September 2009

This Date In Royals History – September 30, 1985

Image36.jpgThere were many key games for the Royals in October of 1985, but one of the most pivotal in franchise history came in the final day of September that season. When big events happen – like winning the World Series – we often look back years later with a sense that the outcome was somehow inevitable. But of course that never really is the case and nothing was inevitable for the Royals that year, let alone that last week of the regular season.


Having just been swept in a three games series at Minnesota, Dick Howser’s 1985 Royals looked at the morning paper on Monday, September 30, 1985 and found themselves a game behind California with just one week left to go. The season hung in the balance and that night Kansas City began a four game showdown with the first-place Angels at Royals Stadium.


Doug DeCinces’ HR gave the Angels a fourth inning lead, but George Brett tied it with a HR in the bottom of the inning (there he is again – his first of three HRs in the series and five that final week). Jim Sundberg’s seventh inning HR put KC in front. In the eighth a lead-off Willie Wilson triple and a Brett sacrifice fly gave Bret Saberhagen all he needed. For good measure, Sabes captured his 20th win of the season, ending the game with a called third strike on Reggie Jackson.



Just A Bit More: The Royals won 3 of the 4 games against California and jumped back into first-place to stay. But that game 19 years ago tonight was the first in a run of must-win games that culminated in Kansas City’s 1985 World Championship. In reality that Angels series could be seen as the start of the playoffs. The Royals won the division by a single game and without that series win against California all the drama of the ALCS and I-70 World Series may well have never happened.


(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – September 29, 1993

George_Brett_S_scorboard composite.jpgThis entry comes later in the day and reflects back on one of the most bittersweet nights in Royals history. There have been so many great and memorable players in the Royals 40 years in Kansas City, but if there was to be only one defining player it would unmistakably be George Brett.


On Wednesday September 29, 1993, George played his final home game here at Kauffman Stadium. It was a night when a near capacity crowd came out to say thank you for twenty spectacular years. In the eighth inning George collected a hit (naturally) in his final at bat, and when Phil Hiatt replaced him as a pinch runner George left the field to a thunderous standing ovation.


Other players may rival George in the category of those who played their entire careers with one club and became almost synonymous with their ‘hometown’ – but none stand any higher. I refer to these few as the single name guys, because in their towns the first name is all you really need. There’s Stan in St. Louis, Cal in Baltimore, Robin in Milwaukee even Kirby in the Twin Cities. Here in Kansas City it’s just George and probably always will be.


Just A Bit More: Those single name guys are getting harder to find as the years go by. The best I can tell there are no current major league players who are playing their twentieth or more season having played with only one club in their career. There are at least two that are approaching that rare plateau. Perhaps Derek Jeter will be that type of player for the Yankees (in his 15th year), or Chipper Jones in Atlanta (in his 16th year).


If any player reaches the level where they could be known as the ‘George Brett’ of their respective city, then they will truly have reached legendary status.  


(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – September 28, 1984

Another clinching game for the Royals, but this one was probably the most unexpected of all. The Royals were coming off a disappointing 1983, which saw them finish a full season with a below .500 record (79-83) for the first time since 1974. Not only that, a drug scandal had rattled the organization in the off-season resulting in a suspension for Willie Wilson that kept him on the sidelines through May 15. Plus George Brett struggled with injuries going on the disabled list three times and playing in only 104 games.


Yet on Friday, September 28 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum the Royals were closing in on their fifth American League Western Division title in nine years.  Many familiar names played key parts in that game including HRs by George Brett and Frank White with Dan Quisenberry getting the save after Willie Wilson captured a fly ball off the bat of Rickey Henderson to close out a 6-5 clinching win.


Just A Bit More: There were also several new names on the scene in 1984 that helped the Royals get back into the playoffs for the first time since 1981. Charlie Leibrandt was the winning pitcher in that division clinching game and is often overlooked among the Royals fresh faces that year. 


Charlie came to Kansas City in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds on June 7, 1983 for LHP Bob Tufts, but didn’t make his Royals debut until almost a year later on June 1, 1984 at the Metrodome against the Twins. He soon became a key member of a revamped Royals rotation that also included youngsters Danny Jackson, Mark Gubicza and Bret Saberhagen. Seemingly out of nowhere Leibrandt would win 11 games for the 1984 Royals – his first of five consecutive seasons posting double figures in the win column in Kansas City.


Yes. That is Bucky Dent on the right side of the picture above. He played eleven games for the Royals down the stretch in 1984 – the final games of his 12-year major league career.


(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)


Zack did not disappoint and neither did Royals fans – both were in championship form this afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. With seven innings pitched, seven strikeouts and only one earned run, Greinke was once again absolutely dominant.


The moment that really stands out for me was a classic showdown with Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer with the bases loaded in the 3rd and the Royals leading 3-0. In a head-to-head match-up of the player who should be the 2009 AL MVP against the pitcher who should be the 2009 AL Cy Young, Zack struck out Mauer with another of his devastating sliders. Case closed.


