Every baseball nerd worth his weight in Topps cards can vividly recall the events of July 24, 1983 at Yankee Stadium. Whether you were alive and in attendance or not, the film roll itself is replayed consistently for us to witness. Legendary Yankee hurler Goose Gossage was on the mound, Royal U.L. Washington was on first and future Hall Of Famer George Brett was on his way to the plate. The Yankees were ahead 4-3 in the ninth inning and with one swing of the bat, Brett sent a meaningless middle of the year game straight into history. Brett connected with a home run, Yankee manager Billy Martin protested, and the Pine Tar Incident was born.
In the midst of the tirade and subsequent arguments, Brett, Royals manager Dick Howser, Gerald Perry and Rocky Colavito were ejected from the game. Brett was called out, the home run nullified and the Yankees won. That is where most fans think the situation ended.
But the Royals protested the game. The rule at the time stated that pine tar could not be used more than 18 inches from the handle of the bat. However, the rule simply stated that if that provision was broken, the bat was to be taken out of play. There were no provisions for the hitter to be called out or there to be an ejection. The home plate umpire, Tim McClelland used his knowledge of other rules and ultimately the rule of “Umpire Prerogative” to decide the consequences of the illegal bat.
The protest was taken to Lee MacPhail, American League President, and upheld. The two teams would meet on a mutual day off to resume the game. The home run would stand, as would the ejections, and the game would resume on August 18.
Pine tar was not outlawed because it would give a player an advantage when striking the ball. It was outlawed in order to keep more balls in play and thus not use more new baseballs then necessary during a game. It was simply because of the black mark it would leave on the ball.
Billy Martin, not to be outdone, filed his own protests to attempt to intervene. In front of a new umpire crew, Martin appealed to each base prior to the first pitch being thrown to Hal McRae on August 18th. Martin contended that Brett did not touch all the bases and the umpire crew could not dispute that fact. However, a signed affidavit from the original umpire crew was produced stating that Brett had come into contact with all four bases. Obviously, the league was ready for Billy Martin.
Not able to change the ruling, Martin took matters into his own hands to make the four out affair as big of a laughing stock as he possible could by sending Ron Guidry, a pitcher, to play center field. He would also send his legendary first baseman Don Mattingly to play second base. Mattingly would become the first left handed second baseman in almost two decades due to the antics of his manager.
The Yankees would send George Frazier to the mound to retire Hal McRae almost a month after the inning started. The Royals closer Dan Quisenberry would pitch a perfect bottom of the ninth to put a win on the board for the Royals and bring to an end a game that is truly legendary.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.
As part of our inaugural edition of the I-70 Hall of Legends, today I-70 Baseball retires a uniform number that has come to represent greatness in both St. Louis and Kansas City – the No. 20, worn by the Cardinals’ Lou Brock and the Royals’ Frank White.
Lou Brock may be one of the most unforgettable players to ever wear the birds-on-the-bat, a catalyst at the top of the order who was recognized as one of the most prolific base stealers the game would ever see. While he was not the defensive presence of his uniform-number counterpart in Kansas City, Frank White, he was an offensive threat who went down in history as one of the game’s best left fielders and was enshrined in the Hall Of Fame.
Just as Lou Brock is an unforgettable part of St. Louis Cardinals history, Frank White is a legend in Kansas City. White is a member of the Royals Hall of Fame, and his No. 20 is one of only three numbers retired by the Royals (along with George Brett’s No. 5 and Dick Howser’s No. 10).
Unlike Brock, Frank White is not a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, although some, including writer Joe Posnanski, have argued that perhaps he should be.
While White built a resume that many argue should put him in the Hall Of Fame, Brock made sure there was no doubt. Brock joined baseball’s elite hitsmen, posting 3,023 hits in his career. He batted .293 over the course of his career and posted a .343 on-base percentage. It was his production in scoring runs and stealing bases that made Brock a legend, deserving of the honor we bestow upon him today. He scored 1,610 runs in his career while stealing 938 bases. His stolen base mark would remain the best in the history of the game until Rickey Henderson came along.
Lou’s glove never won him any awards, but the same cannot be said for the player who wore No. 20 for the Royals.
If there were a Defensive Hall of Fame, no doubt Frank White would be a first-ballot inductee. He was brilliant with the glove, patrolling second base at Kauffman Stadium for nearly two decades. During that stretch, he won eight Gold Gloves, including six in a row from 1977-1982. Only Roberto Alomar and Ryne Sandberg have won more Gold Gloves at second base, while Bill Mazeroski has also won eight.
While we’re on the subject of Mazeroski, let’s expand one of Joe Posnanski’s points: Mazeroski, a Hall of Famer, and Frank White had very similar careers. Both have eight Gold Gloves, of course, but check out these two sets of statistics:
Which belongs to the Hall of Famer, and which belongs to Kansas City’s favorite all-time infielder?
The first set, with the higher batting average but lower power numbers, belongs to Mazeroski.
But the purpose of this article is not to espouse Frank White’s Hall of Fame credentials. It’s to discuss why his number has been retired in I-70 Baseball’s Hall of Legends.
Frank White epitomizes what Kansas City Royals baseball is all about, perhaps better than anyone else. He was a product of the famed Royals Academy. He went to college in Kansas City. He took over second base from the beloved Cookie Rojas, and although he was despised for that at first, before long he became a fan favorite. He was a major part of those great Royals teams in the late 70s and early 80s. He was sitting right next to George Brett when Brett stormed the field during the Pine Tar Game. He helped lead the Royals to their only World Series title. He batted cleanup in the 1985 World Series. He won eight Gold Gloves. He retired from the game gracefully, unlikesomanyprofessionalathletes. He stayed with the Royals even after retirement, serving as a coach, minor league manager, and now a broadcaster. (For more about the career of Frank White, read John Lofflin’s wonderful I-70 Baseball piece here.)
But here’s what really sets Frank White apart.
In 2005, while he was serving as a coach for the Royals, Manager Tony Pena quit after a disappointing start to the season. White was interested in the job, but the team decided to hire someone with managerial experience, and hired Buddy Bell (who, by ALL accounts, turned out to be a complete disaster).
