October 2009

This Date In Royals History – October 19, 1985

WS_1985_Logo.jpgWhat is the perfect match-up for a Royals fan in the World Series? To be honest, any team in the National League will do – we just want to see the boys in blue play on the biggest stage. But leaving that aside, there had always been a dream to battle with our red feathered cousins to the east for baseball’s ultimate prize. Twenty-four years ago on this date that dream became reality.

Saturday, October 19, 1985 was the start of the I-70 World Series with the Cardinals traveling west to Royals Stadium for Game One. When it was over the most memorable emotion from that first game for the Royals was utter frustration. Though Kansas City scored first with a run in the second inning, it was the lost chance at a big inning that still lingers. With one-out, a run home and runners on first and third – Darryl Motley was caught off third base for the second out of the inning. The Cards then walked Buddy Biancalana to face the pitcher Danny Jackson who struck out with two runners on. It was just the start of lost chances.

Lonnie Smith started the Royals third with a single, but was immediately picked-off first. Scoring chance lost.  In the fourth Jim Sundberg led off with a double, but would eventually be thrown out at the plate on a short foul pop up that turned into a double play. Scoring chance lost.  Willie Wilson started the sixth with a single, but was stranded there. Another scoring chance lost. By this time St. Louis had pushed across single runs in the third and fourth to lead 2-1.

The most agonizing lost opportunity was in the Royals seventh. With two out pinch-hitter Lynn Jones tripled. Dick Howser went back to the bench for a pinch hit at-bat from Hal McRae, who was hit by a pitch. Lonnie Smith followed that with a walk and the bases were loaded. But Todd Worrell got Willie Wilson on a foul pop-up to left and the Royals could not cash another scoring chance.

The Cardinals scored again in the ninth and though Pat Sheridan led-off the Royals final at-bat with a double, he too was stranded and St. Louis had a 3-1 win.  There was more frustration and angst to come the next night – much of which we don’t remember because we know where the trophy would ultimately reside. Trust me, it’s still here – I saw it this morning…

Just A Bit More: The 1985 World Series was not the first to feature two teams from the state of Missouri. Actually 41 years earlier, the 1944 World Series pitted the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals against the American League Champion St. Louis Browns. The Browns were making their first and only World Series appearance. Sportsman’s Park was home to both teams so all six games were played at the stadium at Grand Boulevard and Dodier Street.

The Cardinals won the series in six games. Ten years later the St. Louis Browns flew east to become the Baltimore Orioles.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 18, 1980

Thumbnail image for aikens_willie_s_06.jpgLet’s revisit the 1980 World Series one more time for what was undoubtedly the highpoint of that fall classic for the Royals. On a side note, notice this date in 1980 coincided with Game 4 of the World Series and then realize that this year Game 4 will be played in November. I think we’ve stretched to the breaking point – the LA teams had been get it going or this could be the “Nor’easter” World Series. But I digress…

Saturday, October 18, 1980 and the Royals have a chance to even the World Series at two games apiece. Kansas City sent 20-game winner Dennis Leonard to the mound, but he actually had all the runs he would need before throwing his first pitch.

Willie Wilson started with a single, then was pick-off first but advanced to second on an error charged to pitcher Larry Christenson. After Frank White flew out, the Royals began an extra-base hit barrage that chased the Phillies starter before the first inning was finished. George Brett tripled home Wilson to get Kansas City on the board. Willie Aikens followed with a majestic blast to right field and the Royals were up 3-0. Hal McRae lashed a double and scored on an Amos Otis doubled right behind him. Kansas City had four runs and could have had more as they would leave the bases loaded.

Philadelphia countered with a single run in the second, but Aikens got it right back with a titanic shot in the bottom half of the inning. Aikens was an offensive force for the Royals – this was his second two-HR game of the series. The Phillies plated single runs in the seventh and eighth to close the gap, but Quisenberry was there to pick Leonard up and save the series tying win. The victory set-up a pivotal Game 5 which would be another gut-wrencher for Royals fans, but let’s remember instead the euphoria of this great game in Royals History just a short 29 years ago on this date.

