This Date In Royals History – October 10, 1980
OK, if you are a Royals fans and were born anytime before say 1970 then you know the significance of this date. If you are in this age category I’ll just say ‘The Home Run’ and you’ll know. Once again this moment’s rank in Royals lore is right at the very top with winning the World Series. In fact just this past season Royals fans voted “Brett Off Gossage” as the #2 moment in the 40 year of Kansas City Royals Baseball.
It is Friday, October 10, 1980 – Game 3 of the 1980 American League Championship Series and the Royals were looking to sweep the Yankees. The Royals scored first when Frank White launched a fifth inning HR off Tommy John. But the Yankees took the lead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. It looked like John would cruise through the Royals again in the seventh when he retired the first two batters, but then Willie Wilson doubled and Dick Howser decided to summon his relief ace to put the halt to any Royals rally (Remember when closers were routinely brought in the seventh inning without even batting of the eye?)
Most people know what is coming in this story, yet the actual key to the inning was what came next without which the classic confrontation and pivotal moment may never had happened. The unsung hero of that dramatic sequence was Royals shortstop UL Washington (from Stringtown OK – sorry I’m from the Sooner State and I’m required to say that). It was UL who reached on an infield single and without his all-out hustle to beat Willie Randolph’s throw by the thinnest on margins George is leading-off the eighth inning with the Yankees in the lead. That’s not what happened though…A top of the toothpick to you UL!
Gossage and catcher Rick Cerone decided the best way to attack was to go strength against strength and try to get ahead of Brett with a high fastball to start the at-bat. George didn’t miss it. Instead he deposited it into Yankee’s Stadium’s upper deck. My brother’s and I memorized Royals broadcaster Fred White’s call of the play after listening to it a million times on the season recap record album called ‘The Crowning Episode’ – that call went exactly like this:
“Brett steps in…Gossage ready – the pitch. Swing and a high fly ball, deep rightfield there she goes!…Home Run!…Home Run by Brett and the Royals lead four to two….George Brett hit it in the upper deck off Gossage and the Royals lead.”
Everytime I talk with Fred about that call he just shakes his head and says, “What a moment.” What a moment indeed – unforgettable.
Just A Bit More: The similar circumstances of a less significant but very memorable Brett HR off Gossage three years later are striking. We’ll talk more about the ‘Pine Tar Game’ in July, but without UL Washington’s two-out hustle on that day in 1983 another interesting moment in Royals history would not have happened.
By the way, the ‘Pine Tar Bat’ is still here at the Royals Hall of Fame through the end of December this year. Please make plans to tour the RHOF before that bat goes back to our friends in Cooperstown for awhile. We’re open on Wednesdays and Saturdays including this holiday season if you have some family in-town and want to take a brief day trip here in Kansas City.
(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)