* Hall of Famer George Brett, second from left, with son Dylan, Robin, wife Leslie and oldest son Jackson, Jackson sent his father a text the day that the Royals clinched a post-season berth calling it the “happiness day of his life.
By Bob Elliott
BALTIMORE _ How excited are people in Kansas City about the Royals being in post-season play?
“Well,” said George Brett with a laugh inside the visiting clubhouse at Camden Yards the other night, “the day we clinched my son, Jackson, sent me a text.”
After the Royals edged the Chicago White Sox 3-1 on Sept. 26 to assure their first post-season berth since 1985, the Hall of Famer opened a message from his eldest son which read: “Please congratulate Dayton (general manager Dayton Moore). This is the happiest day of my life.”
“I don’t know,” said Brett shrugging first his left shoulder, then his right, “I thought we’d given him a pretty good life. He’s been to Hawaii — oh I don’t know, maybe 10 times — he played high school ball, went to (NCAA Div. III) University of St. Thomas, played ball, his mother and father love him …
“I thought we’d done all right.”
Brett, the blue collar Hall of Famer, chuckles, smiles as his blue eyes twinkle, as he did in the National Geographic photo years before in his playing days which inspired the hit “Royals,” by New Zealander Lorde.
And the Royals clinching a playoff berth is the happiest day of Jackson Brett’s 21 years on this earth?
Such is the power of baseball.
“George hasn’t changed on bit,” said Dick Kaegel, a ball writer now of MLB.com, who covered Brett from 1988 until he retired in 1993, with 3,154 career hits. After Games 1 and 2 at Camden Yards, Brett roamed the visiting clubhouse, eating a chicken wing here, dropping a “hey, good job baby,” there on a player headed to the trainer’s room and stopping another to discuss a pitch or an at-bat.
“He’s one of the guys,” said Jason Frasor of the Royals vice president. “I don’t know if all the young guys know how good he was. But I KNOW.”
Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar is often at the Rogers Centre, but in the clubhouse? Never. It was two months into last season before he was asked to work with struggling second baseman Emilio Bonifacio. Broadcaster Jim Palmer is always around the Orioles.
But Brett? He’s in the clubhouse giving advice, the way Hall of Famer Don Sutton did with the Atlanta Braves talented pitching staff.
Royals’ Raul Ibanez wanted to grow up to play the game “just like George” now shares the same clubhouse.
“That was my guy,” said Ibanez, in his 19th season, fourth with the Royals. “He’s always there to give advice. It’s a simple message usually: ‘try to hit it hard, not far,’ or when we are against a guy with a plus fastball ‘swing easy, not hard.’ He repeats a lot (hitting guru) Charlie Lau told him.”
Earlier Brett wasn’t as self-deprecating explaining his son’s greatest day. His eyes weren’t pine-tar wide, but he was tired of hearing about the Royals drought and not having won since 1985. His piercing blue
“That’s all you hear on TV, about the Royals post-season drought,” said Brett. “We haven’t played as many post-season games as say the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox, but from 1976 the first year we made it, until 1985, we played 43 games. We were there seven years out of 10.”
The Jays have played 41 games and now hold the longest post-season drought.
“It’s not fair to harp on 1985 … not fair to Dayton or the players. Some guys weren’t even born yet. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon have been here eight seasons. OK? Those two should be asked about the past eight years.
“Baltimore hasn’t won since 1983. We played 43 playoff games, plus six this year so far, that’s 49, that’a lot.”
Brett could bring his “don’t blame these guys” speech to the next Toronto Maple Leafs or Toronto Blue Jays luncheon — all he’d have to do was change the dates.
At East High in Shawnee Mission, Kan., Jackson Brett was the centre for the football Lancers wearing uniform No. 67. Younger brother Dylan, second of Leslie and George’s three boys wore No. 66 at right guard, Both weighed 270 lbs.
Brett’s good friend Vince Flynn, the New York Times best-selling author of political thriller novels, suggested in 2010 Jackson head to St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. Flynn passed away last summer. We ran into Jackson and his Hall of Fame father the day after his St. Thomas visit as the Blue Jays finished the season out at Target Field in Minneapolis — it was the final game Cito Gaston managed.
Last year at St. Thomas Jackson, Brett was one of the many relatively famous attending class: linebacker Anthony King-Foreman, son of Minnesota Vikings running back Chuck Foreman; hurdler Katie Ryan, daughter of Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan; hoopster Marcus Alipate, son of former NFL and Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Tuineau Alipate; goalie Michael Krieg, whose father Dave Krieg was an NFL quarterback for 17 seasons; Cory Quinlain, whose pop Tom Quinlan played for the Blue Jays and uncle Robb was with the Anaheim Angels; fullback Willie Schneider, whose uncle is Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider and lineman Ulice Payne III, son of Ulice Payne, Jr. CEO and president of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Youngest son Robin attends the University of Mississippi, which is why on Saturday, the Hall of Famer was wearing an Ole Miss t-shirt.
The Royals might beat the Baltimore Orioles.
They might win the World Series.
So happier days may lie ahead for Jackson Brett, his pop and Royals fans everywhere.
We’d suggest/offer as a nominee for one of the happiest days in lives of Jackson, Dylan and Robin Brett a Sunday afternoon in July of 1999.
That’s when their father batting last behind the son of the late umpire Nestor Chylak, Orlando Cepeda, Robin Yount and Nolan Ryan … and gave the best speech we’ve ever heard from the stage in Cooperstown, N.Y.