October 2009

More Random Royals Thoughts – 2009 World Series

damon_johnny_s_10.jpgWell that was two more doubles for Raul Ibanez in Game Two, but the Phillies just couldn’t push across the runs to get the 2-0 jump on the Yankees in New York. But Raul isn’t the only former Royals player in the series this year to be sure, there are actually a several more.

The most obvious is Johnny Damon with the Yankees – though he is the only former Royals player on the New York World Series roster. Does it seem to you that his time in Kansas City was so long ago now it feels like he is a former Red Sox more than a Royal? Maybe so, but he still spent more years with Kansas City than he has with any of his other major league stops.

The Phillies have four former Royals on their World Series squad. Raul Ibanez along with relief pitcher Chad Durbin, outfielder/pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, and back-up catcher Paul Bako. I guess that is another reason to root for the Phils. The Phillies (Durbin, Stairs) beat the Rays (Howell) in former Royals last year and won the title. Maybe that was their key…

 

Just A Bit More: If we extend the former Royals to those that appeared for either World Series team this year the numbers get a bit bigger for the Yankees, but the Phillies still lead 4-3:

2009 Philadelphia Phillies

2009 New York Yankees

Former Royals

Raul Ibanez

Chad Durbin

Matt Stairs

Paul Bako

Johnny Damon

Angel Berroa

Brett Tomko

Plus the Phillies had John Mayberry, Jr on their roster this year and that name counts for something as a Royals fan. Enjoy the last weekend of baseball this year!

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

Random Royals Thought – 2009 World Series

Ibanez jpg.JPGWatching the World Series get underway last night I found myself pulling for the Phillies but really more pulling for former Royals outfielder Raul Ibanez. As it turned out Raul had a great chance to put the Phils in the lead coming up with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning before grounding out to end the early threat.

He got another chance with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and came through with a two-run single to double the Phillies lead to 4-0 and nearly put Game One on ice. Had he been able to get a hit in that first at-bat he may have put an early claim towards Series MVP honors – but it’s really way too early for that, plus Chase Utley’s HR and Cliff Lee’s performance were really key.

Nevertheless it got me to thinking about players that have won World Series MVP honors who have at one time in their careers played for the Royals – How many do you think there are?

Turns out there are five…so far, headlined of course by Bret Saberhagen who was World Series MVP for the Royals. Here is the full list:

 

Player

Royals Years

World Series MVP

World Series Team

Jermaine Dye

1997-2001

2005

White Sox

Pat Borders

1995

1992

Blue Jays

Bret Saberhagen

1984-1991

1985

Royals

Darrell Porter

1977-1980

1982

Cardinals

Bucky Dent

1984

1978

Yankees

 

I’ll be watching again tonight hoping for some more RBI opportunities for our old friend. Good Luck Raul!

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 28, 1996

Gubicza HOF Portriat.jpgBecause the Major League Baseball postseason has become a bit longer there hasn’t been nearly as many ‘off-season’ moves made during the month of October in the last decade or so. In fact the last major league trade completed by the Royals in the month of October came way back in 1996 and it involved a future Royals Hall of Famer.

On Monday October 26, 1996 Royals righthander Mark Gubicza was traded along with minor league pitcher Mike Bovee to the then California Angels for OF/DH Chili Davis. Now that was a tough one because ‘Gubbie’ had been so good for the Royals in his first six seasons (double figures in wins each year from 1984-89) in Kansas City before injuries started to take their toll.

Chili Davis would only play one year in a Royals uniform before moving on to the New York Yankees as a free-agent. But that one year in Kansas City was one of the better offensive campaigns of his 19-year career. Chili had 350 career major league HRs, but 1997 in Kansas City was his lone 30 HR year (.279 with 30 HRs and 90 RBI).

Just A Bit More: The trade was a clear win for the Royals as Mark Gubicza would continue his injury battles and only appeared in two games for the Angels (two starts and a total of 4 2/3 innings pitched). Those would be his final two big league appearances. Mark went to Spring Training with the Dodgers in 1998, but retired when he did not make the squad.