Just A Bit More: Willie Aikens was clearly headed for World Series MVP honors should the Royals have been able to pull ahead and win the series. His performance was truly extraordinary; I still believe he holds the distinction of being the only player to have a pair of two home run games in the same World Series (The bat Willie used in Game 4 of the 1980 World Series is on display here at the RHOF – courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown).

The 1980 World Series was also the very first to be played entirely on artificial surface fields. Another oddity for that series, it was the last World Series match-up of two organizations that did not already have at least one previous World Championship in their history. Not only that, but the previous such pairing was the 1920 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 17, 1980

80_World_Series_S_0f001.jpgWe won’t always cover each and every playoff game in this review, but watching the unfolding series’ on TV always leads me to think about big moments in Royals postseason history. Another of those monumental moments happened on this date twenty-nine years ago.


It was Friday, October 17, 1980 and Kansas City was finally hosting a World Series Game here at Royals Stadium. Though the Royals were down two games to none after a couple of tough losses in Philadelphia, the homecoming would hopefully give the Royals new live and a way back into the series. George Brett gave Kansas City fans every indication that the Royals could do just that with a HR in the bottom of the first.


The game was a battle of one run innings were Kansas City would take the lead and the Phillies would immediately answer – a pattern that would repeat itself three times. After Brett’s first inning HR, the Phillies scored a run in the top of the second to tie. Willie Aikens tripled and scored in the fourth, then Mike Schmidt homered in the top of the fifth to tie. Amos Otis homered in the seventh, then Pete Rose had an RBI single in the top of the eighth to tie the game again.


The game went into extra innings and the Royals dodged a Phillies scoring chance when Mike Schmidt lined into a double play with a runner in scoring position in the top of the tenth. The Royals tenth was a rollercoaster ride that went like this:


  • Tug McGraw replaces Dick Ruthven on the mound
  • UL Washington singles to left
  • Willie Wilson walks
  • UL Wahsington caught stealing third
  • Frank White strikes out


Two on with nobody out turns quickly into two out and a runner at first. Oh no, you say – another wasted opportunity, but wait…


  • Willie Wilson steals second
  • George Brett is walked intentionally


All of which brought up Willie Aikens with two outs and a chance for the win. As he would be for the entire series, Aikens came through for the Royals with a single which easily scored Wilson. The Royals had a 4-3 win and Kansas City had it’s very first World Series victory.


Just A Bit More: Whitey Herzog said long ago that if he had had Dan Quisenberry in the bullpen from 1976-1978 the Royals would have played in at least two World Series before 1980. Quisenberry was on the mound when the Royals finally got past the Yankees in the 1980 ALCS which gives great credence to Herzog’s claim.


And Quiz was key to this first World Series win as well. He had pitched in both games in Philadelphia including a tough outing where he took the loss in Game 2, but one of his trademarks was resiliency and thankfully so.  He came in with two outs and two on in the eighth and retired Phillies slugger Mike Schmidt. He fought through having runners on base in both the ninth and tenth, but turned away Philadelphia both times with the game still tied. It might not have been pretty, but he got the win and the Royals had a chance to make it a series again.


(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 16, 1985

1985 ALCS Game 7.jpgWe’ll start today with a weather report – expect cold and blustery Canadian conditions with a 50% chance of a late evening championship. Look for ominous storm clouds to roll in some time in the early third, which will hover until a sudden ‘Sunny’ breakthrough in the sixth.

Wednesday, October 16, 1985 and the Royals and Blue Jays have reached the all of nothing finale – Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.  It was the perfect big game match-up with both teams sending their aces to the mound, Bret Saberhagen and Dave Steib, in a winner take all finish. The Royals got on the board first, as they had in each game of the series except the first, with a run in the second.

In the third inning former Royal Rance Mulliniks hit a shot off the leg of Bret Saberhagen and all of Kansas City saw the chance at the World Series flash through their eyes. The ball ricocheted so hard off Bret that Mulliniks was able to reach second base. Saberhagen finished the inning but was lifted in favor of Charlie Leibrandt to start the fourth. The Royals ace was on the bench -the Jays was still on the mound.

