This Date In Royals History – September 25, 1978
Dennis 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)