July 30, 2005 in Sports

Brett relishes return

By The Spokesman-Review
Brian Plonka photo

Hall of Famer George Brett reflects on how Ryne Sandberg might feel preparing for his induction to the Hall on Sunday.
(Full-size photo)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – George Brett was so stressed out by his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 that he almost didn’t care if he ever got back.

That’s not the case anymore.

“The first one is hell – there are so many more demands on your time and you’ve got that speech hanging over your head,” said the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame third baseman. “But each year you seem to enjoy it more and more.”

Still, he’s not sure it’s going to get any better than this year. Take the traditional Saturday morning golf tournament.

“I found out last night that I’m playing with Yogi Berra and Bill Murray,” he said. “It’s me, Yogi, Bill Murray and some sponsor – now, how great is that going to be?

“That’s going to be the most memorable round of golf I think I’ll ever play – and I’ve played with some pretty good people.”

But returning to the induction ceremonies every year guarantees Brett that he’ll always be hanging around with some pretty memorable people.

Brett is part of the family consortium that owns the Spokane Indians, Chiefs and Shadow franchises. He’s one of 53 Hall of Famers in Cooperstown for the induction of Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg on Sunday, and it’s something he’s made a permanent part of his calendar.

“It’s just special,” he said. “When Mike Schmidt went in, he didn’t come back for years. But he came back when Robin Yount and I went in and he said it was because he respected us as players. I knew him a little bit from playing against him in the 1980 World Series and every once in a while our paths would cross.

“So I said let’s make a pact and come back every year. I think it’s important that we do.”

A side benefit is that it gets him out of Kansas City, where his Royals are in an ongoing death march with Tampa Bay and Colorado for the worst record in baseball. The only real highlight this year was a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees in early June, right after Buddy Bell took over as manager.

“It was great for me,” Brett laughed. “I always tell the players, ‘If you’re going to win three games all year, beat the Yankees three times.’

“Buddy got the job that day and I told him, ‘Are you crazy? Why didn’t you wait three days and then agree to be the manager once the Yankees got out of town?’ Because it didn’t look pretty. But then after they beat them in the first game, I told him he should go into the press conference, take his hat off, lean back and say, ‘What’s so bleepin’ hard about this?’ ”

After participating in the “Turn Two with Ozzie Smith” clinic at Doubleday Field on Friday, Brett held forth on a number of topics – not the least of which, in true old-timer fashion, was the general lack of aggressiveness he detects in today’s game.

“I see a lot of guys go up (to the plate) with big old shinguards on their elbows and stand over the plate,” he said, “and then the pitcher throws one inside and he starts badmouthing the pitcher. Well, if you’re a big old tough guy, take your pad off.

“I remember when Dickie Noles threw one at my head in the 1980 World Series. He flattened me. My manager, Jim Frey, comes running out and I told him to go sit down. It’s baseball. I can take care of myself. Now, I ended up striking out two pitches later, but you know what I was trying to do – hit a line drive at his head. And if I’d got on first base, I would have tried to break Larry Bowa’s or Manny Trillo’s leg breaking up a double play.

“That’s how you played the game. Nowadays, you throw a ball inside, everybody gets mad.”

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