Rumor has it, some sort of under-the-table deal was struck: once Bell’s tenure was over, White would be seriously considered for the position. To gain managerial experience, he stepped down from his Major League coaching position and took the job as skipper of the Wichita Wranglers, where he coached and mentored some of the current-day Royals stars, including Billy Butler and Zack Greinke.
When Bell quit at the end of 2007, White was the clear fan’s choice to be named skipper. But new general manager Dayton Moore hired Trey Hillman – who, like Frank White, had no big-league managerial experience.
Hillman, much like Bell before him, was a disaster.
But through all of that, Frank White never spoke an ill word about the organization that, you could argue, stabbed him in the back.
For that alone, Frank White is truly a legend.
Lou Brock continues to be an intimate part of the Cardinal family to this day. Serving as an assistant coach in Spring Training, making numerous public appearances on behalf of the team, and being openly involved in the yearly Opening Day ceremonies, the legendary player passes his knowledge of the game on to the next generation of players who wear Cardinals uniforms. Brock stays involved, stays in the public eye, and works with the organization on a regular basis.
Brock put a cap on his legendary career in 1979 and found himself enshrined in Cooperstown in 1985. His number was retired by the Cardinals and he is enshrined in the team’s hall of fame. Many websites, writers, and experts have firmly placed him as the team’s all-time greatest left fielder.
I-70 Baseball salutes two of the the greatest Royals and Cardinals players of all time by retiring No. 20.
Bill Ivie contributed to the Lou Brock portions of this report.
Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the content editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continuing the look at the men who have played for both Missouri franchises, we examine the career of Danny Jackson.
The Kansas City Royals drafted Jackson with the number one pick in the January (secondary) phase of the 1982 amateur draft. Jackson was born in San Antonio but attended secondary school in Aurora Colorado, and was playing for Trinidad Junior College (also in Colorado) when the Royals selected him. He zoomed through the minors and made his major league debut on 9/11/1983 in Minnesota, throwing 3 shutout innings in middle relief and getting the win. He bounced between Kansas City and their AAA affiliate in Omaha in 1984, but became a full-time member of the rotation in 1985.
Jackson was a workhorse for the World Champs. He tied for third (with Mark Gubicza) on the team in wins (14), and was third among the starters in ERA (3.42) and innings pitched (208). Despite that success he wasn’t one of the three starters manager Dick Howser initially selected to pitch in the ALCS. When the Royals went down 3-1 in that series to Toronto, Howser passed up his game two starter Bud Black and gave the ball to Jackson for the final Kansas City home game. Danny was fantastic, scattering 8 hits over 8 shutout innings and beating Jimmy Key 2-0. His start began the Royals improbable comeback to win the AL, as they took games 6 and 7 from Toronto in Toronto.
Jackson’s success in that series was rewarded in the World Series, as he got the Game 1 start. He pitched well, allowing 2 runs in his seven innings, but Cardinal lefty John Tudor was better, and Jackson lost Game 1 3-1. He found himself the starter in another Game 5, with his team down in games 3-1 again. The Royals jumped on Bob Forsch for 4 runs in the first 2 innings, and Jackson cruised to a 6-1 victory. Kansas City came back to win in seven games. Other than Bret Saberhagen, Jackson was the best pitcher the Royals had against St Louis.
His 1985, 1986, and 1987 statistics are fairly similar in terms of innings pitched, home runs allowed, strikeout to walk ratio, and so on. Unfortunately, that consistency did not translate to success in terms of games won. Jackson was one game under .500 in 1986 (11-12), then suffered a 9-18 season the following year. Royal management must have thought Jackson was a flash in the pan, with the flash being his 1985 season, because they traded him to the Cincinnati Reds following the 1987 season.
Jackson responded with his finest season as a pitcher, winning 23 games and finishing second in the NL Cy Young voting to Orel Hershiser. He returned to the post season two years later with those Reds, helping them knock out the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS (he won Game 3, and left Game 6 tied 1-1). He did not have much success in the World Series, but the Reds swept Oakland’s Bash Brothers, giving Jackson his second World Series title.
He was a free agent after the 1990 season, and signed on with the Chicago Cubs. He missed all of May and all of July 1991 to injury, and so threw the fewest innings he had since his 1983 call-up (70.2). He was healthier and threw better in 1992, but the Cubs decided he was expendable and traded him to the Pirates in July. He pitched fairly well for the Pirates down the stretch, but was cuffed around in his lone NLCS appearance, not surviving the second inning of a game Pittsburgh eventually lost 13-5. The Pirates left him unprotected in the 1992 expansion draft and Florida grabbed him, however he never played for the Marlins as they traded him to Philadelphia the same day.
Jackson enjoyed his best back-to-back seasons with the Phillies, helping Philadelphia to an improbably NL title in 1993 and finishing 6th in the Cy Young voting in 1994. A free agent after the 1994 season, he signed a 3-year, $10 million deal to join the Cardinals. By this point, Jackson had won a league title in both leagues, and pitched in 3 World Series, over a nine-year span. Unfortunately the magic carpet ride was over.
He was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer before the 1995 season, and had his thyroid removed. The cancer went into remission after the gland removal, allowing Jackson to make a full recovery, but that was not the end of his trouble. Jackson also severely injured his right ankle during spring training in 1995, and although he did recover he was never the same pitcher. Jackson had a rather unique delivery in which he pushed off violently from the rubber and landed full force on his right ankle, sometimes in a heap on the front of the pitcher’s mound. With an unsteady ankle as his landing gear he did not have the same control he once had.
Jackson suffered through a miserable 1995 going 2-12 for a forgettable Cardinals team that finished 19 games under .500. In 1996, Jackson continued to fight the injury bug, throwing only 36.1 innings the whole season. Those Cardinals won the NL Central, sending Danny on his fourth trip to the post-season in 12 years, but he made only one appearance, a three-inning stint in relief of Todd Stottlemyre in Game 5.
After making 4 starts for the Cardinals in 1997, he was traded in June to San Diego for another fading left-hander (Fernando Valenzuela). Jackson finished out the season with the Padres, then retired.
