Won by One: How April 8, 1969 Changed the Game of Baseball

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Won by One:  How April 8, 1969 Changed the Game of Baseball

by Tavish Whiting

How It Began:  A Brief History of the 1969 Baseball Expansion

One could argue that the 1969 Baseball Expansion began on December 19, 1960 when Charles O. Finley purchased a controlling interest in the Kansas City Athletics from the estate of the late-owner Arnold Johnson.  Despite assuring the Kansas City fans that he would keep the team in Kansas City, Finley immediately started looking for a new home in which to make more money. He considered several venues such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Milwaukee, New Orleans, San Diego, and Louisville.  In 1964, he asked the American League owners permission to move the team to Louisville, Kentucky, which was voted down 9 to 1. Several weeks later, Finley requested to move the team to Oakland, California which was again voted down 9 to 1.

By the end of the 1967 season, the American League owners voted to allow Finley to move the Athletics baseball team to Oakland.  Upon learning of the team’s move, Missouri Senator Stuart Symington became enraged. Symington had been a businessman in St. Louis before entering into politics.  He was first elected in 1952 and had won reelection twice since. He was a very powerful member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee.  In 1959, he decided to run for President, but lost the Democratic nomination to future-President John F. Kennedy.

Symington threatened to revoke the antitrust exemption that baseball enjoyed thanks to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.  This landmark law allowed the federal government the power to protect competition in the marketplace. This law, however, was brought before the United States Supreme Court in 1922 by the sole surviving team of the defunk Federal League.  The Federal League, which was started in 1913 as an alternative to the American and National Leagues, boasted eight teams throughout the United States. However, the teams of the Federal League argued that the American and National Leagues were interfering in their operations.  After the 1914 season, the owners of the Federal League brought an antitrust lawsuit against both the American and National Leagues under the Sherman Antitrust Act. The case was brought in front of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, District Judge of the Federal District Court of Northern Illinois.  

Judge Landis was a big baseball fan.  On days he was supposed to be in the courthouse, Landis was known to slip away to watch games of the Chicago Cubs or White Sox.  Landis was quite worried that the ruling would ruin what he called a “national institution.” Landis decided to “sit” on the case for the entire 1915 season with no ruling.  By the end of the season, the Federal League reached a settlement with the American and National Leagues as the Federal League was disbanded. Landis would go on to be the first Commission of Baseball in 1920.

The owner of the Baltimore Terrapins had different plans.  Two of the eight owners of Federal League teams were allowed to buy major league teams as part of the settlement.  The other six teams were offered a buyout settlement. Of the six remaining teams, only the the Baltimore club refused.  They brought an antitrust lawsuit against the National and American Leagues in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia.  The Baltimore team won $80,000 in a ruling in federal court that the major leagues violated provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act. This amount was then tripled to $240,000 due to a more recent antitrust law called the Clayton Act, passed in 1914.  The National and American Leagues appealed the case before the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The appeals court reversed the ruling on the grounds that baseball did not constitute a form of interstate commerce. Baltimore appealed the case to the US Supreme Court.

On May 29, 1922, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the case Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v National League that the ruling of the appeals court stands.  Writing for the court, Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes reiterated that the baseball leagues were not engaging in interstate trade as defined by the Sherman Antitrust Act and was exempt its provisions.  This decision would later be reaffirmed in a 1953 court case involving the New York Yankees.

But when the Kansas City Athletics moved to Oakland after the 1967 season, Senator Symington sought a punishment on the major leagues that would forever change baseball.  He threatened the two leagues to either plan an expansion of teams or he would introduce legislation in the Senate amending the Sherman Act of 1890 and Clayton Act of 1914 that would remove the exemption afforded baseball.  Baseball Commissioner William Eckert and the team owners agreed to expand baseball by four teams, two in each league. Several cities were considered as expansion markets such as Dallas-Forth Worth, Buffalo, Denver, New Orleans, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Toronto.  In the end, the leagues awarded Kansas City, Montreal, San Diego and Seattle with teams to begin playing in 1971. Symington did not approve of this timetable and demanded that the teams be formed and ready to play by the 1969 season. Major League Baseball agreed to these terms and Symington removed his threat of legislation against the leagues.

