With The First Pick In The NFL Draft – The Kansas City Royals Select…

NFL Draft.jpgMr. Irrelevant for 2010 is Wide Reiceiver Timothy Toone and if you don’t know who that is then you probably haven’t been knee deep into the NFL Draft the last three days. But for those of you who have been – here is an interesting Royals connection to the NFL Draft.

I’m not sure, but I’m going to venture a guess that the Kansas City Royals are the only Major League Baseball organization to have drafted three players who would go on to be the Number One Overall pick in the National Football League Draft.

One of the three is so obvious any Royals fan should have already said his name – Vincent Edward Jackson from Auburn University:

Bo at Auburn.jpgBo was the Number One Overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He never signed with the Bucs and re-entered the 1987 draft when he was taken in the 7th round (183rd overall) by the Los Angeles Raiders (Yes, Los Angeles not Oakland). He never signed with the Bucs because in the interim he was drafted and signed with the Royals when they chose him the the 4th round of the 1986 June Baseball Draft.

Who are the other two Number One Overall NFL Draft Picks who were also drafted by the Royals?

The first was this guy:

Bartkowski.jpgUniversity of California QB Steve Bartkowski was the Number One Overall pick of the 1975 NFL Draft taken by the Atlanta Falcons. The Royals had selected First Baseman Steve Bartkowski in the 33rd round of the June 1971 Baseball Draft out of Bucher High School (Santa Clara, CA). Bartkowski never signed with the Royals.

The third was someone Kansas City sports fans are very familiar with – this guy:

Elway at Stanford.jpgStanford University QB John Elway was the Number One Overall pick of the 1983 NFL Draft taken by the Baltimore Colts. Like Bo Jackson, Elway would never play for his drafting team and was later traded to the Denver Broncos. The Royals had selected Outfielder John Elway in the 18th round of the June 1979 Baseball Draft out of Granada Hills High School (Northridge, CA). Elway never signed with the Royals, but was later drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round of the June 1981 Baseball Draft. He did sign with the Yankees and played briefly in the minor leagues in 1982 before starting his Hall of Fame NFL career.

There were a couple of others that come close. Deion Sanders was taken fifth in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons - the Royals selected him in the 6th round of the June 1985 Baseball Draft. Archie Manning was taken second in the 1971 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints – the Royals selected him in the 2nd round of the 1971 January Baseball Draft.

The Royals have seemingly drafted as many NFL QBs as the Chiefs have in the last 40 years. And I didn’t even include another high school kid taken by the Royals in the 4th round of the June 1979 Baseball Draft named Dan Marino.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame) 

This Date In Royals History – April 22, 1977

First Flight with the Blue Jays

Well that was a long first roadtrip, but 4-5 on a nine-game trek gets us back home in decent shape with a chance to hopefully gain some momentum. Finishing with a get-away day win really helps the vibe as we enter a big weekend series against the Twins (Fireworks on Friday and Greinke Bobbleheads on Saturday – come out and join us!).

As the Royals battled the Blue Jays this afternoon it reminded me of the similar trajectories of the two organizations over an extended period of time. Both arrived as expansion newcomers, grew into perennial contenders and have now fought their way through some tough years. Of course the history of the two franchises intersected in the 1985 ALCS when the first Blue Jays won their first division title before falling to the Royals on their way to Kansas City’s first World Series Title.

The clubs met for the first time during the Blue Jays inaugural season of 1977. Their initial meeting took place on April 29 at Royals Stadium with Kansas City claiming a 6-1 win. Take a look at the Royals line-up for that game – a team that would lead Major League Baseball with 102 wins and win a second consecutive AL West Championship:

 Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals (Friday – April 29, 1977)

 

Kansas City Royals

AB

R

H

RBI

George Brett (3B)

4

1

2

1

Hal McRae (DH)

3

2

0

0

Tom Poquette (LF)

4

1

2

1

John Mayberry (1B)

3

1

1

0

Amos Otis (CF)

4

0

0

0

Darrell Porter (C)

3

0

2

3

Al Cowens (RF)

4

0

0

0

Fred Patek (SS)

3

1

1

0

Frank White (2B)

2

0

0

0

 

Pitcher

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Jim Colborn

9

7

1

1

5

3

 

Yes – you read that correctly…George Brett was batting from the lead-off position. Whitey Herzog used George in the lead-off spot quite often in that early part of his Hall of Fame career. (Look at that complete game by Jim Colborn)

 

What about the Blue Jays starting line-up?