Danny Jackson will be remembered as one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game from 1985-1994. How his career ended won’t change that one bit. Tough, durable, and consistent, he was a significant contributor to three pennant-winning teams over that stretch, starting with the World Champion KC Royals. Of all the games he started over his big-league career (he made 324 starts, not counting the post-season), the biggest by far were the two he made in the 1985 Playoffs. Both Game 5′s, both with his team facing immediate elimination if he did not perform. He allowed one run combined in those two games, and won each one. At the tender age of 23.
Danny Jackson was a quality major league pitcher, but he is a Legend for his performance over 2 weeks in October, 1985.
Thanksgiving week is upon us. A time for families. A time for feasts. A time for being thankful. This year, I-70 Baseball will utilize the week of Thanksgiving to pay tribute to some very special legends. Today, it is my pleasure to announce to you, our loyal readers, the series of articles that our talented staff have put together.
Photo By Erika Lynn
You can start today with Aaron Stilley’s conversation with the daughter of the legendary Royals manager Dick Howser, Jana Howser. A very candid interview that Ms. Howser was gracious enough to give us after reading Aaron’s profile of her father earlier this year. As Executive Editor of this site, my heartfelt thanks to Ms. Howser for a grand interview.
On Monday, a series of articles will be revealed during the week as we announce the inductees into the I-70 Baseball Hall Of Legends. The website will induct five former players and managers that spent time wearing the uniforms of both our flagship teams, the Royals and the Cardinals.
We asked some of our top writers to share their opinions on five personalities over the years. In addition, Content Editor Matt Kelsey and myself will team up for an article on Saturday “retiring” one number here on the site in honor of two individuals with very unique careers that shared a jersey number. A number that became historic for both franchises.
Look for articles honoring our choices for our Hall Of Legends from Todd Fertig, Aaron Stilley, Adam Shupe, Michael Metzger and Bob Netherton. In addition to these great profiles of legendary players, look for Bob Netherton and Aaron Stilley to treat all of you to a very special look at the things to be thankful for in each organization on Thanksgiving Day.
On behalf of all of the staff, writers, editors and photographers here at I-70 Baseball, we would like to extend a warm and peaceful Thanksgiving from our families to yours.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.
Jana Howser got in touch with i70baseball.com recently after seeing our profile of her father Dick Howser. She was kind of enough to do an interview with us and, as you will read, put generous thought and care into her responses.
Give us a brief biographical sketch of your life so far—schools, jobs, important events, etc.?
Our family on our mother, Michelle’s, side has been in Kansas City since the turn of the last century. Dad
2008 Dick Howser Trophy Winner Buster Posey & Jana Howser
came to the KC Athletics as a rookie in 1961 and became the Topps Rookie of the Year in the American League. Dad was introduced by mutual friends to Mom. They dated, married, and had twins Jana (me) and Jill.
Our mother and father divorced and both remarried several years later. Our relationships with both Mom and Dad were excellent. We moved to California with our mother upon her second marriage. Dad married Nancy Howser.
High schools: Beverly Hills High School, CA, & San Dieguito High School, Encinitas, CA, graduated 1983
High school athletics: Four-Year Letter Winner: Volleyball, Springboard Diving
College: University of Missouri, Kansas City, B.A. English and Secondary Education, graduated 1989
College athletics: Letter Winner: Volleyball
Taught high school English and coached varsity volleyball and swimming for a few years after college before moving into the private business sector.
Professional capacities include business management in education and publishing companies and Board of Directors participation for the College Baseball Foundation and other charities prior to moving into current role.
Married to Henry Sack and live in Dallas, Texas. No children but two beautiful nieces.
What does the College Baseball Foundation do, and what is your role in the Foundation?
The College Baseball Foundation (CBF), an education 501(c)(3), was established in 2004 to honor, display, and educate about the history of college baseball. 2009 officially marked the 150th anniversary of the collegiate game. The CBF is the founder of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame and College Baseball Awards Show, to award the top national collegiate baseball achievements annually, and the College World Series Preview Show. Major League Baseball Advanced Media is the production partner for these shows. The CBF also hosts national youth baseball tournaments in Lubbock, TX, that coincide with the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and the College Baseball Awards Show each June.
My role is Executive Vice President of Development. We are in the midst of a capital campaign to build the 35,000 sq. ft. National College Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame. The building is to be constructed in Lubbock and will feature historical artifacts and will feature interactive and educational areas. A regulation youth-size baseball field will also be on the complex to host youth games at many levels, including youth tournament championships.
The city of Lubbock challenged the CBF with certain financial goals. When the goal was exceeded, the city of Lubbock gifted the CBF a 5-acre piece of property in a prime location for this purpose. We are approximately halfway to goal with continual advancement.
Did you spend a lot of time at the ballpark with your dad growing up?
Yes, as much as possible. Prying us away from the ballpark was the real issue. I cannot recall ever not wanting to go to the ballpark. Not only was it fun to be there, so was spending time with the people who worked with Dad.
What are your fondest memories of your father, both in and out of baseball?
Because of Dad’s nature and wit, he was always fun to be with. He valued and appreciated getting to know people, including virtually everyone he worked and played baseball with on his teams and other teams around the league. His friends from college at FSU were like family. Those were seamless relationships over all of Dad’s adult life. He was a considerate person who enjoyed the company of virtually everyone. And for those especially in his baseball life, he was always appreciative of their unique contributions to his teams.
As a leader, his style was to communicate and navigate intelligently, respectfully and fairly, including before a word was ever said.
In baseball, there’s one clear memory that stands out. The look on Dad’s face immediately after winning the 1985 World Series is as the Royals’ Manager is as clear now as it was that night. I saw in his expression everything he felt about the game of baseball. I also remember riding in the victory parade next to Dad through downtown Kansas City amid a sea of cheering fans. The convertible was filled up to our waists with ticker tape, almost immediately.
Jill and I adored how funny Dad was. As kids, we knew that he simply enjoyed doing whatever it was he was doing. His attitude was never guarded and always engaging. So much learned about how to live.
One of the happiest memories I have was Dad teaching us to throw, catch and hit baseballs “like boys” in preparation for Little League Baseball. Jill and I were nearly eight years old.
Days before, Dad had surprise us with new mitts, cleats and wristbands. First, he taught us how to break our gloves in and shape them with a baseball in the webbing. After wrapping the gloves with the ball inside, we left them alone for several days to take shape.
