Former Kansas City Royals players better appreciate their place in Kansas City, because they won’t be taking up residence in Cooperstown any time soon.
Former Cincinnati Red Barry Larkin joined George Brett in Cooperstown on Monday, and the only former Royal receiving any votes will drop off from lack of support.
Juan Gonzalez just eluded the ax last year, but he couldn’t keep his Hall of Fame hopes alive for another vote. “Juan Gone” netted just 23 votes in Monday’s vote, needing 29 to stay on the ballot, and will be long gone next time votes are cast.
No Royals fans will shed any tears for Gonzalez. He, more than anyone, symbolized the gut-wrenching plummet the team took in 2004 after contending from wire to wire in 2003. In fact, few will even notice as he slides into obscurity.
But the disinterest he received from voters is just one more reminder of the Hall’s disinterest in Royals players. In fact, Gonzalez is the only former Royal to remain on the ballot beyond his initial year of eligibility since 1996. That’s when Vada Pinson made his last appearance on the ballot.
I would think, based on Sanders’ combination of 300 homers and 300 steals might pique some interest from voters, enough possibly to get the requisite 5% to stay on the ballot at least. But it’s safe to bet he won’t be joining Brett in the Hall.
If you think Brett is the only Royal in Cooperstown, you’re wrong. Technically.
The first man who wore the Royal blue to enter the Hall was Harmon Killebrew, who suited up for KC in his final season – 1975. In 1984 he earned 83% of the vote in his 3rd time on the ballot. (75% is required for enshrinement.)
Second came Gaylord Perry, the quirky, ageless wonder who pitched in KC in 1983 and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. In his 3rd time to be on the ballot, Perry earned 77% of the vote that year.
The third Royal to be enshrined in Cooperstown was Orlando Cepeda, who made the last stop of his career in Kansas City in 1974. Cepeda’s name dropped off the regular ballot in 1994 when he fell just 1.5% shy of regular election. But he was voted into the Hall by the Veterans Committee in 1999, the same year Brett was voted in via the regular process.
Brett, of course, is the only player whose bust and all other regalia represents his career with the Royals. Brett cruised into the Hall with 98.2% of the votes in his first year of eligibility – just 9 voters left him off their ballots.
A large number of players’ names show up on the ballot each year, and most of them garner at least a few votes. As stated before, those who do not get at least 5% are left off all future ballots. As much as we Royals fans love Frank White, Willie Wilson and others, the boys in blue have barely caused a ripple of interest by Hall of Fame Voters.
Pinson, an outfielder who spent his best years in Cincinnati, and wound up his career in KC in 1974 and 1975, came the closest. Support for Pinson topped out in 1988 when he secured 15.7% of the votes cast.
The next best finish by a former Royal was in 1993 when Vida Blue garnered 8.7% of the votes cast. Blue was a key member of the pitching staffs of the 1982 and 1983 Royals teams.
Sadly, and somewhat amazingly, no other Royal beyond Pinson, Blue and Gonzalez has ever received the requisite 5% to remain on the ballot past their first year of eligibility.
The highest finishes by those players who really made their name while wearing the Royals uniform are as follows:
David Cone – 3.9% in 2001
Dan Quisenberry – 3.8% in 1996
Frank White – 3.8% in 1996
Willie McGee – 2.3% in 2006
Willie Wilson – 2% in 2000
Good luck to Conine and Sanders. We Royals fans won’t be holding our collective breath, not hoping you’ll make it to Cooperstown. Not even hoping your name will make it on a second ballot. We’ll be more focused on Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon, hoping there’s a Hall of Famer somewhere in our future.