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George Brett

April 26, 2010

Does George Brett remember that he won his first-round match in the 1975 Bazooka/Joe Garagiola Big League Bubble Gum Blowing Championship? So much came after that. Batting titles, kisses from Morganna, division titles, the flirtation with .400, pennants, hemorrhoids, MVP awards, pine tar, a World Series title, 3,000 hits, enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. How are you going to remember every victory? Still, it would be a shame if all the drama and glory in his career obliterated any recollection by Brett of when his bubble bested that of his first-round competitor, White Sox infielder Lee Richard. I can see it now. Richard’s bubble springs a small hole, its growth stalling, while Brett’s bubble continues to expand. He’s a young man. I imagine him finding it hard not to laugh.

***

I find myself nostalgic for moments in my own life that are inconsequential enough to seem to be bordering on vanishing. Driving home from work years ago, when I first moved to Chicago. The radio is on, sports radio babble. It’s an instance of being neither here nor there, but I remember that feeling, being in a new place, driving, not feeling particularly bad or good, the sky growing dark, and I want to hold onto it, and I don’t know why. Years before that, I took a short trip with my friend Charles to Montreal. We were walking around, and I saw a guy sail past on a bicycle. I wanted to be that guy, some guy who lived in Montreal and rode around on his bicycle. There are these moments that seem like nothing but in retrospect seem like you were close to the edge of the veil.

***

Brett was one of three future Hall of Famers to participate in the one and only major league bubble-blowing tournament. (A fourth standout, Bert Blyleven, seems to have a chance to push the number of enshrined bubble-blowers to four.) The other two Cooperstown-bound players, Johnny Bench and Gary Carter, bowed out in the first round of the tournament, to Jerry Johnson and Johnny Oates, respectively. But Brett notched the win over Lee Richard to advance into a three-man second-round match with Blyleven and Mickey Scott, which Scott won, making the final six in the three-man semifinal matches free of guys whom the casual fan would be able, just a few years later, to remember.

***

When I was a kid, my conception of my future adulthood was very vague, with one exception. Generally, I imagined that adulthood meant finally being free of the kinds of worries that tied my stomach in knots. I assumed that adult me would have it all figured out. I’d have a house and kids, too, because that’s what adults had. That’s about as specific as it got. But I did imagine one specific eventuality: some day, I would make a killing by selling my baseball cards. All my stars would be worth millions. Even the nobodies would be somebody because I’d held on to them.

***

There were some good players involved in the bubble-blowing tournament (besides the Hall of Famers: Bill Madlock had been on the all-star team that season, and John Stearns, Doug DeCinces, and Rick Rhoden would be all-stars later in their careers), but the majority of players able to rack up bubble-blowing wins in the tournament came from the ranks of the relative unknown. It’s odd to think that George Brett was at that time a member of the lesser-known of the bubble-gum competitors. But he was once merely a guy with just one card in his likeness, a young man staring out into the unknown.

***

I wouldn’t want to sell my cards now, but if I did, I’d probably only get enough to buy a suitcase of Miller Lite to haul back to my apartment. This George Brett rookie card would theoretically be my most valuable card, I would guess, though I don’t know that much about the relative worth of various cards. But as you can probably tell, the card has been handled a lot, all its corners dinged up and parts of the card worn down to flecks of white. It’s also off-center, as a lot of 1975 cards were. But I like it. It’s mine, worthless to anyone else but me. It seems to be before anything has happened. Brett has an erect batting stance that he would soon jettison to become the foremost warrior in the crouching cult of Lau. His shoulders are even bunched a little so that he looks like an eight-year-old worried about being drilled by a pitch. But besides that suggestion of anxiety, there is no urgency in the moment. Off in the distance, some guy is walking around holding a windbreaker in his hands. Who is that guy? Where is he going? Can I go with him?

26 comments

  1. Wow, this is the card that changed it all.

    I remember around the summer of 1980 when Brett was flirting with .400, and all of a sudden, this card started selling for $10-15 dollars. All of a sudden light-bulbs were going off on the head of millions of boys/men that their card collections were actually worth money.