We won the trade, but seeing Mark’s career come to an end in Kansas City was hard for Royals fans. He was the last member of the Royals 1985 World Championship team still with the ballclub – that team officially past into history on this date 13 years ago.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 27, 1985

85 WS Game Seven - Bret & Brett Celebration (View 1).jpgWell if you’ve been reading any of these blog entries you know what this date leads us back to in club history. The goal for every Major League team was finally reached by the Kansas City Royals. Kansas City was home to the World Series Champions.

Sunday, October 27, 1985 and the Royals had reached the last possible game – their 176th of the season.  The Royals had staved off elimination five times in the postseason to reach the one final winner take all game with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The outcome was actually decided very early when Darryl Motley started the scoring with a two-run HR down the left field line in the second inning. Motley had actually just missed a home run with his previous swing. He then went back to the dugout for another bat, believing the first had been slightly cracked and hit another fair on the next pitch. ABC Broadcaster Al Michaels joked that he had to go back and retrieve his ‘fair’ bat from the bat rack. From there the Royals piled on the runs with three more in the third and six more in the fifth to make it decisive.

Eventual World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen turned in another complete game masterpiece allowing only five hits – all singles. The game was never in doubt after the second inning and Kansas City had nearly a full game to celebrate before Andy Van Slyke flied out to Darryl Motley to make it official.

The comeback was complete and the World Series trophy came to rest in Kansas City.

Just A Bit More: Once the game was out of hand the Royals decided to have a pool for whoever recorded the game’s final out. You can see Willie Wilson nearly try to call off right fielder Darryl Motley on the last out for just that reason. If you look at the video before the final out sequence you can also see George Brett tell Bret Saberhagen to not run too far from the mound after Van Slyke makes an out because he wanted to be the first to congratulate him at the mound. Saberhagen got the out and Brett got the hug. 

Also check the base of the World Series trophy in the footage and notice its color. That’s right the base was red and not blue. Seems MLB might have thought the Cardinals were going to win the championship as well. The trophy soon had a blue base and still does.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 26, 1985

85 WS Game Six - Sundberg Slide 1 of 5.jpgSaturday, October 26, 1985 – Game Six of the 1985 World Series at Royals Stadium in Kansas City. The ‘Miracle on I-70′ included great pitching, some interesting strategy, several key clutch hits (which were hard to come by in the series) and yes a missed call (or two).

We in Kansas City are just going to have to get over it and remember only the course of the game was influenced and not the outcome of the entire series. Umpires sometimes miss calls it’s as simply as that; they’re human and just because the World Series Championship is coming down to the wire doesn’t make them any more omnipotent.

Yes, with the naked eye I thought Frank White was out trying to steal second base in the fourth inning just like umpire Bill Williams. But when you look at the video Ozzie Smith missed tagging Frank’s leg and by the time he collided with his hip Frank’s foot had touch the bag. Of course had Frank been called safe then Pat Sheridan’s single would have probably scored him and the circumstances of the game may have been different. But the Royals needed to keep their composure and stay in the game because the game didn’t end with that play – let alone the series. No doubt few remember this play because there were several innings to go instead of being down to what might have been the last three outs of the series.

Nor did the game or series end with no outs in the bottom of the ninth on another missed call, despite a quarter century of revisionist history. But before we get to that let’s remember this was a great pitchers duel with Danny Cox and Charlie Leibrandt (him again) matching shutout inning for shutout inning until the top of the eighth.

It was the Cardinals Brian Harper who looped a clutch two-out pinch hit RBI single into center to drive it the game’s first run in the eighth. A frustrated and dejected Charlie Leibrandt then walked Ozzie Smith to load the bases for National League Batting Champion Willie McGee. Dick Howser countered with Dan Quisenberry who got McGee to ground into a force out to end the threat. The Cardinals had a chance to punch a hole in the game and the Royals bullpen ace turned them away as he did again in the ninth.

