While the Kansas City Royals’ deservedly celebrate their Central Division Championship, this week’s installment of Images looks back on a mark that will always be deserved of celebration. On September 30, 1992, George Brett collected hit number 3,000.
On a Wednesday night, in front of the smallest crowd of the season in California’s Anaheim Stadium, Brett ‘s mark came on a night few expected. He stood four hits from the storied mark. Reaching 3,000 hits all but assures a player’s entry into the Hall of Fame. A strained shoulder kept Brett from playing in the two games prior to that night 23 years ago.
Why then was I sitting in the third base photo box after convincing the editors of the Topeka newspaper that I had to fly to California that morning? The team would be returning to Kansas City for a weekend series, a perfect setting for the fans to honor their greatest player. Call it a feeling, one based on years of watching Brett do things no one expected. I knew I had to be there.
What a hunch. Brett doubled in the first, singled in the third and then again in the fifth inning. One more hit. In the seventh, Brett dribbled another single past the second baseman. Brett had hit 3,000. Now, I needed my photograph.
While I chose the third base photo bay for an open look at Brett’s swing, I knew I would be a long way from first base for the celebration photographs should the historic hit be a single. Without hestitation I leaped out of the photo bay and began my sprint for first base. Amazingly, I was the second photographer there and made the photograph of Brett.
Little did I know that in the group of photographers standing before Brett was Mark Terrill, the award-winning Associated Press photographer out of the Los Angeles area. Only this past summer did we realize we were on the field together after I showed the Brett photograph to my friend this summer.
In front of his family and many friends, the Californian Brett completed another remarkable game with a final memorable hit. At the team hotel, the celebration carried on well into the next morning. The funniest moments revolved around players reminding Brett that after his historic hit, the Angels promptly picked him off first base. The Angels’ first baseman, Gary Gaetti, decoyed Brett by asking about family in the stands. On that wonderful night in Anaheim, that is about the only thing Brett did wrong.