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BASEBALL DAILY REPORT : AROUND THE MAJORS : Parting Is Sweet for Indians’ Fans; Brett Earns a Special Tip of the Cap

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<i> From Associated Press</i>

The grounds crew wore tuxedos. And Mel Harder wore a smile.

“It’s a big day for me,” said the former Cleveland Indian ace, who will turn 84 on Oct. 15 and threw out the last pitch at Cleveland Stadium on Sunday during a postgame ceremony. “I never realized when I pitched the first game that I would be back to throw the last pitch.

“If somebody would have told me that, I would have thought they were crazy. But things change over 60 years. They need bigger clubhouses, bigger locker rooms. I think it’s great that the Indians are going to Gateway.”

A third consecutive sellout crowd was on hand to see the old stadium off. A new park is to open in April at the Gateway development about a mile away. The old stadium will remain home to the NFL’s Browns.

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Comedian Bob Hope, 90, who grew up in Cleveland and was once a part-owner of the Indians, was among those in the crowd of 72,390. The three-game series drew 216,904, the most for a three-game set in baseball history.

The AL West champion Chicago White Sox won, 4-0. In the first baseball game there, on July 31, 1932, Lefty Grove of the Philadelphia Athletics outpitched Harder and the Indians, 1-0.

In the middle of the fourth inning, the fans got to cheer the song they had voted to hear: “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” a 1965 hit by The Animals. It beat out “Movin’ Out” by Billy Joel and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John.

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George Brett didn’t end his career with a home run, like Ted Williams did. Nor did he end it the way he had said he wanted to, running out a grounder to second base.

Instead, with Nolan Ryan watching from the Texas dugout on his final day as a player, Brett finished his 20-year career with a ninth-inning single in the Kansas City Royals’ 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in the final game at Arlington Stadium. Next season, the Rangers will play in The Ballpark at Arlington.

“It was as emotional as I’ve ever gotten on a baseball field,” said Brett, who was one for four. “I knew it was my last one. I was nervous. I was shaking.”

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With Ryan tipping his hat and players from both teams giving him a standing ovation in front of their dugouts, Brett led off the ninth. He was hitless in 11 previous at-bats, but singled up the middle on a 1-and-2 pitch from Tom Henke.

“I heard the crowd cheering and I looked up and saw the ball rolling through to center field,” Brett said. “The adrenaline was going. I was nervous. I heard the ovation. My eyes began to water.

“I just hit it and ran. I was telling myself, ‘I’ve got to run as fast as I ever have in my life.’ I didn’t want to run across the infield back to the dugout again. I’ve done that too many times.

“It was a good way to end my career,” Brett said. “I wanted to stand on first base one last time.”

Said Ryan, who gave up 29 hits to Brett but struck him out 18 times: “With as great a hitter as George was, I think it was only appropriate that he ended his career with a hit. He’s a real special ballplayer and person.”

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Mel Stottlemyre, pitching coach for the New York Mets for the past 10 years, will not return next season.

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“We felt we needed to make some changes with our staff,” Manager Dallas Green said. Green also said that Darrell Johnson, who joined the coaching staff May 21, will have other duties next year.

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