When you take a look at the pitching staffs used during the 1985 World Series, something extraordinary comes into view.
The St. Louis Cardinals used nine pitchers during the seven-game affair, which was about average for the era.
The Kansas City Royals used six pitchers.
That’s a historically low number during a seven-game series.
How rare is it? The last team that did it before the 1985 Royals was the 1962 New York Yankees. Two of the pitchers on that team were Whitey Ford, a Hall of Famer, and Ralph Terry, that year’s World Series MVP. Both Ford and Terry started three games apiece in the 1962 championship. Some other notable teams to do it were the 1958 Milwaukee Braves (two of their six pitchers were Lew Burdette and Warren Spahn) and the 1925 Washington Senators (who featured a gentleman named Walter Johnson).
The 1965 Dodgers, a champion in seven games, featuring Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax? They needed seven pitchers.
Since 1985, only one team has used as few as six pitchers – the 1989 Oakland A’s. And that was during a four-game series.
The trend over the last two decades has been to dip into the bullpen early and often. Here’s the pitcher count for the two most recent four-game World Series matchups.
2007: Boston over Colorado
Boston: 10 pitchers
Colorado: 11 pitchers
2005: Chicago White Sox over Houston
Chicago: 11 pitchers
Houston: 11 pitchers
So who were those six extraordinary pitchers who carried the Royals through seven grueling games against a powerful St. Louis offense?
They were: Danny Jackson, Charlie Leibrandt and Bret Saberhagen, who started two games apiece; Bud Black, who started one game and pitched one out of the bullpen; Dan Quisenberry, who appeared in four games but did not record a single save; and Joe Beckwith, who pitched just two innings in Game 4.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these six pitchers, as well as some others who helped the Royals make it to the World Series.
1985 regular season: 14-12, 3.42 ERA, 114 K
1985 World Series: 2 starts (1 CG), 1-1, 1.69 ERA, 12 K
1985 ALCS: 2 games, 1 start (CG), 0.00 ERA, 7 K
MLB career: 112-131, 4.01 ERA, 1,225 K, 2,072.2 IP
One of the many players for the 1985 Royals who played for the Cardinals either before or after their time with Kansas City, Danny Jackson was a workhorse for the ’85 Royals. In the regular season he compiled a 14-12 record and pitched 208 innings. It was only his third year in the big leagues, and his first year as a full-time starter. Jackson was brilliant in the playoffs, perhaps the second-best pitcher on the team after World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen. In the ALCS, he threw a complete game shutout in Game 5. The Royals were down 3-1, on the verge of elimination, and Jackson’s win kept them in the series and gave them the momentum to win out. He was also given the ball to pitch Game 1 of the World Series, earning a tough loss by giving up just two runs over seven innings. Jackson once again got the start in a critical Game 5 of the World Series, where the Royals were again down 3-1. True to form, he pitched a complete game and gave up only one run.
1985 regular season: 17-9, 2.69 ERA, 108 K
1985 World Series: 2 starts, 0-1, 2.76 ERA, 10 K
1985 ALCS: 3 games, 2 starts, 1-2, 5.28 ERA, 6 K
MLB career: 140-119, 3.71 ERA, 1,121 K, 2,308 IP
Leibrandt got his first taste of World Series play in 1985, but certainly not his last. The veteran lefty was brilliant in the regular season, but he lost two games in the 1985 ALCS and one more in the World Series. However, he was still an important piece in the Royals’ ultimate success. In Game 2 of the World Series, Leibrandt pitched eight scoreless innings and was set up to get a win before he collapsed in the ninth, giving up four runs and surrendering victory to the Cardinals. He redeemed himself in Game 6, though, pitching seven-plus innings of one-run ball before handing the game off to Dan Quisenberry, who picked up the victory. After leaving the Royals in 1989, Leibrandt went on to pitch for the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 and ’92 October Classics.
1985 regular season: 20-6, 2.87 ERA, 158 K, Cy Young Award
1985 World Series: 2 starts (2 CGs), 2-0, 0.50 ERA, 10 K
1985 ALCS: 2 starts, 0-0, 6.14 ERA, 6 K
MLB career: 167-117, 3.34 ERA, 1,715 K, 2,562.2 IP, 2 Cy Young Awards
We’ll be featuring Saberhagen later in our 25th anniversary coverage. But suffice it to say, he was perhaps the biggest reason the Royals reached the World Series in 1985 – and, of course, the biggest reason they won. In only his second year in the big leagues, Sabes won 20 games and his first of two Cy Young awards in ’85. Although he wasn’t much of a factor in the ALCS, he dominated in the World Series, throwing two complete games, including a shutout in decisive Game 7.