    I remember going up into our attic like some kind of 13 year old Howard Carter looking for my stash of cards that had been “stored” in a big old styrofoam cooler chest. The cards were “stored” about as neatly as someone would keep clothes in a laundry hamper. But after about an hour of sifting through the Don Moneys, Ed Kranepools, and Pete Lacocks, I found the Brett Card.

    I still remember feeling like I had won the power-ball or something when I found this card.

    Card Collecting was never the same after that moment.


  2. I feel that no discussion of Brett’s accomplishments would be complete without including this: [note from Josh: link to video deleted at the strong request of the owners of the video]


  3. This was the year Topps came out with a mini version (2 1/8 x 3 1/8 instead of 2 1/2 by 3 1/2) of their regular set. The mini version of the George Brett rookie card was the most valuable card of all the cards of my childhood.

    A friend of mine had it, and I ended up acquiring it in exchange for paying for his ticket to the very first USFL game of the Oakland Invaders.


  4. Morisseau,

    That’s classic, I never saw that one before. Did Brett totally forget he was on a microphone?? Imagine if you’re some minor leaguer trying to make the team and George Brett is there and he’s talking to you in great detail and great joy about a time he crapped in his pants!!

    I remember reading his book around 1981 and he came off as being kind of wild and crazy guy up until that point, drinking, smoking, and tons of women. He was from Los Angeles so he would always pop up on t.v. on shows like “Fantasy Island” or “Battle of the Network Stars”.


  5. Here’s a animated version of “The George Brett Story”.

    [note from Josh: video removed at the strong request of owner's of the video.]


  6. I had to stop playing that animation vid because my boss is sitting near enough to me to hear me dying of laughter.

    When I was a kid I always imagined the adult me would present my card collection to an appreciative son. Not long ago I dug out my box and showed some to my boy, who’s 3. I was unprepared for how crushed I was when he didn’t really get it right away.


  7. How about a shout-out to Kurt Bevacqua?

    http://www.padresnation.com/oldschool/kurtbevacqua.html


  8. I will never see George Brett the same way again. He shits his pants twice a year? Does this have anything to do with the hemmorroids?


  9. Morisseau – thank you for making my day.

    Now, this has to be one of the funniest beisbol artifacts ever unearthed. It seems . . . no, in fact it is utterly impossible that I’ve never laid eyes on it. Probability suggests that I’ve had long side-splitting conversations with friends about it.

    And yet I can’t remember it at all. If this is what senility will feel like, bring it on I suppose…


  10. Josh,
    I think I know how you felt in that moment when you first moved to Chicago. When you have been somewhere for a while you have seen everything, warts and all. When you go somewhere new, you haven’t seen the warts yet, and you don’t want to.


  11. Hey, Ian Wilker. I just finished reading Josh’s book. I feel like I know you AND Josh at this point.


  12. I find it interesting that in that famous Bevacqua card he’s wearing his uniform (or at least the top).

    When did the cards become too important that they started making sure there were no guys wandering around in the background during the Spring Training shots?


  13. Speaking of Bevacqua and of great videos posted in these comments, if you check out the video of the finals of the bubble-game championship, posted by johnq11 in the comments of a post I did a little while ago, you’ll see Bevacqua and his opponent, Johnny Oates, in full uniform.


  14. I have liked Brett since the Pine Tar incident at least, but now I think he’s gone up even higher in my estimation.
    I cannot stop laughing. This video drove all the painful memories of my first Strat-o-Matic games, played as an adult woman in the workplace with only the sketchiest knowledge of statistics (what the hell was I thinking?), from my mind, at least momentarily.
    Twice a year, huh. Well, my first games were pretty bad but at least I didn’t shit my pants. Holy crap this is the best baseball video this year. Thank you, Josh. Who knows what other stuck BBs of baseball goodness your book may shake loose from the toy pinball machines of memory.


  15. For me, what really catapults the monologue into a whole other stratosphere of genius is how it ends. First of all, there’s Brett’s use of the term “double-tapered” as a modifier for the steaming noun of the anecdote’s “happy ending.” Double-tapered?!? Second, there’s the perfect denouement: “Who’s the pitchers in this game?”

