Robin Yount forged a 20-year Hall of Fame career with the Milwaukee Brewers as a shortstop and then outfielder. He accumulated over 3000 base hits and won two Most Valuable Player Awards. However, that almost didn’t happen, as he threatened to quit baseball at the age of 22 to go join the PGA as a professional golfer.
Yount was a legend in Milwaukee during his career (1974-1993). He was a career .285 hitter with 251 home runs and 1,406 RBIs. He was also tremendous defender, especially as a shortstop. A first-round pick, he debuted in the majors at the age of 18 and not surprisingly it took him a few years to adapt into an impact player.
During spring training in 1978, Yount was 22 and had been battling through various injuries. Although he had hit a career high .288 in 1977 he had totaled only 17 home runs through his four major leagues seasons and was nowhere near the impact player he’d one day become. It was also alleged that he was unhappy the Brewers had spent their 1977 first-round pick on hotshot shortstop prospect Paul Molitor, who played his same position, was ready for the majors and might force Yount to the outfield.
Finally, and definitely not least, Yount was supposedly not that happy with his contract, which had paid him $80,000 in 1977. He told the Milwaukee Journal, “I can’t say I’ve enjoyed baseball that much. It’s not as much fun as it should be.”
Yount’s frustrations mounted to the point that he walked out of spring training, saying “I have no idea when I’ll be back. When I’m ready, I’ll talk.” It was reported that he had plans to make the dramatic change in careers and become a professional golfer. Since he had a sore foot, he was placed on the disabled list while he mulled his future.
The Brewers still believed in him and hoped to lock him into a long-term contract even though he had not yet free agency. Yount was still skeptical, telling the Milwaukee Journal, “I’m thinking. I’m just thinking about it. I’d like to sign, I guess. But I’m still thinking. I haven’t made up my mind.”
Some of his teammates started anonymously confiding to the press that they believed he was going to leave baseball for good. Although Molitor was just 21, he was brought up to be the team’s Opening Day starting shortstop.
It was rumored that Yount was going to stay of the baseball diamond for good in 1978 to give professional golf a try. He later denied he ever talked about it seriously, but the speculation swirled nevertheless. It all came to a head in early May, when he suddenly appeared in Milwaukee and announced he was returning to the Brewers and would be ready to play within a week. Molitor soon shifted the second and team gelled with the return of their prodigal son.
Yount had the best season of his career to date in 1978 and went on to bloom even further, teaming with Molitor for 15 seasons (who left via free agency following the 1992 season). He signed a long-term extension with Milwaukee and remained with them until his retirement following the 1993 season (20 years!). The Brewers benefitted from the presence of their two stars, winning a pennant in 1982 being consistently competitive during their time with the Brew Crew.
When you’re young it can sometimes be difficult to see the trees through the forest. Yount was a baseball ingénue but came to realize the totality of his talents over the course of years instead of all at once. He experienced some frustrations that nearly steered him out of the game at an age when most people are graduating from college. Fortunately he stayed the course and turned in a legendary career that led to his enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
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