 

Toronto Blue Jays

AB

R

H

RBI

Bob Bailor (CF)

5

1

3

0

Jim Mason (SS)

3

0

0

0

Al Woods (LF)

4

0

0

0

Otto Valez (RF)

3

0

0

0

Ron Fairly (DH)

2

0

0

0

Doug Ault (1B)

4

0

1

0

Alan Ashby (C)

3

0

2

0

Dave McKay (3B)

3

0

0

0

Pedro Garcia (2B)

4

0

1

0

 

Pitcher

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Bill Singer

6.2

8

6

5

2

1

Pete Vuckovich

1.1

0

0

0

1

0

 

That’s the same Pete Vuckovich in relief who would go on to win the 1982 American League Cy Young Award with the pennant winning Milwaukee Brewers. None of the those Blue Jays were on the club that squared off with the Royals for the American League title eight years later - though catcher Ernie Whitt joined Toronto in May of 1977 and was still with Toronto in 1985.

 

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

Enduring ‘Tools of Ignorance’

Jason Kendall.jpgAs Jason Kendall climbs the charts for all-time games caught in Major League Baseball History it brought to mind that the Royals once had the leader on that list behind the plate. When Bob Boone finished his career in 1990 he held the top spot with 2,225 games caught.

Even now it is interesting to look at the Top Ten on that list and see that half of them have direct ties to the Royals as either a player, manager…or both.

 

Player

Games Caught

1. Ivan Rodriguez

2,298

2. Carlton Fisk

2,226

3. Bob Boone

2,225

4. Gary Carter

2,056

5. Tony Pea

1,950

6. Jim Sundberg

1,927

7. Jason Kendall

1,919

8. Brad Ausmus

1,918

8. Al Lopez

1,918

10. Benito Santiago

1,917

 

Long time Royals fans might remember that Carlton Fisk was heavily pursued by the Royals as a free-agent late in his career as well – if memory serves it was after the 1987 season. Clearly the Royals (along with everyone in baseball) have always longed for solid defense at the catching position. Here’s hoping the next Royals catcher on this list starts his career in Kansas City – or better yet both starts and ends his career right here. 

This Date In Royals History – April 19, 1984

Saberhagen Face 2.jpgIn 1982 Bret Saberhagen pitched his Grover Cleveland Cavaliers (Reseda, CA) to the Los Angeles High School City Title over Palisades at Dodger Stadium – throwing the first-ever no-hitter in the championship game.

After being drafted by the Royals in the 19th round of the 1982 June Draft, Saberhagen made his professional debut in 1983 minor league stops with the Fort Myers Royals and Jacksonville Suns.

Note: Bret Saberhagen spent his entire minor league career with the Royals organization in the state of Florida. In Jacksonville he first teamed up with fellow Royals Hall of Famer Mark Gubicza (the team didn’t win their division, finishing second to the Savannah Braves).

On April 19, 1984 – in his first major league start – Bret Saberhagen collected his first win with a 5-2 decision over Detroit at Tiger Stadium. The first win is always a special accomplishment, but this was even more so because of the situation.

The 1984 Detroit Tigers were the best team in baseball from start to finish. They won their first nine games. After forty games they stood at an amazing 35-5. They finished the year 104-58 and never spent a day out of first place. They swept the ALCS (against the surprise AL West Champion Royals as it turned out) and won the World Series in fives games against the San Diego Padres.

But the vaunted Tigers first loss of the season came at the hands of a 19 year-old pitcher in his first big league start less than two years removed from being the ace of the Grover Cleveland Cavaliers. Just a short twenty-six years ago today…

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – April 12, 1986


Dennis_Leonard_S_0d003.jpg“I heard this sound – like an ax hitting a tree. It happened so fast I thought I’d been hit by a line drive. But then I heard the umpire say strike.” Dennis Leonard

 

On this date we salute our friend Dennis Leonard on the 24th anniversary of his amazing comeback performance on Saturday, April 12, 1986.

For those that do not remember, the Royals Hall of Fame pitcher suffered a devastating injury when his knee gave out (ruptured patella tendon) while pitching to Cal Ripken of the Orioles on Saturday, May 29, 1983. Leo recounts the injury in this YouTube clip taken from a 09 Royals Caravan appearance in Omaha, Nebraska.

Dennis fought to return to the field enduring a grueling rehabiliation process and numerous setbacks along the way – missing two and a half years in what should have been the prime of his sparkling career. His comeback had a storybook quality to it which was truly one of the most memorable non-championship moments in Royals History.

On Saturday, April 12, 1986 Danny Jackson was scheduled to be the starting pitcher but he was battling some early season injuries, so nearly at the last minute manager Dick Howser summoned Dennis Leonard and told him he was going to hand him the ball.

Howser probably was hoping to get maybe five good innings out of Leo and call on his bullpen – Dennis and the baseball gods had something else in mind. He surprised everyone with an astounding three-hit shutout of the Toronto Blue Jays. Even better the game was NBC-TV’s Game of the Week and the drama all unfolded in front of a national television audience.

Dennis gave all the credit – and the game ball – to Royals Trainer Mickey Cobb who had been by his side throughout the entire rehab process.

Just imagine. The Royals had one of the best starting rotations in baseball during their championship run in 1985 and were missing the services of Dennis Leonard – one of the best right-handed starting pitchers of the era.