Kansas City had just lost the Athletics baseball team to Oakland in 1967.  That same year, the voters had approved bonds to build the Truman Sports Complex as home to the Kansas City Chiefs professional football team and the Athletics baseball club.  When it was announced that Kansas City would receive an expansion club, the city bubbled with excitement. They were to be known as the “Royals,” after the American Royal livestock and horse show that was annually held in the city.  Unfortunately, the new team was forced to play at the old Municipal Stadium, former home field for the Athletics, for the next four seasons while the new Royals Stadium was being completed within the Truman Sports Complex. The Royals were designated to join the American League.  Ewing Kauffman, a local pharmaceutical entrepreneur, was awarded ownership of the team.

Another city awarded with an expansion team was Seattle. The “Emerald City” was the home of the Seattle Rainiers (later renamed the Seattle Angels), a member of the Pacific Coast League and farm team to the California Angels.  The league, although highly competitive, was not quite at the level of the two major leagues. Both US Senators from Washington State were a part of the delegation from Seattle to try to land support for an expansion team in Seattle.  One of the Senators, Warren Magnuson, was the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. The committee, under his control, would have the power to reverse the antitrust exemption held by baseball. Senator Magnuson’s position of influence was of great help in motivating the leagues to award an expansion team in Seattle.  The problem was that the largest venue in the city, Sick’s Stadium, only seated 11,000. The Seattle delegation assured baseball owners that it would be renovated to seat 30,000 by the beginning of the 1969 season. Ownership of the new team, designated to play within the American League, was given to Pacific Northwest Sports, led by Dewey Soriano.

Seattle was not the only west coast city to have an expansion club.  The major leagues chose the city of San Diego to be home to a new franchise.  The “City of Good Living” already had a minor league team called the Padres in the Pacific Coast League.  San Diego had recently had a modern stadium in place ready for a major league baseball team. The facility, “San Diego Stadium,” had been built in 1967 thanks to the efforts of local sportswriter Jack Murphy.  Murphy helped convince local voters to pass a $27 million bond for the construction of the modern stadium. Of the four cities awarded expansion teams, San Diego would have the largest stadium. Local businessman C. Arnholdt Smith was awarded ownership of the team which was earmarked for the National League.  The new owners elected to keep the “Padres” name for the expansion club.

The last team awarded a team was the Canadian city of Montreal.  Montreal had a history of great minor league teams.  The great Jackie Robinson once played for the Montreal Royals, a AAA team with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization.  Gerry Snyder, a councilor for the city of Montreal, led the delegation to bring an expansion team to Canada. They had tried to acquire an expansion club during the 1962 Baseball Expansion, but were rejected due to stadium issues.  With the backing of National League President Warren Giles, Montreal was finally awarded a team for the 1969 season. The stadium, known as Pac Jarry, was enlarged from 3,000 seats to over 28,000 by the end of 1968. Several team names that were under consideration such as the “Voyageurs” and “Nationals,”  but it was decided that they would be called the “Expos” after the Expo 67 World’s Fair. The National League awarded ownership to a group of investors, led by Charles Bronfman.

Bienvenue au Baseball

The 1969 Expansion began on a mild spring afternoon on April 8, 1969.  It was Opening Day for a new baseball season in New York. The temperature was 58 degrees at gametime as the expansion-Montreal Expos were playing their first-ever game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in Queens.  The lowly Mets baseball club had finished second to last in the National League in 1968, only one game ahead of the Houston Astros. Little did anyone know that this season, the “Miracle Mets” would go on to win the World Series over the Baltimore Orioles.

The Expos would be the first team in the major leagues to represent a city outside the United States, although they would not play their first home game until april 14 against the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Expos decided to have Mudcat Grant, a 33-year old veteran pitcher who had been in the major leagues since 1958, be their Opening Day starter. He had pitched for the Minnesota Twins in the 1965 World Series and was a good veteran to have on the mound.  Grant was facing third-year pitcher Tom Seaver, who would go on to win 25 games during the 1969 season, lead the Mets to win their first World Series, and be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992.

The lineup for the Expos on Opening Day was a follows:

  • 1st – Maury Wills (Shortstop) – Wills was selected 21st in the Expansion Draft from the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He was a five-time All-Star shortstop with the Los Angeles Dodgers and had played in five World Series.  Despite being the Opening Day shortstop for the Expos, he would only play in 47 games before being traded, along with Manny Mota, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for utility players Ron Fairly and Paul Popovich.  Even though Wills only played in 47 games, he led the team with 15 stolen bases for the 1969 season.

  • 2nd – Gary Sutherland (Second Base) – Sutherland was picked eighth in the Expansion Draft from the Philadelphia Phillies.  He had limited playing time over the past three seasons with Philadelphia and would play for the Expos for the next three seasons.  During the Expos’ first season, he was the primary second baseman for the team.