When we opened each of our gloves, we inspected a shape that welcomed a baseball. Jill and I put on our cleats and wrist guards and took our gloves. Dad then picked up three baseballs and outside we went.
First he had Jill and I throw to each other from about 20 feet. He moved us farther apart quickly—after just a couple of throws. Jill and I had been throwing baseballs back and forth for as long as we could remember. He was happy to see that we could throw and catch easily from this distance.
He asked us to come and stand in front of him, gave us each a ball in our throwing hands, and faced us about five feet away. I mirrored and Jill copied his slow motion of a throw. I was a lefty and Jill was a righty, like Dad. He held the ball on top of the seams with his fingertips and demonstrated the motion of his elbow and full arm. I especially remember how he flicked his wrist and his finger positions before releasing the ball. He was concentrating and smiling as he showed us.
We practiced the motions five or so times without throwing with him. He then backed up, said we were ready, and asked Jill to stand to my right. He threw to each of us for us to alternate catching and throwing back to him. We caught all of his throws and threw them back. As we threw and caught, we continued to back up further and further and throw harder and harder; first at about 30 feet and out to about 50 feet. He definitely threw hard to us, but never too hard for us to succeed. That was the beginning for Jill and me, of liking the sound of a ball hitting a glove. We still like it.
Over time, we did this countless more times and got more proficient. We also commenced hitting lessons and soon after, our Little League Baseball careers. Jill and I both were the only girls on our teams. We both played first base and both batted fourth thanks to the first coach in our lives, Dad.
The hitting lessons and Little League seasons are other stories. But I do remember a funny conversation between me, the twelve year-old girl, and Dad, in which I impressed upon him how much I hoped to be drafted by the Yankees after tryouts. Dad was a New York Yankee then. And in that last Little League season at age 12, I got drafted by the Red Sox.
You were 22 in 1987 when your father passed away. Where were you living and what were you doing at the time?
From 1983—1986, I was at college in California. When Dad was diagnosed with cancer right after the 1986 All-Star Game in Houston, I transferred to the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where I began classes that fall. By moving and changing schools, I was able to be with him and the rest of my family regularly during the progression of his illness over those next several months. I had no idea how important that decision would continue to become. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. After Dad passed away, I stayed at UMKC to complete my upper division coursework and graduated in 1989.
What do you think your dad’s legacy is?
In college baseball, he was a walk-on at Florida State University and became a first ever consensus All-America student-athlete from the state of Florida. FSU Baseball’s home is Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium, a spectacular baseball venue. Dad considered what he learned in his education and collegiate baseball to be some of the most important fundamental parts of his professional baseball success.
The Dick Howser Trophy, named after Dad, is the national collegiate baseball award for the top NCAA Division I player in the United States. The award moves into its 25th season in 2011 and is based on the cornerstones of courage, character, leadership and performance, both athletically and academically. In the first 24 years of the award, there are over 160 MLB seasons played by those 24 recipients. MLB rookie and 2010 World Series Champion Buster Posey and JD Drew of the Boston Red Sox, also a World Series Champion, both won Dad’s trophy and both played their college baseball at Howser Stadium.
In Major League Baseball, his legacy is his successful Major League Baseball career, from 1961-1987, a career that was halted only by his illness at age 51. His number 10 was the first retired number by the Kansas City Royals. He managed the Royals to their only World Series Championship in 1985, and years before was an All-Star Rookie and Rookie of the Year in 1961, befitting that he began and concluded his professional career in the same city.
To Jill and me, Dad is often regarded to us as someone who was friendly to everyone. He was positive and motivated in his own right while being inspired by many. He was generous in spirit and in his actions, and was willing to do what he could to help people. To him, achievement of others was as good to him as his own.
Those characteristics are how he lived his life. His playbook would look something like this:
Grow, learn and find what means most. Always continue to learn. Commit to your goals. Your knowledge will increase. Stay diligent and remain loyal to your convictions. Do the best you can. Have fun and enjoy. You will succeed. Any achievement should never be at the expense of others. Achieve goals through your own performance and by being a good teammate.
What are your sister and mother doing these days?
Our mother Michelle passed away when we were 16, in an accident. We have been extraordinarily fortunate to have the extended family we do.
My twin sister Jill is a wife to her husband James, mother of two daughters Melody, 20, and Michelle, 8, and is a reigning championship horsewoman, living in Arizona. She shows in english hunter events very successfully. We are exceptionally close and I am so proud of her and my nieces.
Nancy Howser was a second marriage for Dad. She lives in Missouri.
Do you keep up with the Royals? What are your thoughts on the team’s struggles since ’85 and outlook for the future?
Yes, both as a fan and with people involved directly with the team. Dad’s friends who were there in ’85 and are still with the team are Fred White, Denny Matthews, George Brett and Frank White. There are others I am in contact with too.
photo by David Block
The Royals commissioned a spectacular bronze statue of Dad that is at Kauffman Stadium behind the fountains in right-center field. The Glass family gave Jill and me each a scaled version for our homes. They are beautiful. Last year the Royals invited me for first pitch honors. There was no decision to make. I threw from the rubber. Dad would have liked that! There are more occasions anticipated and as many games as possible. I am thrilled that the Royals will be hosting the 2012 MLB All-Star Game. Those will be outstanding days for the team and the whole city.
Yes, I am familiar with the Royals efforts to work towards better seasons. Zack Greinke receiving the Cy Young Award was very good for the team and was an outstanding personal accomplishment.
No team or fans would ever tire of winning championships. I trust that the Royals do everything they can to put together the strongest team possible. Teams train, learn, practice, learn, strategize, learn, and practice some more, all in efforts to succeed. Over the course of the 162-game regular season, hopefully most players will stay healthy.
How does a team create a result of individually strong performances by teammates so that they may occur collectively and at the best times? If doing so could be readily orchestrated, every Major League Baseball team would have pennants and World Series Championships at points along their history. Not all teams do.
The Royals are a team that does. I do think that more are ahead.
My outlook for the Royals is positive. In June, 2010, the Royals drafted significantly more collegiate baseball players than in any previous year. I support the decision and the direction.
Here we are, at the end of our 10-day-long look back at the 1985 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals – the only time the two teams have met in postseason play. Over the course of the past week and a half, I-70 Baseball has reminisced, rehashed, recapped and replayed that series game for game.