In the bottom of the ninth Whitey Herzog summoned his closer Todd Worrell to protect a 1-0 lead. Dick Howser then went to his bench (professional hitters is what he loved to call them) for some all-out clutch at-bats in the tightest of circumstances. The first up was Jorge Orta who bounced a ball to first base and reached on a missed call. The call was clearly missed, but the game did not end on that play. In fact here is exact sequence that followed:

  • Jack Clark misplays foul pop which should have retired Steve Balboni
  • Steve Balboni singles to left
  • Jim Sundberg lays down sac bunt attempt with two strikes; Orta is forced at third base

This would be the only out recorded in the inning. That is correct, Jorge Orta – called safe on a missed call at first – ended up being the only out the Cardinals put on the scoreboard in the tense ninth inning. Then came one of the most important plays of the entire sequence. With Hal McRae pinch-hitting Darrell Porter is charged with a passed ball allowing both the tying and winning runs to move into scoring position with only one out.

  • Hal McRae is walked intentionally
  • Dane Iorg lofts the clutchest of clutch hits into right
  • Pinch Runner Onix Concepcion scores the tying run
  • Jim Sundberg makes the perfect slide to score the winning run

With a combination of strong relief pitching, luck, opportunity, strategic managerial chess moves and some veteran at-bats the Royals had the series tied at three games apiece.

Luckily for both teams no single missed call ever ended a game in the series – there was always a chance to persevere and win. All of which led to baseball’s ultimate big game opportunity for the Cardinals and Royals, Game Seven of the World Series.

Just A Bit More: Over the last three games of the 1985 World Series the Cardinals scored two runs on 15 hits – total. And the Royals only used four pitchers over those 27 innings of play: Danny Jackson, Charlie Leibrandt, Dan Quisenberry and Bret Saberhagen.

The pitching was the ultimate difference in the series and perhaps the most important and overlooked performance was Quisenberry. His ability to stall the St. Louis offense at one eighth inning run in Game Six was crucial. The veteran came through for the Royals where the Cardinals rookie struggled ever so slightly with the game on the line.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 24, 1985

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Danny Jackson.jpgThe Cardinals had one shot to end the 1985 World Series on the east side of the show-me state, otherwise to paraphrase Horace Greeley, it would be “Go west, young men” and the series would return to the Royals home turf. Westward ho…

On Thursday, October 24 the Royals just wanted to stay alive in Game Five of the series when they sent left-hander Danny Jackson to the mound and just as he had in the fifth game of the ALCS he was brilliant (Same pitcher; nearly same result). Lonnie Smith and Willie Wilson both singled to start the game. George Brett advanced Smith with fly ball out and Frank White drove him in with a ground ball. The Royals got the jump early.

But the Cardinals came right back in the bottom of the inning with a run on back-to-back two out doubles from Tommy Herr and Jack Clark to tie the game. It was the Cardinals first and last run of the contest. The Royals put three runs on the board in the second, highlighted by a two-out, two run triple off the bat of Willie Wilson and Danny Jackson did the rest.

The Royals won 6-1 with Jackson again going the distance with a complete game five-hitter and the long planned downtown parade in St. Louis instead turned into a parade back up I-70 for Game Six.

Just A Bit More: This game provided one of the most remembered visual images of the entire series when George Brett went sliding into the Royals Dugout for a foul pop in the seventh inning. He was not able to make the play, but as Dick Howser said, Royals hitting coach Lee May made the ‘catch of the night’ when he cushioned Brett’s trajectory into the dugout. Though cushioned is perhaps not the right word, as George explained:

“I didn’t know who it was at the time, but I knew someone had caught me as if I was a bowling ball.”

When he was asked why he would make such a risky play with his team up 4-1; a play which could have taken him out of the game or the World Series itself. George had two thoughts:

“First of all, we’re not the George Brett Royals. We’re the Kansas City Royals. People try to portray us as a one-man team, but we’re not. We’re a 25-man team…Secondly, I play hard. I want to win.”