  • 3rd – Rusty Staub (Right Field) – Veteran outfielder Rusty Staub was traded to Montreal from the Houston Astros for Jesus Alou and Donn Clendenon.  He became the everyday right fielder for Montreal. Staub had been on the All-Star team the past two seasons and was the sole representative for the Expos in 1969.  Staub, however, did not get to play in the Mid-Summer Classic. Staub led Montreal with 29 home runs. He was also a very patient player at the plate, drawing 110 walks with only 61 strikeouts.  Staub would play three seasons with the Expos before being traded to the Mets in 1971. He would briefly be reunited with Montreal in 1979 for 38 games.

  • 4th – Mack Jones (Left Field) – Jones was the fourth pick in the Expansion Draft from the Cincinnati Reds.  He became a fan favorite in Montreal and hit the first-ever home run on Canadian soil. The left field area was named “Jonesville” in his honor because he was the primary player at that position.  He was picked to the be the everyday center fielder, but arm problems following a botched surgery forced the team to move him to left field. He hit 22 home runs on the season. Jones would play for the next three seasons in Montreal before retiring from baseball.

  • 5th – Bob Bailey (First Base) – After the Expansion Draft, Bailey’s contract was purchased by the Expos from the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He split time with Ron Fairly at first base during the first season of the Expos. He would continue play with the Expos for the next seven seasons.

  • 6th – John Bateman (Catcher) – Bateman was the 6th pick in the Expansion Draft from the Houston Astros.  He split time with Ron Brand as catcher for the first season with Montreal. He had been in the major leagues since 1963 and would stay in Montreal until 1972.  He was considered at the time to be one of the best fielding catchers in the National League.

  • 7th – Coco Laboy (Third Base) – Laboy was picked 54th in the Expansion Draft from the St. Louis Cardinals.  He was made the starting third baseman on Opening Day which was also his major league debut.  Laboy would play 156 games at third base for the Expos during the 1969 season. He also led the team with 83 RBIs in his rookie season.  Laboy would play his entire five-year major league career with Montreal.

  • 8th – Don Hahn (Center Field) – Hahn was the first-ever Rule 5 pick for the Montreal Expos.  He only played four games in 1969 before being sent down to the minor leagues.  He would play one more season with Montreal before being traded to the New York Mets.

  • 9th – Mudcat Grant (Starting Pitcher) – Grant was a right-handed starter who had pitched since 1958.  His first-ever game was against the Kansas City Athletics. He had been an All-Star twice with two different teams and, in 1965, he was a 21-game winner.  He was considered one of the best fielding-pitchers in the National League. Grant only made 10 starts in 11 appearances with Montreal before being traded to St. Louis for pitcher Gary Waslewski.

The Expos were managed by Gene Mauch, a former major league infielder and long-time manager.  From 1960 to 1968, Mauch had managed the Philadelphia Phillies.  His record with Philadelphia was 646-684, with winning records in six of his nine seasons there.  Mauch would end up managing in Montreal until 1975 with a record of 499-627. Mauch would go on to manage the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels.

In the first-ever game for the Expos, there were 44,541 in attendance at Shea Stadium, which is about three-fourths of the stadium’s capacity.  With the home team in the field, the Expos were the first up to bat. Maury Wills became the first-ever player to stop up to the plate for Montreal.  Seaver was able to get Wills to strikeout looking. Gary Sutherland then hit a ground ball to Mets second baseman Ken Boswell, who bobbled the ball in a error.  Then Rusty Staub hit a pop up to third base for the second out. With two outs, Seaver walked Mack Jones and then gave up a two-run double to Bob Bailey to put the Expos up 2-0.  John Bateman then hit an infield popup to end the inning, but the Expos were on the scoreboard for the first time in franchise history.

In the bottom of the first inning, the Expos took the field for the first time.  Mudcat Grant made the first pitch in franchise history to center fielder Tommie Agee, who hit a single into shallow center field.  Right fielder Ron Gaspar then hit a line drive out to shortstop Maury Wills, who then threw to first baseman Bob Bailey for the 6-3 double play.  Then Grant gave up a hit to second baseman Ken Boswell, followed by another hit to left fielder Cleon Jones that advanced Boswell to third base. Grant was then able to get third baseman Ed Charles to hit a short ground ball in front of the plate that allowed the catcher John Bateman to throw to first for the final out of the inning.  The Expos were still in the lead.

