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George Brett: A World Class Jerk

My first foray into the world of autograph collecting didn’t go so well.

I was at what was then known as Baseball City, FL, just south of Orlando, for a Kansas City Royals Spring Training game.

Standing on the concourse, I spotted George Brett walking from the field over to a throng of fans standing along the fence down the first base line.

I scurried over, 1991 Donruss card in hand (the only Brett card I thought to bring), and slowly but surely slunk my way to the front of the line.

My strategy paid off. I was just a few people in front of where Brett was signing, and he was heading my way.

As Brett took something from one fan’s hand, I knew he had to give it back, so I made sure my card was right next to that person’s eagerly waiting hand.

Bingo.

George Brett - 1991 Donruss # 396 ($0.14 at BaseballCardsOutlet.com)

Problem was, I was so nervous about obtaining the autograph of my boyhood hero that when he handed me back the card, I placed my thumb squarely on the signature, smearing it.

Live and learn.

Apparently, Brett was more willing to sign when he was a player, because my next opportunity didn’t end on a pleasant note, either, but I gained a new hero from the experience.

The place was called The Field of Dreams, near Platte City, MO, at a ball park created from a corn field in the likeness of the Kevin Costner movie.

It was 110 degrees in the shade, and Brett was supposed to sign autographs from 1 to 2 p.m. He arrived late and left early, in a grumpy mood.

As I waited in line, I noticed a stack of generic Brett cards with his autograph on them, apparently for those who had nothing to sign.

The boy in front of me, probably not 10 years old, started to take one while Brett was signing his baseball. The boy quickly pulled his hand back as Brett slapped at it, sternly telling the lad, “Only one per person.”

I had a mini Royals bat and an 8×10 for him to sign, so by then, I was expecting a war.

As he signed my bat, I kindly asked him if he would sign the photo. When he protested, I shot back, “It’s for my son, ‘Brett.’” Reluctantly, he grabbed the pic and scribbled a personal autograph, just in case I was lying, I suppose.

Yet, about 10 feet away sat Buck O’Neil, lounged in a chair, shirt unbuttoned, without a care in the world.

Buck wouldn’t sign an autograph for anyone – unless he got a hug.

I stood there, taking in the contrast.

Here was a man who was retired, a hero to many kids in the heartland of America, with nothing to do but play golf all day. He made millions from playing a boy’s game, yet, he seemed bitter and angry.

And 10 feet away sat a man who wasn’t allowed to play in nice ball parks solely because of the color of his skin. He was banned from the majors until late in his career, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Yet, he was friendly and had a smile for everyone.

George Brett is everything that is wrong with sports today: Self-centered superstar athletes who have no time to give back to those who pay their exorbitant salaries. Guys who refuse to sign autographs unless they can charge you $60 at a card show.

On the other hand, Buck O’Neil, rest his soul, is a refreshing contrast.

True, athletes don’t owe us fans anything. But I’ve always believed they have an obligation to give back to those who worship the ground in which they walk.

The Seattle Mariners were in Kansas City a few weeks back, and my friend and I were one of very few who showed up early in hopes of getting autographs.

Ichiro stepped out of a cab, right in front of us. Head down and hands in his pockets, he walked briskly into the stadium, a stern “No” when asked for his signature.

It took me back to the trials that black men like Buck O’Neil went through to get acceptance in American sports.

Here was a world-renowned superstar, one of the first to usher in the wave of Japanese baseball players, and that was the thanks we got.

Filed in: Featured, Parts Unknown

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4 Responses to "George Brett: A World Class Jerk"

  1. TIm Hertzog says:

    Ya know one guy that I have the utmost respect for is Evan Meek. The man is great in person to talk to and he really seems to enjoy talking with the kids. I have a picture of Evan and my son together from our first MLB game (June 2009) that we attended together and my son likes Evan. My son was speechless and shy after telling Evan he was a pitcher also (since he pitches in little league). Evan took it in good stride and calmly looked at my camera and had suggested a picture. My son still talks about that day (he’s 10 yrs old) to this very day.

  2. Phil says:

    “World Class Jerk” from one encounter? He was rude that day, no doubt. But it seems like you’re using one moment to generalize him as a person. Some of these athletes have hundreds if not thousands of brief fan encounters and I don’t think it’s fair to classify someone based on one, short instance.

  3. jj says:

    No these guys are first class jerks, they expect Joe public to worship them because of who they are or were and when it’s time to give back, nothing. That is what is wrong with players and the fan base no respect. The Japan players will never sign anything, and that is because they think we don’t appreciate them enough, and were not there true fan base. The only signature I got in person was from Raffy Furcal, he was cool, but he really didn’t care about me, he just wanted to go back to his hotel. I refuse to pay people who already have been paid with my money when I buy a ticket.

  4. Rich says:

    I also met up with George Brett in Haines City during Spring Training one year.While the game was being played in the main stadium, my friend and I went to the back fields. Brett was back there doing something that escapes me now but we mere two waited until he was finished and asked him for an autograph. Since he had to pass us anyway he huffed over, snatched the cards out of our hands and was actually growling as he signed as fast as he could.

    Don’t get me started on what a jerk Ken Griffey Jr was in person. I was excited when he was coming to Sarasota since he was always portrayed as this smiling, friendly guy. Its only for the cameras folks.

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