This Date In Royals History–1980 Edition: August 17

In one of the most famous moments in Royals’ history, George Brett raised his season batting average above the magical .400 mark with four hits as Kansas City blasted Toronto, 8-3, on a warm Sunday afternoon at Royals Stadium.

Brett entered the game with a .394 average, which didn’t change any when he drew a walk in the first inning. The Royals took advantage of Toronto starter Jim Clancy’s wildness to score a run that inning. Clancy walked the bases loaded before Willie Wilson scored on a Willie Aikens groundout.

In the third, Brett singled, following a John Wathan single to start the inning. That moved Brett’s average to .396. However, Kansas City could not cash in the two hits, stranding the runners at second and third.

Brett reached on an infield single in the fifth. Although he was then caught trying to steal second, his average was now at .397.

The third baseman’s third hit of the day came in the seventh, and it was a big one for his team. The inning began with the score tied at 2-2. Frank White drew a leadoff walk from Clancy and made it to third on U L Washington’s sacrifice bunt and an Amos Otis fly ball. Clancy then made the mistake of walking Wathan, bringing Brett to the plate in a key situation. Predictably, Brett came through, lining a double into the right-field corner and driving in both runs. The Royals held a 4-2 lead and Brett’s average was at .399. Mike Willis replaced Clancy, but Darrell Porter delivered an RBI single for a 5-2 lead. Aikens singled as well, but reliever Ken Schrom was able to retire Hal McRae to end the inning.

Toronto scored a run in the top of the eighth, but the odds didn’t look good for Brett batting again, especially after Schrom got two quick outs to start the bottom of the eighth. But Washington singled, and Schrom walked Otis. As the Blue Jays pitcher struggled to find the strike zone with Wathan at the plate, the crowd grew louder. Schrom walked Wathan on four pitches to load the bases, and the crowd went wild. (“That’s as hard as anyone’s ever cheered for me,” Wathan said after the game.) Toronto replaced Schrom with Mike Barlow, allowing the crowd extra time to enjoy the moment. On a 1-2 pitch, Brett hit a fly ball to left center, where it bounced in front of the warning track and off the wall. Brett pulled into second as all three runners scored to push the Royals’ lead to 8-3. Brett stood on second, arms raised in triumph, as the crowd stood and roared and the scoreboard flashed his new average: .401.

Brett’s big day overshadowed a solid effort from Royals starter Paul Splittorff, who allowed two runs on seven hits in the first seven innings before being pulled with two on and no outs in the eighth. Splittorff struck out three and walked one as he improved to 9-8. Royals closer Dan Quisenberry took over with those two runners on in the eighth and picked up his league-leading 25th save despite allowing one inherited runner to score.

With the win, the Royals improved to 75-42. They swept the three-game series; in fact, this was their fifth straight win. Kansas City led the AL West by 14 games over Oakland.

George Brett watch: The 4-4 day extended Brett’s hitting streak to 29 games. Season stats: .401/.458/.677

Box score and play-by-play:

Today’s birthdays: Brad Wellman (1959), Jim Converse (1971)

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