Late in the summer of 1976, Kansas City Royals third baseman, George Brett became my sports hero.
Brett was the first athlete I admired.
I was 12 years old at the time living in Brooklyn, New York.
I had just watched the Royals on a Saturday afternoon in September on NBC’s Game of the Week. I was in Timboo’s Bar down on fifth avenue. My father would bring me there every so often on Saturday afternoons. I know, crazy, right?
After that day, I began pulling for Kansas City. I knew nothing about them but I made sure to learn as much as possible. There was no internet or ESPN. I read the newspaper. Bought Baseball Digest and read the Sporting News.
At the time, neither the Mets or Yankees did anything for me.
I loved the way Brett played. Loved his batting stance. Loved how hard he played. He was a competitor.
Besides Brett there was Amos Otis, Willie Wilson, Hal McRae, Frank White, UL Washington, Willie Mays Aikens, Freddie Patek, John Mayberry, Al Cowens, Dan Quisenberry, Dennis Leonard, Larry Gura, Paul Splitorff, Clint Hurdle, Darrell Porter, Buck Martinez and John Wathan.
For the next three years the Royals faced the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. All three years the Royals lost.
Unreal man, unreal. I was heartbroken each and every October.
It hurt, really hurt.
Guys from the neighborhood gave me shit. Broke my balls on ninth avenue. It got so bad I refused to come out for three straight days.
You couldn’t imagine how much I loved George Brett. He was my fucking idol…
I bought a Starter jacket in Gerry Cosby’s for close to two-hundred dollars. I had two Royals jersey’s, home and away with number five on the back. I had a Royals cap. A t-shirt and tons of baseball cards. Damn I wish I had kept them.
This was before wearing a jersey or cap or even a Starter Jacket was popular.
Things got so crazy one year I called long distance to the Royals front office and ordered a yearbook. I went to the post office, bought a money order and sent it. My mother ripped my ass after she saw the phone bill. “WHO THE FUCK IS CALLING MISSOURI?”
Baseball Digest, which came out every month helped me learn more about the team I would follow for the next few years. I would also purchase the Sporting News each week.
A yearly book came out on the newsstands, ‘Who’s Who in Baseball’ was my textbook throughout the season.
Game five of the 1976 ALCS at Yankee Stadium was tied at six going to the bottom of the ninth. Right before midnight Chris Chambliss, Yankees first-baseman blasted a walk-off-homer against Royals relief pitcher Mark Littell. It was the first pitch too. (Brett had tied the game at six with a three-run homer in the top of the 8th)
Yankee fans stormed the field.
My childhood friend Jimmy Cullen was at the game. I am glad I wasn’t there.
In game three of the 1978 ALCS at Yankee Stadium Brett hit three straight homers off Catfish Hunter. That was cool but the Royals lost the game 6-5.
When I was cutting out of school during the day I would go over to Manhattan and hang out in the hotel lobby where the Royals stayed just to get autographs. Sometimes security would realize I wasn’t a guest so they would toss me out.
I’d hang around outside on 42nd street with other autographs seekers waiting for the Royals.
For some strange reason Willie Wilson never signed for us.
Royals skipper Whitey Herzog was cool. He once stopped to sign and stepped on my foot accidentally.
“Good thing I didn’t have my spikes on,” he said to me as we both had a laugh.
Darrell Porter was cool.
I once saw Amos Otis smoking a cigarette outside the hotel.
Frank White was super cool.
And it was strange seeing shortstop U.L. Washington’s tooth pick up close.
The day I got my idol to sign I was the happiest person in the world. I was nervous but he did it. On an index card. Not sure what ever happened to that card.
It was rare that I missed a Royals-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. I was even at the infamous pine tar game. And the continuation game.
Me and my boy Joe Lee would take the F and D trains and get to the game early for B.P.
It wasn’t until 1980 that the Royals got their revenge beating the Yankees three games to zero.
Who could forget Brett’s three-run homer in Yankee Stadium in the top of the 7th off Goose Gossage to seal the deal?
The ball off of Brett’s bat was put in the upper deck.
And yes, I was in the house that night, wearing my Royals cap and jacket.
I stayed a George Brett fan until he retired in 1993.
My love for the Royals faded.
But make no mistake, there wasn’t a bigger Royals fan in New York than me.