I was at the ballpark the night Dennis was injured and I was watching the afternoon of his return – one of the indelible images in Royals Baseball lore.

 

“The game was so incredibly emotional for me. It was a baseball game and it was something else. It meant so much to all of us.” George Brett

 

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

Cy Young Celebration – TONIGHT

Cy - Zack.jpgThis will be a special night at Kauffman Stadium as Zack Greinke is honored for his 2009 American League Cy Young Award in an on-field presentation during pre-game ceremonies. Make sure to get the ballpark early so you don’t miss the festivities which include the return of both the the Royals previous Cy Young Award winners Bret Saberhagen (1985 & 1989) and Kansas City native David Cone (1994).

Greinke, Cone and Saberhagen have all won Cy Young Awards with the Royals – and all three will be here tonight. But they are not the only Cy Young Award winners to pitch for Kansas City. These six other Cy Young pitchers took the mound for Kansas City teams in their playing careers:

 

Pitcher

Cy Young Season

Kansas City Connection

Whitey Ford

1961 – New York Yankees

1950 Kansas City Blues

Mike McCormick

1967 – San Francisco Giants

1971 Kansas City Royals

Vida Blue

1971 – Oakland A’s

1982-83 Kansas City Royals

Gaylord Perry

1972 – Cleveland Indians

1978 – San Diego Padres

1983 Kansas City Royals

Catfish Hunter

1974 – Oakland A’s

1965-67 Kansas City Athletics

Mark Davis

1989 – San Diego Padres

1990-92 Kansas City Royals

 

Remember Zack will be back on the mound again tomorrow night (Saturday) at 6:10, but tonight join us for our salute to his amazing 2009 season.

The first 35,000 fans tonight get this Cy Young Celebration T-Shirt presented by our hometown friends at H&R Block – plus – it’s the first Hy-Vee/Pepsi Fireworks Friday of the season. Red Sox and Royals tonight at 7:10. Get your tickets here.

 

 


CyYoungHRB_WHITE_Tshirt0021.jpg(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame) 

This Date In Royals History – April 8, 1969

Joe Keough.JPGThe Royals first-game, the Royals first win. It was Opening Day 1969 and major league baseball was back after the only year (1968) in which Kansas City had had no professional baseball dating back to 1884.

And the Royals got Kansas City back into the swing of things in style with an extra innings win against the eventual American League Western Division Champion Minnesota Twins. The game marked manny firsts for the Royals – led by Lou Piniella who was the Royals first hitter; got the Royals first hit; and scored the Royals first run. But it was pinch hitter Joe Keough (pictured above) who drove in Joe Foy with a 12th inning RBI single giving the Royals a 4-3 victory.

The game was also the major league mangerial debut of the unforgetable Billy Martin. In eight years in the Twins organization after his playing career had ended Martin had been a scout, major league coach and minor league manager. But his stormy big league mangerial career started on the same day of the Royals very first game. Martin’s stay in Minnesota ended after one season – despite winning the division title. In a sign of things to come, Billy was fired after the season largely as a result of a fight he had with pitcher Dave Boswell that August. Martin was a fighter from beginning to end.

Here’s another interesting tidbit from that game – umpiring that day at third base in his very first major league game? Don Denkinger of course. History just has a funny way about it.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

Cold Streak Broken On Cold Night

With an Alberto Callaspo home run and a Rick Ankiel RBI double that four-game losing streak in Game Two after an Opening Day home loss is over. It was cold, but it was a win and a sweet one at that.

Now let’s go for the series win!

Game Two – Right Back At It

drago_dick_s_01.jpgJust because it may be the game’s oldest cliche doesn’t make it any less true – the baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint. Of course it’s an adage everyone goes back to when the excitement of Opening Day is tempered by a tough loss – especially at home.

In Royals history the ballclub has lost on Opening Day at home eleven previous times and yesterday’s loss has made that an even dozen.  How have the Royals responded in the past? Overall in such situations the Royals are 6-5 with some memorable wins:

 1970 – April 8 (Municipal Stadium – Kansas City)

A’s

0

 

Royals

2

 

Dick Drago (shown above) tosses a complete game four-hit shutout against future Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter.
 

1974 – April 6 (Royals Stadium – Kansas City)

Twins

6

 

Royals

23

 

Stood as the Royals record for runs scored in a single game until September 9, 2004.
 

1989 – April 5 (Royals Stadium – Kansas City)

Blue Jays

1

 

Royals

2

 

Rookie pitcher Tom Gordon relieves Charlie Leibrandt and collects the final eight outs to capture his first major league win.
 
Recent history has not been as successful. The Royals have dropped the last four games following home losses on Opening Day, so Game Two is sort of a mixed bag for Kansas City. One of the best aspects of baseball is the fact that you get a chance at quick redemption on the field – no need to stew about a tough loss for a week. The Royals are right back at it Wednesday Night at 7:10 – hope you can make it out to the ballpark to join us! 
 
(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame) 
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