Sure enough. That’s our George.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

Drafted By The Royals – 1968

dane-iorg.jpgBecause every day of the off-season may not have a story to tell (though you would be surprised how many do) I wanted to start a new quick hit entry for the blog called – Drafted By The Royals.

Now as a baseball fan you know that every player drafted by an organization does not sign with that club. But that is exactly the dynamic that makes for some intriguing history. Over the years you get some interesting connections, some what might have beens and some outright oddities. This first edition is one of the interesting connections, especially as we recall great moments from the 1985 World Series.

The Royals, along with their 1969 MLB expansions brethren, were allowed to take part in the 1968 June Free Agent Draft beginning in the fourth round. The Royals chose shortstop Kenneth O’Donnell from Neptune High School (Neptune, NJ) – See if you can win a bet with that one.

But the interesting connection came in the 16th round when the Royals took another SS – this one from Arcata High School (Arcata, CA) by the name of Dane Iorg. Yes that Dane Iorg, how many could there be?

Now we all know Dane did not sign with the Royals, but Kansas City was the first MLB club to draft him. He would go on to play baseball at Brigham Young University before being the Phillies first round pick in the 1971 June Draft (Secondary Phase) where he signed and began his professional career.

Just A Bit More: It would be nearly 16 years later when Dane first donned the Royals uniform. He was actually purchased by the Royals from the St. Louis Cardinals on May 10, 1984. Whatever the price was, I’m going to say in retrospect it was a serendipitous bargain of a deal.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame) 

This Date In Royals History – October 22, 1985

Frank_White_S_0k001.jpgThis year’s World Series is angling towards two teams that bring some painful memories for the Royals. Heck even the Angels edged out Kansas City for Western Division titles by three games in both 1979 and 1982, so I’m not real big on the Halos either…thirty years ago it still stings. So let’s turn to a brighter moment.

Tuesday October 22, 1985 – I’m told downtown St. Louis that night was a huge party for what looked like a prelude to am inevitable Cardinals World Series Championship. Of course they had reason to celebrate, the Redbirds were up two games to none and had three games at home right in front of them surely it was a done deal. But frankly it really wasn’t…

Both teams wasted scoring opportunities in the opening inning, but the Royals would get on the board first with a pair of deftly manufactured runs in the fourth. Jim Sundberg led-off with a walk, Buddy Biancalana reached on an infield single, and both moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Bret Saberhagen. The Royals needed a key hit and Lonnie Smith got it with a two-out two-run double.

The next inning Frank White basically put the game away with a two-run HR in one of the key moments of the entire series. The Royals were in a must-win situation and Frank’s blast finally gave the Royals pitching staff some breathing room, although it would be a staff of one on this night.

Bret Saberhagen was making his World Series debut and any ill-effects from the shots the Blue Jays had taken on him in the ALCS seemed long gone. He scattered six hits (all singles), gave up only one run with one walk and eight strikeouts for a complete game 6-1 victory. The series clearly was not over and with one more Royals win it would make it way back to Kansas City – the comeback had begun.

Just A Bit More: The offense came alive in Game 3, led by Frank White who also doubled home a run in the seventh inning. Dick Howser showed tremendous confidence in Frank White’s ability to deliver keys hits when he decided to put him in the clean-up spot for the World Series. His confidence was richly rewarded.

Jackie Robinson had been the only previous second baseman to bat fourth for an entire World Series. That’s a pretty good tandem. Better yet Frank delivered – he lead all players with six RBI during the 1985 World Series.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame) 

This Date In Royals History – October 21, 1985


Thumbnail image for Hal_McRae_S_0b004.jpgToday we’ll stay with the 1985 World Series, but this was an off day so let’s talk some philosophical baseball strategy put forward by Royals Manager Dick Howser. Keep in mind the Royals were heading to St. Louis down two games to none and the main culprit in the losses had been an inability to score runs. Which begged a very simply question…

 

During the off-day workouts at Busch Stadium on Monday, October 21, 1985 several media members wanted to know if Dick Howser had any plans to insert Designated Hitter Hal McRae in the field to get his bat in the Royals line-up. McRae was a proven run-producer, but Howser was quick to respond:

 

“We wouldn’t do that…No way we’d do it. That would be panicking, and we’re not going to panic.”  

