Royals Top 50 Moments: No. 30-26

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The Royals are celebrating their 50th season.  The following is a Top 50 list of the greatest moments in Royals history.  Today is 30-26

Nos. 50-46

Nos. 45-41

Nos. 40-36

Nos. 35-31

30.  Lou Piniella wins 1969 Rookie of the Year

On Tuesday, April 8th, 1969, the Royals would beat the Minnesota Twins, who would go onto win the American League Western Division title, by a score of 4-3 in twelve innings.  The first batter of the game, a rookie by the name of Lou Piniella, whom the Royals had acquired via a trade with the Seattle Pilots just a week prior, led off with a double off Twins pitcher, Tom Hall.  The next batter, Jerry Adair, would single to left field, scoring Piniella and giving the Royals a 1-0 lead.

Piniella was responsible for the Kansas City Royals’ first at-bat, first hit, first run and helped led the Royals to their first win in their first game in their franchise’s history.

Piniella, who had limited experience with Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians before getting a shot in Kansas City, would hit .282/.325/.416 in 135 games for the Royals while hitting eleven homers and driving in sixty-eight in the inaugural season for the franchise.

For his efforts in 1969, Piniella won the first major award in franchise history.  Piniella was named the 1969 American League Rookie of the Year.  He would become a key piece of the Royals in the early 1970s, even being named as one of five Royals to represent the American League in the 1972 All-Star Game.

However, in the late 1970s, Piniella would haunt the Royals, helping the rival Yankees to three consecutive American League Pennants, all three beating the Royals to get there.

29.  Frank White homers in Game 3 of 1985 World Series

Frank White was one of the very best players ever to don a Royals uniform.  A five-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove winner at second base, a Silver Slugger winner, and the Most Valuable Player of the 1980 American League Championship Series, White spent his entire eighteen-year career making the improbable plays seem routine on the fast turf at Royals Stadium and becoming one of the best second baseman to play the game.

However, like many Royals, White was looking to redeem himself in the 1985 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.  In the 1980 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, White finished 2-for-25 from the plate and the Royals lost to the Phillies in six games.

Down 2-0 after having lost the first two games at home to the Cardinals, the Royals were in desperate need of a victory in Game 3 in St. Louis.  If the Royals win, they’re right back in the series.  The Royals lose and they’re down 3-0 with the Cardinals one win away from a World Series title.

White, who was the first second baseman to hit cleanup in the World Series since Jackie Robinson for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952, stepped to the plate in the fourth inning against Joaquin Andujar with George Brett on first and nobody out with the Royals holding on to a 2-0 lead.  The very first pitch from Andujar was clobbered by Frank and all Tito Landrum in left-field could do was watch as it soared into the bleachers to give the Royals a 4-0 lead.

Later in the game, White would add a RBI double in route to a 6-1 victory that would get the Royals back into the series.

28.  Zack Greinke wins the 2009 American League Cy Young Award

It’s not often when a baseball player with so much promise and hype comes up, struggles, leaves the game, comes back, struggles some more, gets demoted, finds his way, and then becomes the best at what he does.  That doesn’t just apply to baseball players, it applies to anybody in any profession.

Royals fans got to witness that in Zack Greinke.  He came onto the scene in 2004 and had a solid year, finishing 8-11 with a 3.97 ERA and fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.  However, in 2005, Greinke would lead the league in losses with seventeen while posting a 5.80 ERA (which, surprisingly, was not the worst on the team).  Zack’s career looked finished in 2006 when he left the team to battle a social anxiety disorder (**NOTE:  This is a good time to remind people, if you need help with anything in life, you can seek treatment.  It’s okay to ask.  Just look at Zack Greinke and how well he’s done with his life**).  He left the Royals and didn’t return until September of that year, pitching out of the bullpen in three games, getting credit for the win in one.

In 2007, Greinke again struggled early as a starter and was demoted by manager, Buddy Bell, to the bullpen.  That would be the best thing to happen to Greinke’s career.  While in the bullpen, Royals reliever, David Riske, would help Zack become a better pitcher on the mound and help him realize the potential and greatness fans and scouts knew he had.

In 2008, Greinke has a breakthrough season, posting a 13-10 record with a 3.47 ERA and 183 strikeouts, tying with Royals ace, Gil Meche, for the team lead. 

Then, 2009 was when Greinke became the Greinke that everybody knows today.  Zack started the season 6-0, didn’t allow his first run until his fourth game (an unearned run against the Detroit Tigers), wouldn’t allow his first earned runs until his fifth start against the Toronto Blue Jays, and had a minuscule 0.40 ERA in those six games which included three complete games and two shutouts.

His first loss of the 2009 season came in a hard-luck, 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.  Greinke would be the Royals lone All-Star in 2009, going into the break with a 10-5 record with a 2.12 ERA and one appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  In the All-Star Game in St. Louis, Greinke would pitch a scoreless fourth inning with two strikeouts in a 4-3 American League victory.

