a little bit of rest early in the year, which made him stronger toward the end of the year,� said Wathan. �
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The day after the Sunday win over Toronto the Royals embarked on a three-game road trip at Texas. �Brett added three more hits in five at-bats, raising his average to .404 and his hitting streak to 30.� It wasn�t just the Splendid Splinter, now Joe DiMaggio�s 56-game hitting streak started to enter the conversation.� �By then the media circus became full-blown.
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�It was really crazy for George.� It was pretty easy for the rest of us because in every town we went all the media attention was obviously surrounding George,� said Royals Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Leonard, the starting pitcher at Texas when Brett�s hitting streak ended at 30.
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As late as Sept. 19, Brett batted .400, roughly a full month at or above the mark.� Over a full season, Brett�s final mark of .390 still hasn�t been topped by anyone in either league since (Tony Gwynn�s .394 average in 1994 was in the strike-shortened season that ended Aug. 11).
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