This Date In Royals History – October 1, 1976
This was one of the best days in Royals history – the day on which the Kansas City Royals became champions for the very first time – even though they lost the game of the field. Let me explain.
The 1976 Royals American League Western Division title was made even more sweet as they dethroned Charley Finley’s Oakland A’s. But it was tough down the stretch as a seven game lead on September 21 had fallen to just 2.5 games before the Royals avoided a sweep in Oakland with a 4-0 Larry Gura shutout on September 29. With that win the Royals had clinched no worse than a tie and another Kansas City win or Oakland loss would give them the title.
On Friday, October 1, 1976 the Twins scored a ninth inning run to beat Kansas City 4-3 at Royals Stadium. But many in the crowd of 38,482 stay after the game, as did the entire Royals team to see how the A’s would fare at home against the Angels. That game went scoreless into the 12th inning before Rusty Torres homered and the Angels pushed across another run for a 2-0 win. The Royals were champions!
The same Rusty Torres would play 51 games (his last as a big leaguer) for the 1980 American League Champion Royals. Signed on May 5, 1980, he wouldn’t be around for the clinching date that year as he was released on August 28.
Just A Bit More: The following afternoon* was the famous Cookie Rojas and Fred Patek leap into the rightfield fountains. It was a fool’s errand, not to mention a bit dangerous, as Freddy acknowledged later, “We jumped in there with our cleats and everything on. If he (Royals PR Director Dean Vogelaar) hadn’t had the electricity in the fountains turned off, we could’ve been swimming out there like a couple of dead goldfish.”
* Corrected from original post as the Rojas/Patek plunge followed the Saturday, October 2, 1976 afternoon game at Royals Stadium which was broadcast as the NBC ‘Game of the Week”. The Royals fell to the Twins 3-2, but after a long night of celebration that was understandable.
Whitey Herzog said it best, “Pretty tough to get going this morning, We partied until about 4:30.” Needless to say all of Kansas City was a party zone…
“Just A Bit More: This was also the night of the famous Cookie Rojas and Fred Patek leap into the rightfield fountains.”
To be accurate, the leap in the fountains was during the day. It was late Saturday afternoon right after the Royals game with the Twins. It was on NBC nationally (I watched in NY) because it was the only race not decided and that game might have been the clincher had the A’s not lost the night before. The broadcast stayed in KC even though the game was over in anticipation of the two going into the fountain, which they did.
A photo ran in the KC Star subsequently but that was the only time I’ve ever seen it. Would love to see that again.
lwiedy…You are correct the leap came after the Satuday afternoon “Game of the Week” broadcast, which I have made sure to correct above.
I think the partying was darn near out of control as some of the players on the 1976 club have a hard time distinguishing between what happened on that Friday Night from that Saturday Afternoon. My mistake here though…thank for helping me make sure the story is correct.
I’ve found the Kansas City Star article about the plunge in our archive, but unfortunately their was no picture with the newsclipping.
Thanks for the follow up!
IIRC, the photo ran in a special pre-ALCS supplement run by the Star. Could have been anytime between the end of the season (Sunday) through the following Saturday, when the series started. I?m positive it ran sometime during that week. My dad bought it at a newsstand that sold out-of-town newspapers in NY and I had many clips from it in a scrapbook that has sadly long since met its demise. The photo was a long-shot (probably from the press box) out to the fountain with Cookie & Freddie?s fist-pumping.