In the top of the second inning, Seaver was able to retire the side.  In the bottom of the second, Grant continued to have control problems.  First baseman Ed Kranepool and catcher Jerry Grote both hit singles to start the inning for the Mets.  Grant then walked shortstop Bud Harrelson to load the bases. Fortunately for Grant, the pitcher Tom Seaver was up to bat and struck out looking for one out.  However, Tommie Agee then hit a three-run double to to take a 3-2 lead over the Expos. Manage Gene Mauch decided to take Grant out of the game and replace him with Dan McGinn.  McGinn was the 27th pick in the Expansion Draft from Cincinnati.  He had only pitched 12 innings with the Reds in 1968. McGinn would end up pitching in 74 games in 1969 and stay with Montreal for the next three seasons.  With Gaspar up to bat, McGinn threw a quick toss to Maury Wills at second base to pickoff Agee for the second out. Gaspar then hit a single into center field followed by a wild pitch to Boswell that allowed Gaspar to advance to second base.  Fortunately for the Expos, Boswell grounded out to second base to end the rally by the Mets.

Tom Seaver came out to pitch the top of the third inning.  He gave up a leadoff double to Maury Wills to start the inning.  Sutherland hit a groundout that allowed Wills to advance to third base.  Rusty Staub then hit a single to center field to allow Wills to tie the game.  Mack Jones then hit a double to right field, advancing Staub to third base. The Mets decided to intentionally walk Bailey to load the bases.  Seaver then was able to get Bateman to strikeout and Laboy to ground out to end the inning, leaving the game tied.

In the bottom of the third inning, McGinn was able to retire the side, striking out both Charles and Kranepool.  In the top of the fourth inning, after getting Hahn to ground out, Seaver gave up a solo home run to the Expos pitcher McGinn to take the lead.  Wills then hit a double to threaten the Mets again. Seaver was able to get Sutherland to groundout before intentionally walking Staub. Seaver then forced Mack to ground out to the second baseman to end the inning with the Expos again in the lead by one run.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, things started to unravel for McGinn.  He gave up a leadoff walk to Jerry Grote before committing a balk while pitching to Bud Harrelson.  After striking out Harrelson and forcing Seaver to ground out, he walked Agee. With a man on first and second with two outs, McGinn gave up a single to Rod Gaspar, allowing Grote to score and tie the game.  He then gave up a single to Boswell, allowing Agee to score. The Expos then brought in relief pitcher Jerry Robertson.  Robertson was the 38th pick in the Expansion Draft from St. Louis.  It was his major league debut and he would eventually become a part of the starting rotation for the Expos in his only season in Montreal.  Robertson then gave up a double that scored Gaspar. Boswell tried for home, but a throw from second baseman Sutherland to home plate got him out, ending the inning.  The Mets were now ahead 6-4.

Seaver cruised through the top of the fifth inning, having two strikeouts with only one Expos player reaching base due to a fielding error on the Mets.  In the bottom of the fifth, Robertson gave up a leadoff single to Ed Charles. After a lineout by Kranepool, Grote groundout, advancing Charles to third base.  The Expos decided to intentionally walk Harrelson in order to pitch to Seaver. The Mets took Seaver out of the game and put in Kevin Collins as a pinch hitter.  Collins hit a pop fly in foul territory by third base where Laboy caught the final out of the inning.

Collins was then replaced with a new pitcher, right-hander Cal Koonce.  The Expos sent in Ty Cline to pinch hit for Robertson.  Cline was the 41st pick in the Expansion Draft from the San Francisco Giants and a veteran outfield who had played for five different teams.  Cline became a regular pinch hitter and utility outfielder for Montreal for the 1969 season. He was able to draw the leadoff walk. Maury Wills then hit into a force out at second base, but was able to steal second base during the next at bat.  Sutherland hit a popup out before Koonce walked Rusty Staub. With two men on, Mack Jones hit a double into left field, scoring both Wills and Staub and tying the game. Koonce was able to get Bailey to ground out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Expos left Cline in the game to play in center field.  Hahn, who was batting sixth, was replaced with pitcher Don Shaw.  Shaw was the 40th pick in the Expansion Draft from the New York Mets.  This was his only season with Montreal and he was now pitching against his former team.  He had spent most of the last two seasons in the minor league system for New York. Despite walking Gaspar and allowing him to steal second base, Shaw was able to get out of the inning with the score still tied.

