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Did you know…
Things you didn’t know about National League ballparks:
That Liberty Bell replica at Citizens Bank park is 52 feet tall and 35 feet wide . . .
The Western Metal Supply Company building included in San Diego’s Petco Park was built in 1909 . . .
The U.S. Capitol Building, where President Biden will deliver his first State of the Union speech Tuesday night, is just a mile north of Nationals Park . . .
Hall of Fame contender Todd Helton hit more home runs (227) at Coors Field than any other player . . .
Arizona has a swimming pool in its ballpark but trouble keeping the team afloat . . .
Milwaukee’s retractable roof opens and closes in 10 minutes.
George Brett’s Quintessential Outfit
By Benjamin Sabin
In 1981 there was no cooler ballplayer than George Brett. He was coming off an MVP season in which he batted .390. That’s right, .390! You don’t see that too often anymore.
To put it into today’s more stat-heavy terms, not only did he lead the league with that .390 batting average, but he also led the league with a .454 OBP, a .664 slugging percentage, a 1.118 OPS, and a 203 OPS+. These numbers are pretty darn good. And while I love George Brett and his amazing 1980 season, there is something I love even more. I can even say that I’m obsessed with it.
I first came across my fixation on the Getty Images website. For those unfamiliar with Getty Images, they are a visual media company that supplies images, videos, and music for people who need images, videos, and music.
I was looking for a photograph of Brett for an article that I was editing. I was partially glossed over, tired, and not too focused on the hundreds of photos of Brett. Not that George isn’t fun to look at — he is — but when all of the images are side by side, the looking can become a bit tedious. And then I stopped scrolling. I hadn’t found the image I was looking for per se, but I had found THE image. There before my very eyes was the quintessential GEORGE BRETT.
When most people think of Brett, they think of him in a Kansas City Royals uniform. Either the baby blue uni or the crisp white one with dark—dare I say royal—blue lettering. Most likely the next image that pops into your mind is probably his batting stance with that heavily pine-tarred bat resting on his back left shoulder and his legs slightly bent and ready to spring into action.
And while there are many more incantations of Brett that pop into the minds of thousands, if not millions, of baseball fans, the most popular is surely that of Brett storming out of the dugout to confront umpire Tim McClelland in the infamous pine tar game (if you are unfamiliar with this game, it is worth a google. Watch a YouTube video and read an article or two, there have been plenty written).
While this image of the irate Brett bursting forth from the dugout is classic, there is a new image to add to Brett’s pictorial hall of fame that might just take the place of our previous Classic George. For those unfamiliar with this picture, then I will say you’re welcome now. For those who have had the pleasure of this picture before, then you know what I’m talking about.
The mind-bending image is that of Brett at spring training on March 15, 1981 in Fort Myers, Florida. Brett seems to be posing in front of a brick wall that has some sort of advertisement painted on it. It is unclear if this was a posed picture or not, so we won’t put that weight on it. The description of the picture says that Brett had been absent from spring training for two weeks due to a — wait for it — hemorrhoidectomy.
If you are unsure what a hemorrhoidectomy is, don’t worry. I was too.
I was pretty sure it had to do with the removal of hemorrhoids, but I wasn’t 100 per cent, so I looked it up. And yes, that is the case, the removal of hemorrhoids. The whole situation is a bit uncomfortable as I’m sure you can imagine and recovery usually takes about two weeks. So, when the photo was taken, Brett was feeling, hopefully, at least a little bit better than he did before, and immediately after, the operation.
So there is George Brett on the mend, standing (remember we’re not sure if he was posed by the photographer or not) with a black bat, taped around the barrel (this means it’s a batting practice bat. Players would put tape around the barrel of ash bats to keep the wood from separating and flaking in an attempt to prolong the life of the bat), nearly resting on his left shoulder. The look on his face is relaxed mixed with a bit of discomfort (we know why) and he is watching his fellow Royals play an exhibition game against the Texas Rangers from the Royals’ bullpen.
Oh yes, and the photo is black and white, which, of course, adds to the mystic and to the depth of Brett’s dark tan and, seemingly all-white outfit (we can’t truly know if his outfit is all white, but it looks like it and I hope it is, it’s just better that way).
The juxtaposition between the Florida tan and the all-white outfit is where the magic really happens. We’ll start with the tan. How did he get it? How most of us get a solid tan, by spending a good hour or two a day at the pool or on the sandy white beaches of the Florida coast if one is so lucky. And we can deduce that the tan was a result of the recovery time from the hemorrhoidectomy. So, there’s one good thing, other than the removal of hemorrhoids, that can come from a hemorrhoidectomy. Thanks to Brett’s hemorrhoids, he has a tan for the ages.