Pat Sheridan would homer in the fourth and then Toronto countered with a run in the fifth. With the score 2-1, the Royals mounded another threat in the sixth starting with a one-out walk to George Brett. After that Hal McRae was hit by a pitch, Pat Sheridan grounded into a force out and Steve Balboni worked Dave Stieb for another walk. Now the bases were loaded with two-out and Jim Sundberg stepped to the plate.

Sunny, who had driven in the Royals first run of the game, launched a drive down the RF line that seemed to carry and carry and carry…before finally bouncing off the top of the fence for a triple that cleared the bases. Frank White followed with an RBI single scoring Sundberg and the Royals were up 6-1. After that, with Leibrandt in a groove and Quiz in the pen, the Royals could almost count down the outs. When Frank White fielded Lloyd Moseby’s high hopper in the ninth inning the Kansas City comeback was complete and the Royals were American League Champions.

The extended forecast after that night was very Missouri-like for the next week or so…


Thumbnail image for Sundberg at Iowa.jpgJust A Bit More:
Jim Sundberg is primarily known as a Texas Ranger where he spent the majority of his major league career and he still works for that club today.

Did you know Jim is from *Galesburg, IL and played baseball at the University of Iowa? (That’s Sunny in his Hawkeye days pictured above) 

Looking back his brief stay in Kansas City from 1985-1986 was a master stroke by Royals GM John Schuerholz . Sunny came on-board as the veteran that would help mold the Royals cast of inexperienced pitchers and his influence remained even after he was traded to the Cubs in March of 1987. His steady hand helped the entire pitching staff, but he made a huge impact of the younger pitchers like Saberhagen, Gubicza and Jackson. A solid fundamental ‘professional’ player, one that often goes underappreciated until you watch them play everyday.

And he got a few key hits too, plus a certain slide across home you might remember.


* Corrected from original post. Sunny hales from the Land of Lincoln, previously this note incorrectly placed an IA (Iowa) abbreviation instead of IL (Illinois). 

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 15, 1985

Gubicza HOF Portriat.jpgPostseason games that do not decide a series are often forgotten and taken for granted once the ultimate outcome is finally determined. The rare exception is when a momentum switch can be distilled down to a single key play or spectacular performance like George Brett’s in Game 3 of the 1985 ALCS. Otherwise they fade to the background like 1985 ALCS Game 6 in Toronto, but that game was really a brilliant chess move by Royals Manager Dick Howser.

It’s Tuesday, October 15, 1985 and the Royals are trying to save off a second match point- this time they had to get it done on the road. Dick Howser’s postseason rotation would have had Buddy Black going to the mound, but Black had warmed-up in the bullpen three times that Sunday afternoon behind Danny Jackson and might not have been full strength (though he never entered the game as Jackson went all nine innings). To start Black or not to start Black was the question…

The 1985 Blue Jays were more susceptible to left handed pitching, but Howser thought it would be even more important to have a lefty in the bullpen – just in case. So as insurance he put Buddy back in the pen for Game 6 and gave the starting assignment to Mark Gubicza. Mark had not started a game since the waning days of the regular season – a key 4-2 win vs Oakland the night before the Royals clinched the AL West (he did pitch three scoreless relief innings in the Royals 6-1 ALCS Game 1 loss). The Kansas City Star Sports headline that day summed it up this way – ‘Flickering pennant hopes ride on Gubicza’

Well the candle didn’t go out – Gubicza did exactly what Howser needed and wanted him to do. The future Royals Hall of Famer giving up three runs in five and a third innings. When he got into a bit of trouble in the sixth Howser called on Buddy Black – but by that time Kansas City had a 5-3 lead. Black shut-out the Jays the rest of the way with Dan Quisenberry coming in to get the game’s final out with the tying runs on-base. Howser’s plan had worked like a charm and it was on to match point #3.

