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Local History

George Brett

 One of the most accomplished players in baseball history, George Brett played for the Kansas City Royals from 1973-1993.  He visited Springfield on the Royals preseason caravan in 1984.  Over a thousand fans showed up at the Battlefield Mall to get an autograph from the famous slugger.  Following his appearance in Springfield, Brett traveled to Jefferson City where he attended a luncheon at the state capitol.  Unfortunately, the event was marred by a fist fight between two St. Louis area representatives, Charles Troupe and Louis Ford.  Troupe threw a cup of hot coffee in Ford’s face and then punched the lawmaker several times.  Ford was transported to a local hospital as Brett greeted fans. 

 “Brett says fans will welcome Wilson back,” Springfield (Mo.) Daily News, January 11, 1984, 1D.

"George Brett said he thinks the Kansas City Royals fans will accept Willie Wilson if the centerfielder can return to baseball this spring.  'When (Darrell) Porter came back, he got a standing ovation,'  Brett said.  'With Willie having to spend three months in prison, he’ll probably get two standing ovations.  He’ll have 24 ballplayers behind him when he comes back,' Brett added.  'But he’s going to have a tough time.  At home, if he does bad it’ll be tough and it’s going to be tough on the road in places like Boston, New York, Chicago, Oakland and Anaheim.  It’s not going to be easy.  I don’t envy him at all.'

"The subject of Wilson and drugs have come up frequently for Brett, who was in Springfield Tuesday afternoon on the 1984 Royals Caravan.  Brett signed autographs before a record number of fans at the Battlefield Mall.  So many turned out, that not everybody got an autograph.  Pitcher Bud Black and Dean Vogelaar, Royals’ director of public relations, accompanied Brett, obviously the star attraction, on the trip. 
Wilson along with teammates Vida Blue, Jerry Martin and Willie Aikens were all sentenced to three months in federal prison at Fort Worth, Texas, on cocaine charges.  Only Wilson remains with the Royals.  Wilson’s case will be reviewed by the commissioner, whoever that may be, on May 15 and he may be reinstated back into baseball at that time.

"He differs from Porter because authorities caught Wilson trying to buy cocaine over the telephone.  Porter voluntarily admitted himself to a treatment center in the spring of 1980 for chemical dependency.  'The key for him (Wilson) will be if we get off to a good start as a team,' Brett said.  'Fans forgive and forget.'

"Brett, who lives in Palm Springs, Calif. in the off-season, lamented the drug issue and said its become a main topic of interest on the caravan.  'We were in an elementary school talking with fourth, fifth, and sixth graders and they asked about drugs,' Brett said.  'I told them I’ve never taken drugs and they they’re bad for you.'  
This casts a different light for Brett, who said he doesn’t consider himself a role model for youth.  'You know, that’s the toughest question to answer,' he said.  'I know what’s right and what’s wrong and I try to do what’s right.  I think that’s all I can do.'

"Brett’s had his share of the limelight and has given kids reason to idolize him.  He’s flirted with batting .400, finishing with a .390 average in 1980.  He blasted a “Goose” Gossage fastball into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium for a memorable homer to seal the American League Championship for Kansas City.

"However, Brett has had other things happen to him that have caused headlines.  In 1980, Brett caused a nation to learn how to spell the word hemorrhoid, which he suffered from during the World Series.  And last year, his name grew larger with the Pine Tar Affair, when Yankee manager Billy Martin protested Brett’s bat had too much pine tar after Brett hit a home run.  He doesn’t necessarily want the Pine Tar Affair or his bout with hemorrhoids to be his epitaph.   'I’d like to be known as a guy who almost hit .400,' Brett said.  'But I’m going to be some time dodging the Pine Tar thing.  That thing got way out of hand.  (Yankee owner George) Steinbrenner just got fined $250,000 for his comments.  The next day after it happened, 40,000 fans show up at Royals stadium and that wouldn’t have been bad except we were playing the Indians,' Brett added.  'It was the largest walk-up crowd in the club’s history.  All because of pine tar.'

"While Brett said he wants to be remembered as 'someone who was successful,' he doesn’t think he’s a star.  'I’m not really a star.  I don’t think,' he said.  'I’m fairly successful and single.'  Not that Brett, 30, hasn’t considered marriage.  'When you get older you are more set in your ways,' he said.  'It’s not that I don’t want a relationship.  But relationships take time.  I love little kids.  It’s just not right now.'

"His success on the diamond keeps Brett busy in the off season.  After he finishes his caravan duty, Brett will travel to Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, and to New York for taping sessions with ABC and ESPN. He doesn’t let all the travel interfere with his life.  'My brother Ken was my role model,' Brett said.  'He played baseball for 12 years and after he quit, he said he didn’t have any fun.  I am determined to have some fun and not let everything get to me.'  Brett said his brother doesn’t have a job yet and it’s 'driving him crazy.'

"Yet, Brett said, he hasn’t thought much about his future.  'You know, my dad took me to catch the plane to come to Kansas city and he asked me what I was going to do when I retire and I told him I honestly don’t know,' Brett said.  'What appealed to me two years ago (owning a cattle ranch) doesn’t appeal to me now.  What appeals to me now may not appeal to me two years from now.  I really don’t know what I’ll do.  It’s such a long ways off for me,' he added."

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