By now, you know the story: The Cardinals, the clear favorites in the series, won the first two games and split the next two, claiming a seemingly-insurmountable 3-1 series lead. No baseball team had ever come back from 3-1 to win the World Series. The Royals won Game 5 at Busch Stadium, pushing the series back to Kansas City, and forcing a Game 6.
Everyone remembers Game 6 for “The Call,” a controversial but, ultimately, not that critical bad call in the bottom of the ninth (it was quantified by Royals writer Aaron Stilley here, and yesterday, on the 25th anniversary of Game 6, by Bill Ivie here and Adam Shupe here). Few fans still remember that the Royals were hosed on a call earlier in Game 6 when Frank White was called out on a stolen base attempt. But here was the difference: Royals manager Dick Howser moved on and focused on the rest of the series, while Cardinals skipper Whitey Herzog chose to focus on the bad call and hang the Cardinals’ ultimate loss on it. I’m not saying Whitey Herzog is a bad manager – he’s a former Royal, and a Hall of Famer, for crying out loud. But in that seven-game stretch in 1985, Whitey succumbed to the pressure and was out-managed by Dick Howser.
The Royals, of course, won Game 6, and forced a Game 7.
Many fans say the Cardinals simply rolled over and gave up in Game 7, while others claim the Cards lost because infamous umpire Don Denkinger was behind the plate that game. It’s hard to argue, though, with two facts: first, the Royals’ offense put up 11 runs against Cardinal pitching, led by Hall of Famer George Brett, and second, Royals ace Bret Saberhagen pitched a brilliant complete-game shutout to secure a victory by the score of 11-0.
To this day, the end of Game 7 – Saberhagen and Brett embracing on the pitcher’s mound – is undoubtedly the greatest moment in Kansas City Royals history.
And Royals fans should be proud of that. Some franchises haven’t won a single World Series title, while others won their last long before 1985.
While we should be able to look back with pride at 1985, fans should also be asking: When will we win another one?
(Even fans of the Yankees, a franchise that has won an astounding 27 World Series titles, or more than a fifth of all the World Series trophies ever awarded, ask that question.)
Since 1985, the Royals have taken a long and often heartbreaking journey to rock bottom.
In the late ‘80s, the Royals were a good, and often great, baseball team. They contended for a title every year, and posted a winning record every season except 1986. Then, in the early 1990s, five events occurred, which I believe helped lead to the Royals’ downfall:
1990: Eight-time Gold Glove winner Frank White retires
1990: General manager John Scheurholz leaves, taking his winning tradition to the Atlanta Braves
1991: The team trades two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen to the New York Mets
1993: Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett retires
1993: Team owner Ewing Kauffman dies
The Brett and White retirements are not, in themselves, bad things – both players were at the end of great careers, and keeping them on the roster would have made the team worse. But losing the two most recognizable players in team history weas detrimental to the Royals’ culture. The Royals should have tried to do more to hang on to Scheurholz, and his departure was a major blow to the team. Perhaps Scheurholz doesn’t trade away their best pitcher in a feeble attempt to improve the offense.
The biggest blow of all was Kauffman’s death. Ewing Kauffman wasn’t a perfect owner (he allowed Scheurholz to leave, after all), but he was the heart and soul of the Royals, and the lifeblood of Kansas City. The effect of his death, and the team’s subsequent sale, is immeasurable.
The Royals produced mixed results in the early 1990s, posting winning records in ’91, ’93 and strike-shortened 1994. But after the strike, the Royals completely fell apart.
Since 1994, the Royals have had fifteen (!) losing seasons, including four seasons with 100 or more losses. And since 1994, the Royals have had one winning season.
And that season, 2003, under manager Tony Pena, is largely considered a fluke.
I was born in 1979. Some of my earliest memories are the Royals winning the 1985 World Series, including Saberhagen’s Game 7 gem. By the time I was really old enough to understand what baseball meant, the Royals were on the downhill slide.
For two-thirds of my life, my favorite baseball team has been terrible.
But I still remember fondly the title we won in 1985.
And am I hopeful for the future?
You bet I am.
By many accounts, and not just in Kansas City, the Royals have the best minor league system in all of baseball. We also have a general manager in Dayton Moore who has not had success at the major league level yet, but he is largely responsible for building that farm system.
And under whom did Dayton Moore learn the game? John Scheurholz.
You bet I’m hopeful.
The Royals have some impressive young bats and arms coming up through the system, bats and arms that could make an impact on the big league level as soon as next year, bats and arms that will be in Kansas City in full force by 2012 and 2013, and bats and arms that will continue to come up beyond that.
The Royals are in a position to be the strongest team in the AL Central in a few years.
My team won the World Series in 1985, twenty-five years ago, and since then they have appeared in the postseason a grand total of zero times.
But I have hope. I have all the hope a fan needs. This team is going to be good. In a few years, this team could even be great.
Recap: This game is remembered for “The Call,” an infamous blown call by umpire Don Denkinger in the ninth. But few fans now remember another blown call that went the Cardinals’ way: in the fourth inning, Royals second baseman Frank White was called out attempting to steal second base, even though replays showed he beat the tag (the next batter hit a single, meaning White may have scored if the call had been correct). The Cardinals scored the first run of the game in the eighth, and with a 1-0 lead the Cardinals progressed to the bottom of the ninth with the championship hanging in the balance. Kansas City manager Dick Howser sent pinch hitter Jorge Orta to the plate to lead off the inning against Todd Worrell. Orta hit a squibbler down the first base line to Jack Clark, and Clark flipped the ball to Worrell covering first. Worrell beat Orta to the bag by a step, but umpire Denkinger called Orta safe. The next batter, Steve Balboni, hit a routine pop-up in foul territory, but the catch was bungled by Clark and catcher Darrell Porter. Balboni then hit a single, advancing Orta to first. When Jim Sundberg tried to bunt the runners over, a quick-thinking Worrell threw to third and got the lead runner (Orta), leaving a runner on first and second with one out. But Porter allowed a passed ball, and the runners advance. Pinch hitter Hal McRae was walked to set up the double play. With the bases loaded, pinch hitter Dane Iorg hit a single to right. Onix Concepcion, running for Balboni, scored, and Sunberg slid around Porter’s tag for the winning run.