    If I were an actor, this would be my audition soliloquy.


  16. Josh,

    Well said, LOL!! I’ve never heard someone refer to their crap as “Double Tapered” before.

    What really gets me is the Enthusiasm and Detail he use’s to tell the story. Unbelievable! He not only took a “Double Tapered Shit”, it was the best one of his life! And then he keeps saying, “Honest to God” and “True Story” as if anyone of his stature would make up a story like this.

    What’s amazing is he volunteers the information that he’s good for “Two shits in his pants” a year. As if this ratio is somehow normal.

    Also it’s interesting to watch the minor league players try to get away from him and he just keeps following them telling his story.


  17. “He shits his pants twice a year? Does this have anything to do with the hemmorroids?”

    The hems was from the ’80 World Series, when Brett had to leave a game because of it. So no. But maybe.


  18. When I was a kid the Scholastic Book Club had a magazine called Dynamite that I used to buy every issue of. In the spring of 1975 the magazine had a special feature – an uncut sheet of nine Topps baseball cards from that same year. Naturally, being young and ignorant, I cut them apart with a pair of dull school scissors. Which wouldn’t have been a big deal in itself, except that one of the cards was that of a rookie…named George Brett. And using the dull scissors left a slight tear on one edge, thus dramatically reducing that card’s condition and making it worth just a fraction of what it might have been. I’ve regretted my foolishness ever since.


  19. Pete29anderson,

    Was that an actual sheet of Topps cards or where they “Dynamite Reprints”?

    I seem to remember I had a 1977 Pete Rose from Dynamite magazine with the top cut off terribly by myself.

    Dynamite Magazine was the best thing when I was kid, especially in those pre-internet, pre-kids/cable networks days.


  20. “But I did imagine one specific eventuality: some day, I would make a killing by selling my baseball cards. All my stars would be worth millions. Even the nobodies would be somebody because I’d held on to them.”

    Why do I get the feeling that the book is going to become a best-seller? And when it does, the featured cards (no matter how nondescript the featured player) will all skyrocket in value.

    Perhaps your young self had this grand plan figured out, if only in the back of your mind.


  21. It was a genuine sheet of Topps cards. I can’t remember who the other cards were of – probably a bunch of nobodies.


  22. Nice to see my All-Time favorite player make the pages of CG. My handle finally makes sense. I remember thinking “GB5HOF” would make a sweet vanity license plate when I got my first car in 1989. Then I realized that vanity plates were for douchebags, and that the $75 dollar price tag was probably worth more than the piece of shirt Cutlass I was driving.


  23. gb5hof: Brett has shown up a couple times previously on this site–if you click on George Brett in the sidebar (in the archives under Kansas City Royals) and then scroll down on his archive page, you’ll see a couple other earlier posts, including my attempt to select him as the best third baseman of all time. Hey, did Mike Schmidt ever get kissed by Morganna or take a perfect “double-tapered” dump?


  24. on the subject of brett and his bathroom habits, here’s a fab admission from chan ho park: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oMI8NWvjpo


  25. Ahh yes. I meant to write: “Nice to see my All-Time favorite player AGAIN make the pages of CG. I’ve always enjoyed your entries about Brett. To answer your question…Schmidt never did either of those things. The only two things Mike Schmidt did that Brett never did was grow a mustache and sport a “lunch lady-esque” body perm.

    http://citypaper.net/blogs/sports/files/2009/02/mike_schmidt.gif


  26. My George Brett memories are probably different than most posting here. Like many Canadians in 1985 was rooting for the Jays in the postseason. Was on a family road trip watching the last game of the series on t.v. – remember yelling at the t.v. “%&@#ing walk Brett already” – they never did and they paid for it. Dan Quisenberry with that unusual (at least to me at the time) ‘submarine’ delivery also had the Jays number.

    Had enough of the Jays and decide to switch teams to the Mariners. Wonder if you ever considered doing a Jay Buhner card on your site?



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