May 2011

1946-2011

Best Draft Picks

Signing of Royals 1974 First Round Draft Pick Willie Wilson

David Schoenfeld at the always interesting SweetSpot baseball blog on ESPN.com has posted his list of the best MLB draft picks ever at each of the (now) thirty draft slots. Remember the draft started in 1965 when there were twenty (20) big leagues clubs – so some of these spots were once in the second round.

(Trivia Question: Who was the first player selected in the first-ever MLB Draft of 1965 and by what team?)

Of the thirty spots the Royals hold down three – not bad huh? Here they are:

  • The Best #9 Pick – Kevin Appier (1987)
  • The Best #18 Pick – Willie Wilson (1974)
  • The Best # 29 Pick – George Brett (1971)

Just six other clubs had more than one slot on the list and the Royals joined the Phillies as the only two organizations with three. All three of the Royals are of course now members of the Royals Hall of Fame.

(Trivia Answer: Rick Monday, then an outfielder from Arizona State University, was the first player ever drafted when his was taken #1 overall in 1965 by the Kansas City Athletics)

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

Paul Splittorff

Paul Splittorff is one of the few people that have played a key role in helping define what it means to be a part of the Kansas City Royals from the beginning – literally the very start of the organization. Paul was selected by the Royals in the 25th round of the June 1968 Baseball Draft, the year before the the club played it’s inaugural major league game. He is the gem of the Royals first draft class.

After signing with Kansas City, Paul made his professional debut with the Class-A Corning Royals of the New York-Pennsylvannia League. He led that pitching staff with eight wins – the first ever minor league team of the Kansas City Royals Organization.

  • Splitt is the first Royals pitcher to post a twenty win season (1973 20-11)
  • Splitt is the first pitcher to win a post season game for Kansas City (1976 ALCS Game 2)
  • Splitt is the winning pitcher from the game that won Kansas City’s first AL Pennant (1980 ALCS Game 3)
  • Splitt is first on the Royals all-time wins list (166)

Tonight Paul Splittorff is first in the thoughts and prayers of all Royals everywhere.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

Harmon Killebrew

Harmon Killebrew - 1975 Kansas City Royals

Harmon is unquestionably an all-time Twin (and Washington Senator where his Hall of Fame career began), but once a Royal always a Royal – he is one of ours as well.

Keep him and his family in your thoughts.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

New York, New York

Yankee Stadium

The Royals are headed to the Bronx for our lone visit to Yankee Stadium this season – starting a three game series later tonight (TV-FSKC; Radio-KCSP/Royals Radio Network 6:10pm). Here are some interesting notes from the Royals first-ever trip to the Big Apple in 1969.

Monday, June 9, 1969 

Royals 7

Yankees 2

Roger Nelson threw a complete game giving up only five hits – the lone run coming on a second inning home run by first baseman Joe Pepitone. Cather Ellie Rodriguez led the Kansas City offense with going 2-4 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored.

Tuesday, June 10, 1969

Royals 7

Yankees 6

Royals centerfielder Lou Piniella (a future Yankee himself) was the star of the game. Sweet Lou got the Royals off to a quick start with a first inning bases loaded double of Yankee starter Stan Bahnsen. Piniella later scored on an Ellie Rodriguez single and the Royals were up 4-0 before the Yankees had an at-bat.

Wednesday, June 11, 1969

Royals 4

Yankees 5 (11 innings)

Lou Piniella was at it again with his third four-hit game of the season. However the Royals blew a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. It was pinch-hitter Bobby Cox the doubled in the winning run for New York with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning. Yes – that is the same Bobby Cox who would later manage both the Blue Jays and of course the Braves to many post season appearances.

At the time New York was in the midst of one of their longest stretches without a championship team . They finished last in the ten team American League in 1966; 9th in 1967; and 5th in 1968. They would finish 5th in the six team American League East in 1969 – the first year of divisional play following expansion.

Yankee Stadium drew 24,612 – for the entire three game series (8,355 Monday; 7,588 Tuesday; 8,669 Wednesday)!

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

Royals Debuts – Historical Perspective

George Brett - 1973

With all the excitement of Eric Hosmer’s debut this weekend at ‘The K’, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some other Royals debuts – of both the names we all know and a few that time has forgot. Let’s start at the top with #5 George Brett.

We can start here but as many of you know George was not #5 when he debuted for the Royals instead he wore #25 on Thursday August 2, 1973 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. He had been called up due to a nagging ankle injury to third baseman Paul Schaal who had not played since July 22. That being said the call-up was a bit of a surprise and seemed to come as a spur of the moment decision – especially for George. He is what he said at the time:

“I was sitting in the aprtment with (Mark) Littell, my roommate when (Omaha Manager) Harry Malmberg came in. He walked around for a while and said he wanted to see if our apartment was anything like his. I thought he was just coming over to tease us or something, maybe Mark because he had won last night.”

“He didn’t say anything for awhile, just walked around and then he said, ‘Congratulations you’re going to the major leagues.’ He didn’t say it to anyone , and I thought he meant Mark was going back up. I was thinking, ‘Oh, no, I’m going to lose another roommate’ – because the last time it cost me about $100 in deposits moving to another place.”

“When he said it was me, I must have left in five minutes. I took a shower. I took about three shirts with me. I left the airport at three and got here a few minutes ago (about 6:15). Harry said, ‘Take your time, you won’t be starting.’ I couldn’t believe I was when I got here.”

Of course Royals Manager Jack McKeon did have George in the line-up for that first game and Brett would collect his first hit in his second at bat – a fourth inning single of White Sox hurler Stan Bahnsen. The Royals won the game 3-1 which vaulted them into first place at 62-48 and one game in front of the Oakland A’s.

George only played in three more game before being returned to Omaha. He was recalled again in September of 1973 and played in nine more games finishing with five hits in forty at-bats for a batting average of .125. He didn’t make the big league club out of spring training in 1974 either.

His final recall come on May 3, 1974 a couple of days after the Royals traded third baseman Paul Schaal to the Califonia Angels. One interesting note most probably don’t remember (though George might) – Over his late 1973 call-up and his first two games in 1974 George was 0-18 here at Royals Stadium. His first hits at home came on May 5, 1973 against the Yankees (of course) when he went 3-4 in an 8-2 Kansas City win. 

And the rest is beautiful Royals history… 

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

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