Just A Bit More: Thrilling is the only way to describe the salute Royals fans gave Zack in his final appearance here at home this season. In fact the official crowd of 28,721 ranked third all-time for Royals season finale home games behind October 4, 1981 (28,723) and George Brett’s last game at Kauffman Stadium on September 29, 1993 (31,228). 


The 2009 home season is over – but the Royals Hall of Fame will still be open this offseason. Please make plans to stop by and bring some family and friends with you – check here for our hours.


Opening Day 2010 is Monday, April 5 against the Detroit Tigers. Just 189 days away – We can’t wait…see you there!


(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

The Butler Did Indeed Do It

Billy Butler.JPG
Royals First Baseman Billy Butler joined a rather select club in baseball history last night (September 26, 2009). With his eighth inning double off the Twins Ron Mahay, Billy became just the seventh major league player to ever post a season of 50 or more doubles before the age of 24. The club includes National Baseball Hall of Fame Members Hank Greenberg, Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter along with Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Now that’s some good company to keep.


The bat Billy used, and the shoes he wore, to reach this impressive milestone are now on display in the Royals Hall of Fame. History never stops being made…


Just A Bit More: Hal McRae set the Royals all-time single season best for doubles when he collected 54 during the 1977 season. Billy has seven more games to play and still has a chance to catch Hal in the closing days of 2009. With 50 doubles, Billy has already assured himself of the second best season for doubles in club history. Third place is a tie with 46 shared by Mike Sweeney (2001) and Hal McRae (1982).


Butler has already posted four games with three doubles so far this year – so he just may get to the record. Good luck Billy…we’ll be watching!


(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – September 27, 1999

Tiger Stadium.jpgThere are rare occasions when the game on the field becomes almost secondary to the circumstances of when and where it is played. The Royals were part of just such an occurrence at the close of the 1999 season.


On Monday, September 27, 1999, the Royals were the visiting club in the very last game played at venerable Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The legendary landmark at ‘The Corner’ of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Boulevard opened on April 20, 1912 – the same day as Fenway Park’s debut in Boston. It was at Tiger Stadium (then known as Briggs Stadium) where Lou Gehrig took himself out of the Yankees line-up on May 2, 1939 due to a mysterious ailment which ending his consecutive games streak at 2,130 –  he would never play another major league game. Needless to say it was a historic ballpark and the Tigers closed it with an 8-2 win over the Royals ten years ago.


Coincidently the last remnants of Tiger Stadium came crashing down just days ago in Detroit.


Just A Bit More: Next week the Royals will be on the road to close out the run of another major league ballpark. Barring a rally in the final week to pass the Tigers for the American League Central Division title (which is certainly not out of the question), the last game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome will see the Royals and Twins battle next Sunday, October 4 at 1:10pm.


I’m sure the emotions won’t run nearly as high for that one.  The Metrodome, though home to two World Champion Twins clubs, will never be confused with a baseball cathedral like Tiger Stadium. Here’s hoping that the new Target Field is finally a great ballpark for the Twins and their loyal fans.


(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – September 26, 1969

Mike Fiore.jpgThe 1969 Royals were winding down the club’s inaugural season when they made their final roadtrip for a four-game series against the White Sox in late September. Despite the fact all four games were against the White Sox, not all of them were played on the south side of Chicago at old Comiskey Park.


On Friday Night September 26, 1969 the Kansas City Royals played a road game against the Chicago White Sox at County Stadium in Milwaukee. Why Milwaukee? Well the story involves current Commissioner of Major League Baseball Bud Selig long before he would hold that title. In 1968-69 Selig was doing all he could to return Major League Baseball to his hometown and had worked with the White Sox to have one regular season home game against each American League opponent played at County Stadium. The Royals won 5-3 in their trip to Milwaukee with a ninth inning two-run HR off the bat of First Baseman Mike Fiore (pictured above).


In 1972 Mike Fiore was actually traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the San Diego Padres for himself. On June 20 the Padres acquired Fiore and Bob Chulpsa from the Cardinals for Rafael Robles and a player to be named later. Fiore was traded back to the Cardinals as that player to be named less than two weeks later on July 3. 


Just A Bit More: Selig had been working with the White Sox because it was believed they were considering a move from Chicago. But that speculation had just ended when Sox owner Arthur Allyn Jr. sold the team to his brother John the day before on September 25, 1969.


Not to be deterred, Selig would eventually acquire the Seattle Pilots in bankruptcy court just days before the start of the 1970 season and the Milwaukee Brewers were born. (The Seattle Pilots had been the Royals American League expansion cousins in 1969).

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)  

HERES LOOKING AT YOU KID – One More Time In 2009


In baseball terms Zack Greinke has been dealing all season and now for his last start of 2009 at Kauffman Stadium the Royals have a deal for you.

All seats priced $33 or less (excluding the $7 Dri-Duck Fountain Seats) are half-price. PLUS – Any Field Box, Field Plaza, Outfield Box and Loge Level ticket purchase includes an additional $5 in loaded value for you to use at any concession and retail outlet at the ballpark – the main store will even be offering a 23 percent discount on Greinke items (excluding jerseys).

You can get tickets for as little as $4.50 to watch Zack one last time this season.

