With all this talk recently about the 25th anniversary of the 1985 World Series, I thought we should take time to look back at another Kansas City baseball championship.
True KC baseball fans know the Royals aren’t the only local team to win it all. The Kansas City Monarchs won the Negro Leagues World Series twice, in the 1924 and 1942.
And then there’s the little-remembered 1962 World Series title won by the Kansas City Athletics.
It’s probably little remembered because it didn’t really happen. But this is a minor detail we’ll dispense with right now:
In “reality,” the New York Yankees won the 1962 World Series. In that same “reality,” the Kansas City A’s finished in ninth place, next-to-last in the American League, with a 72-90 record.
But, darnit, those Yankees have 27 World Championships to their name. When it comes to Major League Baseball championships, Kansas City has one.
So, by golly, on behalf of all Kansas Citians, I’m claiming the 1962 World Series for the Kansas City A’s.
What gives me the right to do this? The simple fact that without the Kansas City A’s, the New York Yankees would not have won nearly as many world titles.
Recently on the I-70 Baseball Radio Hour, we interviewed Tom Clavin and Danny Perry, the authors of “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero.” To research for the interview, I read their wonderful book, which was reviewed on our website here. The book reminded me that Maris, in the years before his Yankee greatness, was a member of the Kansas City A’s, and like so many members of the A’s, he was shipped off to New York for chicken feed.
The A’s and the Yankees had what was called a “special relationship.” There’s a great passage in the book describing the “relationship” in this quote from Merle Harmon, the announcer for the A’s:
Ernie Mehl was the big, tough, loud, cigar-chomping sports editor of the Kansas City Star. He was the ringleader, along with Kansas City sportswriter Parke Carroll, in getting Arnold Johnson to buy the A’s and move them to Kansas City [from Philadelphia]. Mehl was a good friend of Del Webb, who along with Dan Topping owned the Yankees. Webb made his money as a construction magnate and real estate developer, and when Johnson needed the 19,000-seat [Kansas City] Blues Stadium transformed into the double-decked Municipal Stadium in just ninety days, who do you think the contract went to? The Dell Webb Construction Company. So Johnson was beholden to Webb, and Carroll, the new A’s GM, would do anything for his good friend Yankees GM George Weiss.
How’s that for a headlock? The owner of the Yankees literally built the stadium the A’s played in. Arnold Johnson, who apparently cared little for baseball and was only involved to make money, was happy to ship players to the Yankees for not much in return, because his intention was to move the team to Los Angeles, and low attendance at Municipal Stadium would help him get out of a city lease.
If it’s beginning to sound like the plot of the movie Major League, you’ve just about got your mind wrapped around the situation.
Incidentally, the Brooklyn Dodgers beat Johnson to the punch, moving their team to LA before Johnson had a chance.
The “special relationship” continued somewhat after Johnson died and Charlie Finley bought the team in 1960, even though Finley insisted the relationship was over. The damage was done, though. The Yankees already had all of the Athletics’ best players.
Including Roger Maris, who had a pretty good season for the Yankees in 1961.
Since ‘61 is so special to Yankees fans (Maris hit a then-record 61 homers, Mickey Mantle hit 54, and the team defeated the Reds in five games for the title), I’ll leave that one alone.
We’ll take 1962.
And that makes sense, really. The 1962 Yankees included a goodly handful of players they received from the A’s for little to nothing, and four of those players – Maris, Clete Boyer, Hector Lopez and Ralph Terry – were essential to New York’s winning season and their seven-game World Series win over the Giants.
In fact, Terry – who was sent from Kansas City along with Lopez to New York for (I swear I’m not making these names up) Johny Kucks, Jerry Lumpe and Tom Sturdivant – was the 1962 World Series MVP. In the regular season, he compiled a 23-12 record with 14 complete games, 298.2 (!) innings pitched and 176 strikeouts. In the World Series he was 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA.
Lopez played in 106 regular season games for the ’62 Yanks, hitting at a .275 clip over 335 at-bats.
Clete Boyer played in 158 games for the Yankees in ‘62, batting .272 with 18 home runs. He really shined in the World Series, batting .318 with a .833 OPS. He was sent to New York for a handful of players you’ve never heard of, or the equivalent of about 15 gallons of Gatorade.
And Maris was no slouch, either. Although he didn’t quite live up to his 1961 numbers, he mashed 33 taters, hit .256 and clubbed 100 RBIs with an .840 OPS in 1962. The Yankees acquired him for two impressive names, Don Larsen and Hank Bauer, but Bauer was at the end of his career and Larsen had fallen off sharply since his one shining perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
So guess what, Yankee fans? Now your team has only won 26 world titles. We’re claiming 1962.
How do you like them Big Apples?
Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the content editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at email@example.com.