On the afternoon of Sept. 30, 1992, Kansas City Royals manager Hal McRae made two lineups for his team’s matchup against the host California Angels. One lineup included George Brett, nursing an injured right shoulder, at designated hitter. The other did not.
Shortly before 6 p.m., Brett took 50 swings off the tee and decided to give it a go.
"I was sure I could play,” Brett later told reporters, “if I didn't swing any harder than that, and I didn't. After 19 years, I finally figured out I didn't have to swing hard to get hits."
And after 19 years, two batting titles and two American League pennants, Brett gave his fans one last show. The late addition to the lineup went 4-for-5, with his last hit making him the 17th player in major league history to reach 3,000 in his career.
Brett, who attended high school in nearby El Segundo, Calif., seemingly had the entire crowd ready to cheer him on when the Royals touched down in Anaheim. But the 39-year old had sat out the first two games of the series, and fans began to wonder if he would make it back to complete his quest for 3,000 before the end of the season.
“A lot of people flew from Kansas City thinking I was going to get it,” Brett told MLB.com in 2011. “I remember the first game was on a Monday and they all came to the ballpark, and I didn't play, and I think a lot of them left about the second or third inning because the Chiefs were on Monday Night Football.”
Indeed, an announced crowd of just 17,336 (well below the Angels’ average of 25,499 that season) filed into Angel Stadium that evening, as many fans doubted he could collect the four required hits in one night. In the top of the first, Brett lined a double off Angels starter Julio Valera for hit No. 2,997, and followed with two singles.