And remember, the first 10,000 fans (21 or older) receive a “Greinke for Cy” T-Shirt from Miller Lite. The game is not being broadcast here in Kansas City, but somehow I think the national media will be watching (Yes we’re looking at you ESPN).

It’s a good old-fashion campaign rally. Come early and get your shirt (wear blue no matter), make some clever homemade signs and join us for the last home game of 2009 – PACK THE PARK FOR ZACK!


Just A Bit More: Zack is not only going after the American League Cy Young Award, but also has a chance to break two long-standing club single season pitching records – earned run average (ERA) and strikeouts.

The best single season ERA for the Royals is held by Roger Nelson who posted a 2.08 for the 1972 season. Nelson started (19 starts) and relieved (34 games pitched) in 1972 when he posted an 11-6 record with two saves over 173.1 innings. Second on the Royals all-time list is Bret Saberhagen‘s 2.16 ERA in his 1989 AL Cy Young Award winning season.

The single season strikeout best is held by Dennis Leonard who rang up 244 batters in 1977. Last year Zack and Gil Meche tied for the club led with 183 strikeouts which tied them both for the 10th best season in Royals History with Mark Gubicza (1988) and Dennis Leonard (1978).  


Greinke will enter Sunday’s start with a 2.08 ERA and 229 strikeouts.


(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame) 

This Date In Royals History – September 25, 1978

Dennis Leonard.jpgDennis Leonard was one of the most underappreciated pitchers in all of Major League Baseball from the mid-1970’s through the early 1980’s. Leo was the Royals second round pick in the 1972 June Draft out of Iona College in New Rochelle, NY and made it to the big leagues by late 1974 (Who was the Royals #1 pick in 1972? – Answer below). From 1975-1981, Dennis posted more wins than any other right-handed pitcher in the game with 130 – including three 20 win seasons.

On Monday, September 25, 1978, Dennis notched his 20th win for a second consecutive season defeating the Seattle Mariners 7-2 at Royals Stadium. He went on to post another win before the end of that season for a career best 21 wins.

Just A Bit More: The September 25, 1978 performance was another complete game which was a Leonard specialty – he usually finished what he started. Dennis twice posted seasons with 20 or more complete games (21 in 1977; 20 in 1978) and still holds the Royals career record with 103 (For comparison, Blue Jay Roy Halladay leads all MLB with 8 complete games this year).

Because Leo’s career was in some measure cut short by injury it’s easy to speculate that the complete games eventually took their toll. But his two main injuries were severely broken fingers from a line drive off the bat of Buddy Bell in May of 1982 and the devastating knee injury in May of 1983. His arm come through all that great mound work relatively unscathed.

The Royals #1 pick in the 1972 June Draft was Jaime Quirk out of St.Paul High School in Whittier, CA. Jaime was a highly sought after QB being recruited by Ara Parseghian of Notre Dame. The Irish loss was the Royals gain.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)  


Greinke T-Shirts.jpg‘BACK ZACK’ T-SHIRTS FREE
for the first 10,000 (21 & over) Sunday, September 27 at Kauffman Stadium courtesy of Miller Lite – Twins vs Royals at 1:10pm

Everyone in Kansas City and everyone who follows the Royals knows Zack Greinke has been the best pitcher in the American League this season. Heck everyone who makes the effort to look at the cold hard numbers, or better yet has had the opportunity to watch him knows that no pitcher in baseball can match his performance. If you’ve seen him in person or on TV it’s simply a matter of believing your own eyes – Yes, he has been that good from April through September.

Now the campaign isn’t over and Zack has two more starts to improve his amazing numbers even more. The case for Zack is extensive and has been covered in detail any number of places. But instead of making the case again, I wanted to look back at how other Royals pitchers have fared in Cy Young voting over the last 40 years. Here is a breakdown of every Royals pitcher to ever finish in the Cy Young Award Top 5:





% of Vote

First Votes










Dick Drago



Gaylord Perry









Dennis Leonard



Sparky Lyle









Dan Quisenberry



Steve Stone









Dan Quisenberry



Pete Vukovich









Dan Quisenberry



LaMarr Hoyt









Dan Quisenberry



Willie Hernandez









Bret Saberhagen



Bret Saberhagen









Mark Gubicza



Frank Viola









Bret Saberhagen



Bret Saberhagen









Kevin Appier



Jack McDowell









David Cone



David Cone


Just A Bit More: Closers do not get nearly the support in Cy Young voting these days – but they did back in 1970’s and 80’s. Willie Hernandez won both the Cy Young and MVP Awards with the Tigers in 1984 with 32 saves (1.92 ERA) – 32 saves would have placed sixth in the American League in 2008.

Quiz actually had a better season the year before in 1983 when he set the then MLB record with 45 saves (1.94 ERA) but finished second to LaMarr Hoyt of the White Sox. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reliever Francisco Rodriguez set the save record with 62 in 2008 and finished no better than third. Consider that the Yankees Mariano Rivera has never won a Cy Young (or come that close really – 2nd in 2005 with only 8 first place votes), and I’m guessing it’s darn near impossible for a closer to get that recognition anymore. Congratulations Guillermo Hernandez! 

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)