The Kid Says Goodbye: Robin Yount’s Last Game
Robin Yount tips his hat to fans during his last season.
Robin Yount hated to lose. It was losing that almost drove him into retirement as a 22-year-old in 1978. And, in a way, it was losing that prolonged his career as a decorated veteran. By his own admission, Yount had considered retirement since the late 1980s. It never quite seemed to be the game itself that he loved, but rather the thrill of the win. He wanted so badly to win, he kept coming back. He came back in 1989 to win an MVP award (his second) on a .500 Brewers team. He came back in 1990 and struggled as his team sank to 6th place. He came back in 1991 with a team stocked with veteran talent, hoping that free agency could lead to the Brewers back to glory. He came back in 1992 and sparked the best Brewers team in a decade – and reveled in a playoff chase that ran into the season’s final days. And, oh-by-the-way, joined a tiny clutch of baseball immortals as he racked up his 3,000th hit.
Despite the loss
of his long-time teammate Paul Molitor to free agency after the 1992 season,
Yount returned again for 1993, hoping that the club could carry its sizzling
final months into the new season and give him one last shot at a World Series
As the season dragged on, the man they still called “the Kid” began to show his age. For the second half of the season, Yount hit just .236. His bat had slowed and his famous inside-out swing was missing more and more often. In late September, he got hot, batting .425 over a 12 game stretch and showing flashes of the player he once was. On September 28, he laced a fifth inning single off of Dave Stewart in a 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays. It was his 3,142nd – and last – career hit.
The following day,
the Brewers faced
And so, for what
was possibly Robin Yount’s final game in
A few people on hand that night seemed to recognize the significance of the night. Five bare-chested men braved the cold to display the letters Y-O-U-N-T on their torsos in the bleachers. And for Yount’s final at-bat in the 8th inning, the hometown crowd gave him a prolonged ovation, both before and after his groundout to short. As he left the field after the disastrous top of the ninth, he tossed his cap to a mob of fans behind the Brewers dugout. After the game, reporters pressed him about his plans for the future. He replied in a typically Yount way. “I’ll talk with Bud [Selig], but I don’t know if it means anything. I talk with him at the end of every season. I have no idea what he has on his mind. I can’t say any more than I’ve said already. Somewhere along the winter I have to make a decision.”
Garner, recognizing that Yount might prefer to make his final appearance in
front of the home crowd, kept Yount out of the starting lineup for the last
three games of the season in
And then, the
Brewers and their fans were left only to wait. In November, the team declined its
option on Yount, making him a free agent. This was expected, but in a surprise
move, Selig promised Yount that he would receive the same pay as the option,
about $3.2 million, should be return for ’94 (declining the option gave the
team the chance to defer some of the money). The Brewers told Yount he could
have as long as he needed to make up his mind, treating him delicately after
the PR debacle of losing Paul Molitor the year before. The weeks passed, and
the months. Soon, the Brewers found themselves nearing spring training still
unaware as the status of Yount or their payroll. The team wanted badly to sign
former Twins catcher Brian Harper, but were not sure if they would have the
money to do so. All were waiting on Yount, and Yount wasn’t making his feelings
known. In early February, Rumors surfaced that Yount and his agent, his brother
Larry Yount, were talking with other teams – namely the Toronto Blue Jays.
Yount had made clear that his primary drive was to win a title and after the
horrific showing of the Brewers in 1993, it seemed nearly impossible that Yount
could win one in
While Brewers fans worried that they might lose another franchise icon to the now-twice defending champion Blue Jays, details emerged about the financial considerations that were affecting Yount’s decision. Through the 1980s, the Brewers had helped Yount to secure loans that he and his brother then invested into real estate. Those investments had since turned south. To avoid financial conflicts of interest, if Yount were to sign with another team, those loans would need to be repaid in full. It was speculated that the brothers did not have the money to do so, complicating any move to another team.
Yount on the links in 1990.
Finally, on February 10, 1993 – about two weeks before the opening of spring training – Yount announced his retirement. He cited a decline in his play as a major reason. But also, just as when he was 22, the losing had gotten to him. In a press conference held in front of his old locker stall, he addressed the matter in his typical way. “There’s not going to be any emotional speeches or tears or anything,” he told the massed media. “I think I’m going to wait to get home to do that.”
He still had a
competitive drive in him, but said he would now channel it into auto racing – a
hobby of his since his youth – and golf, the game that, it was so rumored, he
once nearly gave up his Hall of Fame career for. Yount also mentioned a bit of
unlikely advice that swayed his thinking. Michael Jordan, who had announced his
sudden retirement from the NBA just days after Yount’s final game, was a
golfing partner of Yount’s that off-season.