 

That sure sounds like Dick Howser to me, and he was true to his word. But what many people didn’t know is that McRae was nursing an injury which may well have limited his playing time had the DH been allowed and certainly precluded his playing in the field. In fact Hal had not played in the field since April 14, 1982.

 

McRae did have three pinch-hit appearances in the series, but only one official at-bat. He was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning of Game One; he ground into a force out in the seventh inning of Game Four; and he collected a key intentional walk in the ninth inning Game Six rally.

 

Many people talk about the impact the loss of Vince Coleman had on the Cardinals offense in the 1985 World Series, but not many of them point out the loss of McRae to the Royals. In the regular season, if you add the runs scored and RBI for both Coleman and McRae divided by the number of games they played you see they were both important to their respective teams offensive – McRae even ever so slightly more:

 

Hal McRae – 1985 Regular Season

Runs Scored

RBI

Games Played

Runs Created/Game Played

41

70

112

.99

 

Vince Coleman – 1985 Regular Season

Runs Scored

RBI

Games Played

Runs Created/Game Played

107

40

151

.97

 

Just A Bit More: The Designated Hitter was first introduced in the American League for the 1973 season, however it was not used in World Series play until 1976. Beginning in 1976 the DH was in use for all World Series games in even numbered years, at least until 1985. The I-70 World Series was the last in which there was no-DH at all.

 

Starting in 1986 the DH has been in use for all World Series games in American League parks. In other words, the home team rules so to speak.

 

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 20, 1985


85 World Series - Leibrandt.jpgNow if a particular baseball could ever really break your spirit then Game 2 of the 1985 World Series would be a perfect illustration of how such a thing could happen. Except for the fact it was only game two of the series (which is a sizable exception to be sure) then this game would rank right up there in Royals lore with the misery of the twin ALCS Game Five’s in 1976 and 1977.

 

Sunday, October 20, 1985 looked like it was going to be Leibrandt’s ‘Rembrandt’ and get the Royals even in the World Series before heading east to St. Louis. Instead Charlie’s masterpiece turned into a ninth inning horror show of dinks and dunks that resulted in four Cardinal runs – all scored with two outs – turning a 2-0 Royals led into a 4-2 nightmare loss.

 

First let’s review what a tremendous performance Charlie Leibrandt put together. Through eight full innings Leibrandt had surrendered two hits with one walk and six strikeouts. He had allowed just three base runners, of which only one made it past first base. It was nearly as good as it gets - then came the ninth…

 

Willie McGee led-off with a double, but Charlie got Ozzie Smith to ground out and Tommie Herr to fly out. The Royals were one out away. Jack Clark singled to score McGee and the Cardinals were on the board. Then Tito Landrum doubled to left, Caesar Cedeno was walked intentionally and the bases were loaded. Dick Howser put his full confidence in Leibrandt and let him face Terry Pendleton. It was high drama and Pendleton won the battle lobbing a bases clearing double into left field.

 

Was it hopeless? I can say that Sunday night it sure felt close, but for inspiration Kansas City needed only look at what had happened the week before against Toronto in the ALCS. Yet this was slightly different considering the fact that no team in World Series history had ever lost the first two games at home and come back to win the title.

 

Just A Bit More: Though the Royals were down they did not feel they were out by any means. Dick Howser knew he had the pitching that could continue to hold the Cardinals in check, if he could only muster a bit more offense and get the key hits going Kansas City’s way.

 

Whatever extra motivation the Royals needed, and they didn’t need much as it was the World Series, would come in a most unlikely place. When the Royals landed at Lambert Field in St. Louis they were greeted by a large banner which read, “Welcome to St. Louis – Home of the 1985 World Champions.” Only in St. Louis had the laws of mathematics evidently been changed to make two equal four. The Royals had dug a huge hole, but as Dick Hoswer kept telling his team, “They haven’t won four yet.”

 

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

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