TEAM R H E
St. Louis 1 5 0
Kansas City 2 10 0
Winning pitcher: Dan Quisenberry
Losing pitcher: Todd Worrell
Notables: The Royals piled on 10 hits in the game, despite scoring only two runs; pinch hitter Brian Harper knocked in the only run for the Cardinals; The Cardinals’ Danny Cox and Kansas City’s Charlie Leibrandt started the game, and both pitched extremely well: Cox gave up no earned runs and struck out eight in seven innings, while Leibrandt gave up a single run in 7.2 innings; according to reports, a bad coincidence added insult to injury for the Cardinals: in preparation of their pending victory, the team’s locker room was filled with champagne on ice – and the champagne was waiting for them when the Cardinals walked into the locker room after the loss.
Recap: A day after John Tudor’s brilliant complete game for the Cardinals, placing Kansas City on the brink of elimination, the Royals bounced back with their own strong pitching performance to stay alive in the series. Danny Jackson threw a five-hit, one-run complete game at Busch Stadium, sending the series back to Kansas City. Offensively, the Royals put up an 11-hit attack led by Willie Wilson, who knocked in two runs and collected two hits, including a triple. Leadoff hitter Lonnie Smith smacked two singles, scored two runs and stole a base. Willie McGee had two hits for the Cardinals, while cleanup hitter Jack Clark drove in St. Louis’ only run.
TEAM R H E
Kansas City 6 1 2
St. Louis 1 5 1
Winning pitcher: Danny Jackson
Losing pitcher: Bob Forsch
Notables: Royals manager Dick Howser shook up the lineup a bit in Game 5, starting Pat Sheridan in right field over Darryl Motley, and Sheridan responded by collecting two hits and an RBI; Buddy Biancalana also had two hits, drove in a run and scored for Kansas City; The Cardinals’ offense received no production from the bottom half of the lineup; St. Louis starter Bob Forsch lasted only 1.2 innings, giving up four runs on five hits and leaving the game in the hands of the bullpen, and for their part, four relievers (Horton, Campbell, Worrell and Lahti) allowed only two runs the rest of the game; the Cardinals’ pitching staff struck out 15 KC batters, compared to Danny Jackson’s five strikeouts.
“He didn’t have a long life. But his dreams came true.”
—Nancy Howser, July 12, 2004 Kansas City Star
Dick Howser is remembered with great fondness by fans in Kansas City, where his time in the big leagues began with the Athletics and ended as perhaps the Royals’ greatest manager. Howser skippered some great Royals teams between 1981—86, and is best remembered for guiding the club to their only championship.
Richard Dalton Howser was born May 14, 1936 in Miami, Florida. He played college baseball at Florida State, where he hit .422 in 1956, and became the school’s first All-American in 1957 and again as a senior in ’58. After graduation, he signed with the Kansas City Athletics. Howser toiled for three seasons in the A’s minor leagues before making the big club with a splash in 1961. The scrappy shortstop stole 37 bases and was only caught nine times. He got on base at a .377 clip with an OPS of .739 (98 OPS+). In the field, Howser was rung up for 38 errors. After just 59 games with the A’s, manager Hank Bauer named Howser the captain of the team.
“Frankly, I was just trying to keep a job in the major leagues,” Howser said. “My first reaction was an uneasy one. I thought they might be expecting too much from me. I went to our owner, Mr. Finley, and to Hank also and discussed the appointment with both of them. They didn’t expect me to do anything different than I had done in the first 59 games. They wanted me to continue hustling and to set an example. They really seemed impressed with my hustle.”
—The Kansas City Athletics by John E. Peterson
He was named to the 1961 All-Star team and lost the official Rookie of the Year Award by one vote. The Sporting News named him top AL rookie. It was a promising start, but Howser was unable to put up another season quite as successful. Injuries took a toll on his playing time. In 1963 the A’s sent him to Cleveland, where he had a couple of productive years before being shipped to the Yankees prior to the 1967 season. He was done as a player after 1968, but remained with the Yankees as third base coach between 1969—78. Howser left the Yankees for the 1979 season to coach college ball for his alma mater, and led Florida State to a 43-17 record.
The Yankees lured him back for the 1980 season with an offer to manage. The rookie manager piloted the Yankees to 103 wins and a postseason appearance against the Kansas City Royals. The Royals swept in three games, and the fickle George Steinbrenner forced Howser out. The Yankees’ loss was the Royals’ gain. KC tapped Howser to manage the Royals in the middle of the ’81 season.
“Dan Quisenberry called him a distant general—he wasn’t much for strategy or heart-to-heart talks—but he had dignity. He had soul. He told those Royals they were the best team, and they believed him.”
—The Good Stuff by Joe Posnanski
Howser and the Royals found themselves in the ’81 postseason after just 33 games together, but they were swept by the A’s. After two straight second place finishes, the ’84 Royals returned to postseason play, but Howser fell to 0-9 as a playoffs manager when they were swept by the Tigers. The ’85 team returned to the playoffs, but dropped the first two games of the ALCS to Toronto. Howser had now lost all 11 postseason games he had managed. But the Royals rallied to take the series from Toronto, and found themselves in the franchise’s second World Series. But the Royals had their backs against the wall again after dropping three of the first four games to St. Louis.
“He never had a moment he felt defeated. His favorite line was, ‘We’ll get it done.’ You’re talking about a cool guy. You never saw him sweat.”
—Frank White, July 12, 2004 Kansas City Star
Howser’s previous playoffs troubles were forgotten when the Royals clawed their way back to take the championship. Royals players give Howser a tremendous amount of credit for his role in the title. His quiet confidence seemed to transfer to the players. He was not meddlesome. He filled out the lineup and let the players play, and the Royals loved playing for him.
“I played for some good managers, but Dick was great. He was so honest with you. If you messed around or did something wrong, he was in your face. But he allowed you to play if you were out there and ready, and he knew you were going to give your best. He was a confidence-builder.”