The second part of the convergence is the blisteringly crisp outfit. Wait, wait, wait. We can’t forget about his hair (so I guess it’s a tri-vergence). It’s feathered and perfect. Okay, so back to the outfit. Up top, we have a white (I’m pretty sure) Lacoste polo shirt. Which I know is Lacoste because of the crocodile logo. In the middle, we have a pair of white (I’m pretty sure) shorts. They are short. Not quite short shorts, but they hit at the upper thigh, so they are short enough, but not eye-catching in an offensive way. Rounding out the whiteout is a white (I’m pretty sure) pair of Spot-Bilt shoes.
The image of Brett in his all-white recovery getup watching the inconsequential spring training game is about as opposite a setting as the pine tar incident. The white-out Brett is inactive and not even involved in the game. The irate Brett is so involved that he physically had to be pulled from the game and from possibly causing physical harm to an umpire.
The circumstances of the post-operation Brett are not nearly as exciting or dramatic, but the look is equally as engaging. Both are of a ballplayer, and a human, in their prime. And both are the quintessential George Brett.
Benjamin Sabin is a writer and editor for Last Word On Baseball, editor-in-chief of Cheap Seats Press, and a baseball card artist. He enjoys keeping score at ballgames and prefers sauerkraut on his dogs. His is a proud SABR member since 2017.
Picking Atlanta’s All-Time All-Stars Isn’t Easy
By Dan Schlossberg
Since the Braves arrived in Atlanta in 1966, they’ve had more highs and lows than the Coney Island Cyclone. And they’ve had plenty of memorable players too.
That’s why picking an all-Atlanta team across the generations isn’t easy.
Take a look:
Catcher — Joe Torre, the main backstop when the team arrived from Milwaukee, hit a couple of homers on Opening Night and was widely considered the best catcher in the league. But Javy Lopez lasted longer and was even more of a power producer, though Torre hit for a better average.
First base — Orlando Cepeda and Andres Galarraga had their moments but Freddie Freeman stayed 12 years and won both an MVP award and a World Series ring. It’s tough to pick him over clutch-hitting Fred McGriff, a future Hall of Famer, but Freeman gets the call.
Second base — Ozzie Albies, a little switch-hitter with big power, is tops at second during the club’s 56-year stay in Dixie. Sorry, Mark Lemke, but it’s not even close.
Shortstop — Andrelton Simmons had a better glove but Dansby Swanson showed last season that he’s the best all-around shortstop the Braves ever had.
Third base — Okay, so Chipper Jones never won a Gold Glove. But he did win an MVP, a batting crown, and a World Series ring. Terry Pendleton rates a mention but he’s not in the Hall of Fame.
Right field — Hank Aaron was an All-Star a record 25 times and deserved more than one MVP award and a solitary World Series ring. He was wearing Atlanta livery when he became the all-time home run king. His tenure in Atlanta (eight years) was short but his legacy was long, dwarfing the short one (so far) of Ronald Acuna, Jr. Nor should David Justice, hero of the 1995 World Series, be overlooked.
Center field — Andruw Jones had 434 home runs and 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, stamping himself as a strong Hall of Fame contender. Nobody played the position as well, though fellow Cooperstown candidate Dale Murphy won five fielding awards and back-to-back MVP awards in Atlanta.
Left field — Ron Gant, converted from second base, blossomed into an All-Star who had a pair of 30/30 seasons while hitting 147 home runs during a seven-year Braves career kayoed by a dirt bike accident. Ryan Klesko finishes a close second.
Lefty starter — Tom Glavine had five 20-win seasons en route to membership in The 300 Club. Like current candidate Max Fried, he was a World Series hero.
Righty starter — Greg Maddux might have been the greatest free-agent signing ever. He won four staight Cy Youngs, three of them in Atlanta, and ended with 355 wins, most by any living pitcher.
Closer — The only way to get John Smoltz included here is to list him as the No. 1 reliever. After all, he was exactly that during the three years he worked out of the pen. Along with Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone, he wore a Braves uniform for the entire length of the 14-year title streak (1991-2005).
Manager — Bobby Cox teams topped 100 wins six times and won five pennants, most by any team in the ‘90s. He had two terms, serving as GM in between, and went all the way to Cooperstown.
General manager — John Schuerholz, the sixth Brave from the streak years to reach Cooperstown, was adept at maintaining a winning roster on a limited budget. He simply did it better than anyone else, winning world championships in both leagues.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has several March booksigning events. The author of 40 books, he covers the game for forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, and others. E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things you didn’t know about American League ballparks:
When the Braves won their only world championship in Boston, their host ballpark in the World Series was Fenway Park . . .
The Yankees twice won world championships in their first year in a new park: Yankee Stadium 1923 and the third version of that ballpark in 2009 . . .
The Oakland Coliseum has more foul territory than any other ballpark . . .
The 1991 Toronto Blue Jays were the first team to draw four million fans in a season …
Cleveland not only has a new nickname but the largest video board in the majors . . .
That old-time steam train in Houston’s Minute Maid Park runs on an 800-foot track …
Cow-nose stingrays cavort in a 10,000-gallon tank inside Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field.
Know Your Editors
HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.