1985 regular season: 10-15, 4.33 ERA, 122 K
1985 World Series: 2 games, 1 start, 0-1, 5.06 ERA, 4 K
1985 ALCS: 3 games, 1 start, 1.69 ERA, 8 K
MLB career: 121-116, 3.84 ERA, 1,039 K, 2,053.1 IP
Black was the Opening Day starter for the Royals in 1985, and for good reason: he won 17 games and pitched 257 innings for the team in ’84. Black’s regular season numbers were disappointing, but he was entrusted with starts in the ALCS and the World Series. During his World Series start, Black gave up three runs over five innings and earned a loss, placing the Cardinals on the verge of victory. But Black’s playoff heroics came in the ALCS, and out of the bullpen. In Game 6, Black came on in relief in the sixth inning and pitched 3.1 scoreless innings to record a hold in a critical victory. Black has since gone on to become a successful pitching coach and, since 2007, manager of the San Diego Padres.
1985 regular season: 84 games, 2.37 ERA, 37 SV, 54 K
1985 World Series: 4 games, 2.08 ERA, 3 K
1985 ALCS: 4 games, 0-1, 1 SV, 3.86 ERA, 3 K
MLB career: 674 games, 244 SV, 2.76 ERA, 379 K
Quisenberry was no stranger to the pressures of the World Series. In 1980, the Quiz pitched in every game of the series, which the Royals lost in six games to the Philadelphia Phillies. He only pitched in four of seven games in 1985, but his role was just as important. Although Saberhagen gets the glory for winning a Cy Young award in 1985, Quiz also won recognition that year, picking up theRolaids Relief Man Award – his fifth. Quisenberry was what could be considered a “long closer.” Of his 244 career saves, many of them were for multiple innings. After leaving the Royals in 1988, he was signed by his old manager, Whitey Herzog, to pitch for the Cardinals. After his retirement Quiz became a published poet, but his life was cut short by cancer. He passed away in 1998.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Read more about Quisenberry in an upcoming feature story on I-70 Baseball after the conclusion of our 25th Anniversary coverage.)
1985 regular season: 49 games, 4.07 ERA, 95 IP, 80 K
1985 World Series: 1 game, 2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 3 K
1985 ALCS: DID NOT PITCH
MLB career: 229 games, 422 IP, 3.54 ERA, 319 K
The only other true reliever besides Quisenberry to pitch for the Royals in the World Series, Beckwith was an important middle reliever for Kansas City in 1985, throwing 95 innings over 49 games. He was not used in the ALCS, but pitched two scoreless innings in Game 4 of the World Series. Beckwith played for the Los Angeles Dodgers both before and after his two-year stint with the Royals.
1985 regular season: 14-10, 4.06 ERA, 99 K
1985 World Series: DID NOT PITCH
1985 ALCS: 2 games, 1 start, 1-0, 3.24 ERA, 4 K
MLB career: 132-136, 3.96 ERA, 2,223.1 IP, 1,371 K
Although he started a game and pitched out of the bullpen in the ALCS, second-year starter Mark Gubicza was not used in the 1985 World Series. But he was a significant member of the team in the regular season, winning 14 games and eating up 177.1 innings. Gubicza was Kansas City’s last personal link to the 1985 World Series; he played on the team through 1996, before finishing his career with the Angels. He was named to the Royals Hall of Fame in 2006. Gubicza still holds many Royals career records.
1985 regular season: 16 games, 3.11 ERA, 37.2 IP, 36 K
1985 World Series: DID NOT PITCH
1985 ALCS: 2 games, 1-0, 1.42 ERA, 3 K
MLB career: 48-45, 3.25 ERA, 509 games, 824.1 IP, 668 K
Like Gubicza, Steve Farr was used by manager Dick Howser in two games of the ALCS but was not needed in the World Series. Although it was his first year on the Royals and only his second year in the big leagues, Farr pitched in 16 games for the Royals in 1985. He played for the team for six years and has gone down as one of the best middle relievers in team history.
Coming up: I-70 Baseball will take a look at some of the impact players from the 1985 World Series and, of course, we’ll examine “The Call.” Check out the site every day this week for more 25th Anniversary coverage.
Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the content editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.