—Mark Gubicza, Denny Matthews’s Tales From the Royals Dugout
The elation of the championship quickly turned to horror. The team noticed something amiss with Howser during the first half of the ’86 season. Denny Matthews writes in Tales From the Royals Dugout that Howser, always sharp, was suddenly forgetting recent events and mixing up names. At the All-Star game that year, Howser couldn’t remember who the starting pitcher was going to be for his AL squad. He confused Frank White for Lou Whitaker in the dugout. Two days later, the terrible diagnosis: brain cancer. The All-Star game would be his last as a manager. (White helped ensure Howser was victorious by blasting a home run.)
The Royals did not name a permanent replacement, leaving the door open for Howser to return if he could. (Mike Ferraro took the helm for the second half of ’86.) After undergoing treatments, Howser attempted a comeback during 1987 spring training, but his return was short lived. Howser simply didn’t have the energy. He passed away months later on June 17 at Kansas City’s St. Luke’s Hospital at just 51 years of age. The Royals held a ceremony for Howser two weeks later in which they inducted him into the team’s hall of fame and made his #10 the first retired number in Royals history.
Dick Howser Trophy
Because Howser’s time was cut short, it is easy to forget that he has managed more Royals games than anyone else. His .544 winning percentage with the team is bested only by Whitey Herzog and Jim Frey. The Dick Howser Trophy was initiated in 1987 and is awarded to the country’s best collegiate baseball player each year. Florida State renamed their baseball stadium in Howser’s honor in 1988, and his #34 is the only retired number in their baseball program. The Royals again honored Howser with a statue at Kauffman Stadium that was unveiled in 2009.
Nancy Howser speaks at dedication of statue (photo by Chris Murphy, chrism70.com)
The Kansas City Royals must have thought they were pretty well set at the shortstop position on the eve of the 1982 MLB Daft.
Fred Patek, part of a strong double-play combination with former second baseman Cookie Rojas, was out of baseball, but his in-house replacements seemed promising. U L Washington, the toothpick-sporting middle infielder, seemed poised to take over the position as a starter. And waiting in the wings were Onix Concepcion, a young Puerto Rican speedster, and Buddy Biancalana, a rookie defensive specialist with a lot of promise.
That must be why they drafted an outfielder, John Morris, in the first round, and waited until the seventh round to select a shortstop: Auburn University’s Doug Gilcrease.
You’ve probably never heard of Gilcrease, since he didn’t make it past AA ball. But of course you’ve heard of the second shortstop the Royals drafted in 1982, all the way down in the 19th round.
It was Bret Saberhagen.
The young star from Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, Calif., didn’t stay a shortstop for long. The Royals pictured his tall, lanky body on the mound. In 1983, his first season in pro baseball and his first year out of high school, Saberhagen dominated A ball, compiling a 10-5 record with a 2.30 ERA in 16 starts before a quick promotion to AA, where he played out the rest of the season.
The next year – 1984 – Saberhagen, a mere 20 years old, started the season on the big league team.
Talk about skyrocketing through the minor leagues.
The Royals were in a period of transition. New manager Dick Howser promised a rebuilding year. Although the team had had success in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, even making it to the World Series against the Phillies in 1980, the Royals had only gone as far as offensive phenom George Brett could carry them. Their pitching staff was getting older; they lost the brilliant Steve Busby to a career-ending injury in 1980, Dennis Leonard was coming to the end of the line, and 1984 proved to be Paul Splittorff’s last season. Future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry had been brought in for the 1983 campaign, but he retired at the end of that season.
To fill in the gaps, the Royals brought in Charlie Leibrandt, who had seen some success with the Cincinnati Reds, and Danny Jackson was a promising young starter. Bud Black was there, too, perhaps the most solid pitcher of the bunch at the time, and a rookie named Mark Gubicza was there. Dan Quisenberry was holding down the last innings as well as or better than any closer in baseball.
But they were missing one final piece.
In walks Bret Saberhagen.
Sabes started out the season in the bullpen in 1984, but he quickly impressed Howser and was inserted into the rotation, making 18 starts before the end of the season and compiling 10 wins and a 3.48 ERA. The Royals made it to the ALCS, and Saberhagen started one game, earning a no decision. Kansas City lost to Detroit, the eventual World Series champ.
He was a lock to be a part of the rotation in 1985. And the 21-year-old was nothing short of spectacular. Saberhagen won 20 games and had a 2.87 ERA, striking out 158 batters. His WHIP was a sterling 1.058, the best in the league that season. He won the Cy Young Award for his efforts. And he helped propel the Kansas City Royals to the World Series.
Thanks largely to Bret Saberhagen, they won the series in seven games. Two of their four wins were Saberhagen complete-game victories: a one-run, six-hitter in Game 3, and a brilliant shutout in decisive Game 7. Saberhagen was the World Series MVP, and even got to speak with the president:
But Saberhagen is also remembered for one more thing during the 1985 World Series. He became a father. His son was born during Game 6, which means Drew Saberhagen’s 25th birthday will be this coming Tuesday.
After ’85, Saberhagen slipped into an unusual pattern: he only pitched well in odd-numbered years. In 1986 he went 7-12 with a 4.15 ERA and was even demoted to the bullpen at one point. In 1987, he was back to form, winning 18 games with a 3.36 ERA – such an impressive bounce-back that he won the TSN Comeback Player of the Year award. Saberhagen wasn’t terrible in 1988, but he lost 16 games (compared to 14 wins) and his ERA hitched up to 3.80.
Then came 1989.
Saberhagen pitched, arguably, the best season in Royals franchise history, beating even his 1985 totals. His 23 wins, .793 win percentage, 2.16 ERA, 262.1 innings pitched, 180 strikeouts, 12 complete games and 0.961 WHIP were the best in the league. He was awarded a second Cy Young Award, and we’ll come back to the significance of that later.
Here’s a little-known fact: after the 1989 season, the Royals gave Saberhagen a 3-year, $8.9 million contract, making him the highest-paid player in baseball. It’s little-known because his reign only lasted for five days, when the Minnesota Twins gave Kirby Puckett a 3-year, $9 million deal. The big contracts kept rolling in. By the end of the week, Saberhagen wasn’t even the highest paid player on the team; the Royals gave Mark Davis, the 1989 NL Cy Young Award winner, a 4-year, $13 million contract.
