King of KC, Brett a big part of All-Star Game
Hall of Famer made countless appearances to promote Midsummer Classic
KANSAS CITY -- George Brett was appointed the 2012 All-Star Game's All-Star Ambassador. Truth be told, he has a higher designation. He's the King of Kansas City.
Don't believe it? The Kansas City Star, in its All-Star Game special section, headlined Brett as KING GEORGE.
However, in preparing for Kansas City's third All-Star Game, King George worked like a commoner.
"Kansas City can show the United States and basically the world -- because this is televised all over the world -- what a beautiful city we have, and what great baseball fans we have and what a beautiful stadium we have," Brett said last April as he accepted the role. "I think it's a great opportunity for the Royals."
He launched into countless appearances, endless radio and TV interviews, trips to New York (hello, Fan Cave), anything to promote his game, his team and his city.
The 83rd All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX at 6:30 p.m. CT tonight.
"He's done a phenomenal job," said former Royals general manager Herk Robinson. "He started on this in April, and he's devoted every second he's had to it. And his attitude was just outstanding, positive, upbeat."
There are lasting images of Brett in Kansas City. Leaping on pitcher Bret Saberhagen when the 1985 World Series was won. Raising his hands in joy at second base when, in August 1980, his average reached .400. Drilling his 3,000th base hit in Anaheim. Kissing home plate at Kauffman Stadium after playing his last game there. And, of course, the fierce blow up in the notorious Pine Tar Incident at Yankee Stadium.
Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews always points to Brett and the third game of the American League Championship Series as the reason for the 1985 club's glory.
"Game 3 of the 1985 playoffs against Toronto here at Kauffman Stadium, I've said it a thousand times, it was the most important game in Royals history because it paved the way for the playoff win and then later the World Series win," Matthews said. "He willed the Royals to win that game. ... He literally put the whole team and the whole town on his shoulders and just decided, 'We're down two games to none, and if we're down 3-0, we're dead.' And that turned everything around."
|"Even when he started his career here, he seemed to embrace the city, the people, the fans and the organization, and he just fit."|
|-- Denny Matthews|
That's just one reason that Kansas Citians came to love Brett. The thing was, he loved them right back.
"Even when he started his career here, he seemed to embrace the city, the people, the fans and the organization, and he just fit," Matthews said. "And being a guy from Southern California, you wouldn't think that round peg would fit into that square hole necessarily, but it did. And getting married to a girl from the Midwest and things became more solid for him here, he became more involved, and it just kind of went from there."
Brett and his wife, Leslie, decided to raise their three sons in Kansas City. Brett coached his kids' sports teams, pursued business interests, played golf, was an instructor at Royals' Spring Training and a vice president of the ballclub.
"Huge impact. George is such a special person. You can see how he was a Hall of Famer," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "He gives his all every day. He doesn't care about the fluff side of it. He wanted to play hard, he wanted to run hard on the bases, he wanted to be as smart as he can. Well, he's got that same attitude off the field where he takes pride in the Kansas City Royals, he takes pride in what we do, and he lives his life with a lot of integrity."
Over time, even in retirement, he became the figure probably most readily identified with Kansas City.
"A Hall of Famer that had a sparkling, clean past. Good-looking guy that's an enthusiastic, great, great player. Well spoken, tons of charisma -- if you don't mind watching his Pine Tar episode for the 896th time," Robinson said with a chuckle.
Brett has the knack of identifying with the blue-collar guys and gals. Oakland manager Bob Melvin, an All-Star coach, was a Brett teammate for one year, 1992, and saw him constantly break records in his second-to-last season.
"But I think what stands out more for me is what a clubhouse guy he is. He's a regular guy, just as comfortable hanging out with the clubhouse guys as he is the CEO of a company. And I think that's what endears him to so many people around the game, whether it's media or players or coaches or support staff," Melvin said. "He's a regular guy who's a super star. He's a guy's guy. He was one of the great teammates of all time. I've been with a lot of teams as coach, manager, player, and nobody stands out more as a teammate than him."
"I never saw Brett play, I'm not that old, but I've seen many highlights of him and he was a tremendous player. He's a Hall of Famer," said the Rangers' All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre. "It's nice to be here and to be starting, but I'm not a shadow of what George Brett was."
Brett was a 13-time All-Star.
"He's the most key figure in Royals history, he's the best player to ever put a Royals uniform on, he's a great person on and off the field," Royals All-Star Billy Butler said.
Brett spent this week making community appearances with Royals owners David and Dan Glass and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, he managed the U.S. team to victory in the Futures Game, then joined Bo Jackson and Jon Hamm and others in a celebrity softball game. Through it all, he was grinning like a kid.
Brett was no mere figurehead.
"He's never been that kind of guy," Robinson said. "He's done it with joy and he's done it with his heart, I believe."
He's the king with the common touch.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.