On August 25th, Greinke would break Mark Gubicza’s team record for strikeouts in a single game by striking out fifteen Cleveland Indians in a 6-2 victory.  Greinke would finish 2009 with a 16-8 record, a 2.16 ERA, and 242 strikeouts, two shy of Dennis Leonard’s team record.

The Royals would trade Zack to the Milwaukee Brewers after the 2010 season.  However, Greinke would play a big, indirect role in the Royals teams that would win two American League Pennants and a World Series title.  In the trade, the Royals acquired Lorenzo Cain (2014 American League Championship Most Valuable Player), Jake Odorizzi (traded for James Shields and Wade Davis), and the 2015 American League Championship Most Valuable Player and the subject of the No. 27 moment on our list…

27.  Alcides Escobar leads of the 2015 World Series with a Home Run

It’s been said throughout generations of baseball fans that you will see something during a nine-inning game that you’ve never seen before.  That saying was proven true when Alcides Escobar led off the bottom of the first-inning in the 2015 World Series.

The Royals had ended the 2014 World Series with heartbreak in Game 7.  Alex Gordon would hit a single with two outs in the ninth inning against Madison Bumgarner.  The ball would bounce under Gregor Blanco’s glove in center-field and roll all the way to the wall, where Juan Perez would kick it and allow Gordon to get to third.  The debate would (still does?) rage on about if Mike Jirschele should have waved Alex home (he made the right call).  Salvador Perez would pop out in foul territory to Pablo Sandoval and the Royals dreams of a World Championship would end ninety-feet from home plate.

The Royals got back to the World Series the very next year against the New York Mets, who had one of the best starting rotations in Major League Baseball.  Alcides Escobar, who is one of the most unconventional leadoff hitters…ever, stepped up to the plate to leadoff the home-half of the first against Mets starter, Matt Harvey.

Escobar, known for swinging at the first pitch, was thrown a fastball from Harvey.  Escobar, true to form, swung and hit a ball into the left-center field gap.  Yoenis Cespedes would get a late break in center-field and the ball would bounce off his leg and kick into left-field in a play like Alex Gordon’s in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.

This time, however, the call was easier for Jirschele at third.  Escobar was sent and rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run.  This was the first inside-the-park home run to lead-off a game in the World Series since Patsy Dougherty for the Boston Americans in the 1903 World Series (the very first World Series) and the first inside-the-park home run in a World Series since Mule Haas for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1929 World Series.

The home run from Escobar would be a sign of things to come for the Royals and their fans in a magical 2015 World Series.

26.  Bret Saberhagen wins two Cy Young Awards.

When you think of great Royals pitchers, the first name that usually comes to mind is Bret Saberhagen. 

In 1985, coming off a rookie season that earned him a Game 2 start in the 1984 American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers, Saberhagen would led the Royals young and talented pitching staff with a 20-6 record and a 2.87 ERA.  Saberhagen would also have ten complete games that year and pitch more than 235 innings.  Saberhagen was even more impressive in the 1985 World Series against the Cardinals, going 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA while earning World Series Most Valuable Player and becoming a first-time father.  Saberhagen would be named the 1985 American League Cy Young Award winner.

Four years later, in 1989, Saberhagen would start out with good numbers, going 2-2 with a 3.35 ERA in the first month of the season.  His first-half numbers where really good, 8-4 with a 2.61 ERA (somehow, those numbers weren’t good enough to earn a spot on the 1989 American League All-Star team).

While Saberhagen’s first-half numbers were great, his second-half numbers were insane.  Bret would finish 15-2 with a 1.74 ERA.  In the final two months of the season, he would finish 13-1 with a microscopic 1.29 ERA while keeping the Royals in the race for the American League Western Division title.  Though the Royals would fall short of that, Saberhagen was not to blame, finishing 23-6 with a 2.16 ERA and earn his second American League Cy Young Award.  Saberhagen would become the fourth pitcher in American League history (joining Denny McLain, Jim Palmer, and Roger Clemens) to win two American League Cy Young Awards.

Saberhagen’s career with the Royals would end after the 1991 season, when the Royals traded him to the New York Mets.  However, his career and accomplishments with the Royals would later earn him a spot in the Royals Hall of Fame.

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Christopher Till

Author: Christopher Till

Christopher is a lifelong Royals fan who loves long walks on the beach, sunsets, and trips to #DongTown. He also loves writing about the Royals (pants optional). Ian Kennedy once ruined a perfect game Chris had going (though, to be fair, Chris' pitch came before the game with nobody in the batter's box). His favorite Royals' memory is sitting in Section 401 with his daughter when Salvador Perez laced a line drive past Josh Donaldson to win the 2014 American League Wild Card Game.

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