The Royals’ plan to dominate the world with two Cy Young winners failed. Davis was a bust, and in 1990 Saberhagen was brought down by injuries – perhaps caused by three straight seasons throwing more than 250 innings – and he appeared in only 20 games, collecting a 5-9 record.
He still fought the injury bug in ’91, but again he found a winning form, and sketched a 13-8 record and a 3.07 ERA. That year was more memorable for Saberhagen, though, because he pitched a no-hitter at Kauffman Stadium, on Aug. 26 against the Chicago White Sox. No Royals pitcher has thrown a no-hitter since.
To reward him for a strong season and a great career, the Royals traded Saberhagen in the winter of 1991, along with Bill Pecota, to the New York Mets for Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds and Keith Miller.
Perhaps the Royals were trying to sell high, a sentiment fans are coming to understand more and more. And perhaps they were hoping to unload him before another even-numbered collapse. Either way, the Mets got a proven starter, and the Royals some much-needed offense.
Neither gamble turned out the way the teams hoped – at least not right away. McReynolds, the most promising of the bunch sent to Kansas City, batted in the .245 range over two seasons, but he did smash 24 home runs over 229 games. In 1994, he was traded back to the Mets in exchange for Vince Coleman, the former Cardinals sensation. Coleman stole 50 bases for the Royals in 1994. Keith Miller played for the Royals longer than any of the trio, until 1995. He played in 106 games in ’92, compliling a .284 average, but he was a bench player during the rest of his tenure. Gregg Jeffries only played for Kansas City one season; in 1992, he batted .285 as a full-time third baseman, knocking in 75 runs and contributing 10 round-trippers. He was traded to the Cardinals after the season for Felix Jose, who played in Kansas City until 1995.
What did the Mets get out of the trade? As expected, Saberhagen busted in even-numbered 1992, winning only three games over 15 starts. The next year wasn’t much better: Saberhagen, still fighting nagging injuries, was 7-7 but posted a solid 3.29 ERA.
In 1994, Saberhagen broke his streak of odd-numbered success and put up some remarkable numbers. Of course, 1994 was the year of the baseball strike, and Saberhagen’s historic season was shortened.
What did he accomplish that season? To begin with, a record of 14-4 with a 2.74 ERA and 143 strikeouts. Here’s where he made history: Saberhagen walked only 13 batters the whole season. That’s a rate of 0.7 walks per nine innings. Saberhagen had fewer walks than wins – the only time that’s ever happened in the modern era. Despite the strike-shortened year and a canceled World Series, Major League Baseball still gave out post-season awards, and Saberhagen finished third in NL Cy Young voting.
(By the way, the other piece of the trade, Bill Pecota, batted .227 over 269 at-bats for the Mets in 1992 and was quietly ushered out the back door after the season.)
At the trade deadline in 1995, the Mets decided to part ways with Saberhagen, sending him to the Colorado Rockies, who were in the middle of a playoff hunt, for Juan Acevedo and Arnold Gooch. The Rockies, a high-altitude team, had never had a successful starting pitcher. Saberhagen and the Rockies were hopeful he would break that mold. But he didn’t. He only started nine games for the Rockies down the stretch, compiling a 2-1 record with a 6.28 ERA. The Rockies, however, made it to the playoffs, and Saberhagen returned to postseason pitching for the first time since 1985, getting the ball in Game 4. But he only lasted four innings, and the Rockies lost the game – and the series – to the Braves.
Saberhagen missed the entire 1996 season due to injury, and after the season the Rockies cut ties with him. Saberhagen was signed to a small-money contract with the Boston Red Sox, and still he missed much of the year.
The former Royals ace had one last blast in 1998. He was a part of the Boston rotation for almost the entire season, and Saberhagen, rebuilt shoulder and all, compiled a 15-8 record with a 3.96 ERA. Once again, he won the TSN Comeback Player of the Year Award, becoming one of only six players to win twice. He also pitched well in 1999, with a 10-6 record and a 2.95 ERA over 22 starts. He pitched for the Red Sox in the postseason both years, but never got another playoff victory – and he never made it back to the World Series.
After missing all of 2000, Sabes tried once again to pitch in ’01, but his comeback lasted only three starts. At the end of the 2001 season, he called it quits.
What do we make of Bret Saberhagen’s career?
Saberhagen is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he received only a handful of Hall of Fame votes, not even enough to keep him on the ballot a second year. Clearly, he wasn’t good enough to warrant Hall of Fame consideration.
Let’s take a look at a couple things. First off, hardware. Saberhagen is one of only 14 pitchers in the history of baseball to win two Cy Young Awards. If you remove from that list all the players who are either still active (Johan Santana and Tim Lincecum) and those not yet eligible for Hall of Fame consideration (Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine), you have the following list:
Out of that list, only two players are not in the Hall of Fame: Saberhagen and Denny McClain, famous for being the last pitcher to win 30 games in a single season. Of the players who are retired from baseball but not yet eligible for Hall of Fame consideration, it seems like all of them should be locks for the Hall of Fame – if the Steroid Era doesn’t keep some of them out.
But hardware measurements can be deceiving; after all, Bob Hamelin won the Rookie of the Year Award. So let’s look at something more measurable: WHIP.
Sabremetricians consider WHIP to be one of the best statistics for measuring the quality of a pitcher, much better than ERA or wins or strikeouts. WHIP stands for “Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched.” A player who gives up five hits and three walks (5+3=8) over eight innings will have a WHIP of 1.0.
A good pitcher usually has a WHIP of between 1.25 and 1.5. Great pitchers live under 1.25, and often lower. Only one pitcher, Addie Joss, has a career WHIP under 1.
Bret Saberhagen’s career WHIP is 1.14, which ranks him 30th on the all-time list, tied with pitchers like Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling. Here are a few pitchers with career WHIPs worse than Saberhagen’s: Bob Gibson, Gaylord Perry, John Smoltz, Whitey Ford, Roger Clemens, Dennis Eckersley, Don Drysdale, Warren Spahn, Carl Hubbell and Roy Halladay, the active WHIP leader.
Saberhagen probably doesn’t have enough wins (167) or strikeouts (1,715) to make it into the Hall of Fame.
But perhaps 20 years from now, when statisticians re-examine players from the 80s and 90s, someone will uncover Saberhagen’s numbers, and they’ll realize this guy was special.