Brett remains KC royalty but is happy to hand off the crown
George Brett had one more mighty moment in baseball’s postseason center stage.
The Hall of Famer expected to take a seat after the world champion Kansas City Royals completed their 2.3-mile parade route and were set to address hundreds of thousands of fans at a downtown Kansas City, Missouri, rally.
In a pinch, the Royals called on the franchise’s greatest player to take his cut with a celebratory speech.
"What am I on stage for?" Brett said, laughing. "What am I doing with a microphone?"
Brett still stands as an icon in Kansas City and throughout the Midwest for his three-decade career with the Royals that included the 1985 World Series championship. Until this month, that title stood as the only one in franchise history.
Gordo, Hoz, Moose and Salvy changed that dreary stat with a 4-1 series win over the New York Mets.
"These guys are the best team ever. Ever!" Brett told the crowd at a rally at Union Station.
Brett, now a team vice president, was wowed by a parade that had fans stuffed 30 people deep and happy to catch even a glimpse of Lorenzo Cain waving over a sea of heads.
"We had 800,000 freakin’ people at the parade," Brett said. "I didn’t know we had 800,000 people in this town. I’ve never seen so many people in all my life. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen."
Brett retired in 1993 with 3,154 hits, three batting titles, two World Series appearances, one notorious wad of pine tar and a firm spot as the third baseman on the best team in Kansas City. One agonizing win from a World Series championship last year, the Royals became the first team since the 2002 Angels to come from behind in all four World Series wins in capturing the 2015 crown. That was enough for Brett to make his bold proclamation for all of baseball to hear.
"I really believe it is the best team," Brett told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "Somebody asked me if the ’85 team could beat this team. In a seven-game series, we might beat them twice. This is the better team."
Brett stands alone as the only man to win batting titles in three decades (’76, ’80, ’90). And his .390 average in 1980 — just five hits shy of .400 — is the highest in the majors in more than 70 years.
Brett also knows his Royals teams never enjoyed the widespread popularity as this crop of playoff perennials that made them a hit from the heartland to Hollywood — actor Paul Rudd is a devoted fan and even crashed the champagne bash in New York.
After the Royals won a playoff series last year, some players, led by Eric Hosmer, hit a bar in the Power and Light District and picked up a $15,000 tab for partying fans.
"That goes a long way toward being so accessible to your fans," Brett said. "It wasn’t like this in the ’80s. I’ve never seen so many Royals T-shirts, so much Royal blue memorabilia anywhere."
Brett, who threw the first pitch before Game 1, had his own social media moment when his reverse fist pump after the final out became an Internet hit.
Brett truly soaked in the World Series scene as well, enjoying the party as champagne and beer sprayed all over the locker room. Perhaps to reflect a World Series title run that always seemed more on the rocks than neat, Brett said he’d help pass out $130 bottles of Crown Royal XR whisky in a Royal blue bag to players as a gift to reflect KC’s achievement.
"They might drink the Crown Royal, but they’ll throw that blue bag over it and have a keepsake for life," he said. "It’s crazy what they do now."
With the offseason looming, Brett had one more big game ahead.
Brett has a son who attends Mississippi and the baseball great is headed there this weekend to watch No. 19 Ole Miss play Arkansas and root on the Rebels to a victory.
"It’s good to get away. All it’s been is baseball for the last month and a half," he said. "I can’t wait to go to Ole Miss and watch a big SEC football game."