Just A Bit More: When the Royals faced the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series they saw a couple of familiar faces including St. Louis catcher Darrell Porter. Porter left Kansas City as a free-agent following the Royals 1980 American League Championship to sign with the Redbirds. As compensation they received the Cards second round pick in the 1981 June Draft which Kansas City used to select Penn Charter HS (Philadelphia, PA) pitcher Mark Gubicza.

Though Gubicza would not get a chance to take the mound against St. Louis in the World Series don’t let anyone say he didn’t play a part in the championship. You only have to look at ALCS Game 6 for proof.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 14, 1980

WS_1980_Logo.jpgIf you are a Royals fan, then this date is not a cherished one, but it is memorable in club history. For a city that has had professional baseball every year save one since 1884 (we’ll just call 1968 the Finley Gap – Thanks Charlie it was worth the one year hiatus), this date 29 years ago was a true watershed moment. 

Tuesday, October 14, 1980 and the Royals were in Philadelphia at Veterans Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series. This was of course the first-ever World Series game for Kansas City and it was a long-time coming. The Royals got started with a bang – literally. In the second inning Darrell Porter led-off with a walk (off Phillies starter Bob Walk – sorry had to include that pun) and Amos Otis followed with a long HR. Then in the third Willie Aikens added to the Royals lead with another two-run shot. Everything seemed to be humming for KC – 4-0 lead and Dennis Leonard had retired the first six Phillies in order.

But Philly rallied for a five-spot in the bottom of the third including a two-out three-run HR by Bake McBride and then followed that with single runs in the fifth and sixth to lead 7-4. Willie Aikens would launch his second two-run HR of the game in the eighth inning, but the Royals scoring ended there and Philadelphia took Game 1 by a score of 7-6. Heartbreaking loss when you recall the circumstances, with a win here the entire series may have ended very differently for the Royals.

Just A Bit More: There was another event that happened on October 14 four years earlier and was much more painful for Royals fans. I’ll say this as quickly as possible to minimize the sting you can still feel three and a third decades later, it’ll just take two words…Chris Chambliss. I won’t go any further it’s just to gut wrenching. If you remember it you know what I’m talking about, if not you can find the details here.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 13, 1985

Thumbnail image for Danny Jackson.jpgBack to the playoffs and on this date a pivotal yet largely forgotten game from the 1985 postseason run for the Royals. As we covered a couple of days ago George Brett’s greatest game helped get Kansas City a win against Toronto in ALCS Game 3, but the Royals lost Game 4 here at home and faced elimination for the first time…luckily it wouldn’t be the last.


Sunday afternoon October 13, 1985 and it seemed all of Canada (or at least Toronto) was sure the World Series was heading north with the Blue Jays. But in Game 5 the Royals tried instead to send the American League Championship Series back to the Great White North with the World Series still in doubt.


Dick Howser sent LHP Danny Jackson (from the University of Oklahoma – as a Sooner I’m required to get that in here) to the mound to keep the Royals season alive. Though his starting rotation mate Bret Saberhagen rightly gets credit as the Royals postseason pitching hero, without Jackson’s less heralded – but no less spectacular – effort the run would have screeched to a halt right here.


The Royals scored one in the first when Lonnie Smith doubled, stole third and came home on a George Brett groundball. In the second Frank White led-off with a bunt single, advanced to third on a Steve Balboni hit and scored on a Sac Fly off the bat of Darryl Motley. As it turned out that was more than enough offense for Jackson. He was absolutely dominant – throwing a complete game shutout scattering eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts.  After the game I’ll always remember the crown scoreboard message:


“Good Luck In Toronto – Bring Us Back A World Series”



Just A Bit More: Speaking of Lonnie Smith, here are some interesting notes regarding our old friend ‘Skates’. While Smith was not a superstar by any means, he was a successful player with a solid 17-year MLB career. Did you know he finished third in the 1980 National Rookie of the Year voting? It’s true, just behind Montreal’s Bill Gullickson and the winner Steve Howe of the Dodgers. He followed that by placing second in the 1982 National League MVP race behind Atlanta’s Dale Murphy.


But the most fascinating trend in his career is this one. Lonnie was drafted by Philadelphia and in his first full year with the Phillies they won the 1980 World Series (defeating the Royals). He was traded to St. Louis and in his first season with the Cardinals they won the 1982 World Series. He was traded from St. Louis to Kansas City on May 17, 1985 and in that first season with the Royals…


Well, guess what? Talk about coming full circle!


(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 12, 1988

John Mayberry (Coach).jpgToday is another brief break from playoff memories – though we’ve still got a couple of weeks of October to go through so there are many key games still to come. This month also marks the beginning of baseball’s off-season where moves are made in preparation for the hopes and dreams of the next spring and summer.

On Wednesday, October 12, 1988, General Manager John Schuerholz and Manager John Wathan announced that John Mayberry would be added to the Royals Coaching Staff for the 1989 season. It was a return for ‘Big John’ to the organization after his abrupt departure following the devastating 1977 ALCS loss to the Yankees. The following spring Mayberry was jettisoned to the Toronto Blue Jays for cash and the Royals original power hitter was gone. The parting was a sour end to a memorable Kansas City career which would eventually land Mayberry in the Royals Hall of Fame.

Just A Bit More: John is one of fourteen former Royals players to also serve on the club’s major league coaching staff during the careers. How many can you name? (There are three on the Royals current staff)



Player Years

Coach Years

Tom Burgmeier


1991, 1998-00

Galen Cisco



Lynn Jones



Lee May


1984-86, 1992-94

John Mayberry



Bob McClure



Hal McRae



Dave Owen



Tom Poquette

1973, 1976-79, 1982


Jaime Quirk

1975-76, 1978-82, 1985-88


Kevin Seitzer



Luis Silverio



John Wathan



Frank White



 Did you get them all (be honest)?…I hope I did.


(Curt Nelson, Director, Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 11, 1985


1985 ALCS Game 3 - Brett's First Home Run.jpgThough George Brett’s seminal moment was covered on October 10th, it was twenty-four years ago on this date which in my mind – and I know in many others – was his single greatest performance. Royals Hall of Fame broadcaster Denny Matthews rightly calls it the single most important game in Royals History.


It was Friday, October 11, 1985 at Royals Stadium – Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City was down two games to none. Luckily this was the first season with best of seven LCS play or the hole might have already been too big for the Royals. But for all intents and purposes this was an absolute ‘must win’ if there ever was one. Here was George’s night:


Bottom of the First (Score: Blue Jays 0, Royals 0)

          Two-out bases empty HR to RF seats


Top of the Third (Score: Blue Jays 0, Royals 1)

          Cuts down tying run at the plate with great defensive play


Bottom of the Fourth (Score: Blue Jays 0, Royals 1)

          Lead off double high against the RF wall – scores on Sac Fly by Frank White


I think it was somewhere around this time in the game’s radio broadcast that Denny Matthews asked, “What more can he do?” Well Denny, there was more to come…


Bottom of the Sixth (Score: Blue Jays 5, Royals 3)

          Two-run HR over wall in left-centerfield


Bottom of the Eighth (Score: Blue Jays 5, Royals 5)

          Leads off with single into RF – scores two-out RBI Single by Steve Balboni


Top of the Ninth (Score: Blue Jays 5, Royals 6)

          Records final out of the game catching foul pop off bat of Lloyd Moseby


Wow…not much more to write than that…just wow.



Just A Bit More: This is the game that finally got Dick Howser into the win column in the postseason. After catching the last out and getting a huge hug from Frank White, George sought Dick out and gave him the ball. If you ever get to see that footage you can see how important that moment was for George. You can nearly read his lips as he hands the baseball to his friend and manager “This one is for you – you deserve it.”  


There was so much still to come in that magical October of 1985, but it probably would have ended earlier and in much heartache without George’s best game ever.


(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – October 10, 1980

Brett off Gossage.jpgOK, 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)