In the top of the seventh, the Mets continued to have Koonce pitch.  Despite retiring the first two Expos batters, he walked the pitcher, Shaw, and then walked Cline.  Koonce then gave up a single to left field by Maury Wills, scoring Shaw and putting the Expos ahead 7-6.  In the bottom of the seventh, Shaw struck out the leadoff batter, Ed Charles, before walking Kranepool. With the Mets bringing in Al Weis to pinch run for Kranepool, Shaw then walked Ed Charles.  The Mets then brought in Ron Swoboda to pinch hit for Bud Harrelson, who then hit into a 5-4-3 ground ball double play to end the inning.

The eighth inning saw a lot of changes to the Mets’ lineup.  Left-hander Al Jackson was brought to pitch for New York. Cleon Jones was moved from left field to first base.  Swoboda moved into left field and Weis replaced Harrelson at shortstop. On the first pitch, Jackson gave up a solo home run to Rusty Staub.  After striking out Mack Jones, Jackson then allowed singles to both Bailey and Bateman. The Mets then brought in Ron Taylor to pitch and also brought in Amos Otis to play left field.  With runners on both first and third, Coco Laboy hit a three-run home run to put the Expos up 11-6 over the Mets. Taylor was able to retire the next two batters, but the damage was done and the Expos had a commanding lead.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Expos brought in Don Bosch to play center field while Cline was moved to left field for Mack Jones.  Bosch had his contract purchased from the New York Mets prior to the Expansion Draft.  In 1968, the Mets had used him as a pinch hitter and runner while playing a small amount in the outfield.  This would be Bosch’s last season in the major leagues. Shaw, continuing to pitch for the Expos, retired the side.  Ron Taylor was able to get out of the top of the ninth despite walking Rusty Staub. In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Expos continued to pitch Shaw.  He struck out Boswell looking to start the inning. He then gave up a hit to Cleon Jones, who then stole second base. Shaw walked Charles before getting Al Weis to flyout to right field.  Jerry Grote then hit a single to left field, scoring Cleon Jones. The Mets then brought in Duffy Dyer to pinch hit for pitcher Ron Taylor. Dyer then blasted a three-run home run to deep center field to bring the Mets within one run.

The Expos then brought in Carroll Sembera in relief.  Sembera was the second Rule 5 Draft pick by the Expos from the Houston Astros.  Sembera had pitched for the Astros between 1965 and 1967, but had not seen major league action since.  Sembera gave up an infield single to Amos Otis and then walked Tommie Agee. With two men on, Sembera was able to get Gaspar to strikeout and end the game.  The Expos had won their first-ever game by the score of 11-10. Don Shaw, who had given up four earned runs, was credited with the win while Sembera earned the first-ever save in franchise history.

Despite winning their first game, the Expos had a miserable first season.  They finished in last place in the East Division of the National League, 48 games behind the Mets.  Their record was 52-110. They finished with same record as the expansion-San Diego Padres. It would be the worst record in their history.  They had the second-lowest team batting average in the league, hitting .240. Only the San Diego Padres were worse. They had the highest team ERA in the league with 4.33.  The Expos pitching staff gave up 145 home runs, second only to the Cincinnati Reds in the National League.

The franchise would only make the playoffs once in 1981 beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series.  Because of the 1981 strike-shorten season, the two leagues had the division leaders in the first half of the season play the division leader in the second half of the season.  They went on to play the Los Angeles Dodgers for the pennant, but lost in five games. Many baseball historians believe that the 1994 Expos were one of the greatest teams of the modern baseball era.  Unfortunately, the 1994 strike ended the season prematurely, cancelling the playoffs and and World Series. In 2004, the Expos played their last season in Montreal before moving to Washington, DC to become the Washington Nationals.  In their 34 seasons in Montreal, the Expos had a 2,755-2,943 record.

A Royal Walkoff in Extra Innings

With the expansion beginning in the Eastern Time Zone with the Montreal Expos, the second game would take place in the Central Time Zone in the "City of Fountains," Kansas City.  It was a beautiful spring afternoon for Opening Day (2) (3). The temperature was 68 degrees at gametime as the expansion-Kansas City Royals were hosting the Minnesota Twins at Municipal Stadium in downtown Kansas City.  The stadium, formerly named Blues Stadium, played host to the Kansas City Athletics between 1955 and 1967.

Wally Bunker, who had been the 25th pick in the Expansion Draft, had been selected as the Opening Day starter for the Royals.  He faced rookie pitcher Tom Hall, who would eventually pitch for the Royals in 1976 and 1977.

The lineup for the Royals on Opening Day was a follows:

  • 1st – Lou Piniella (Center Field) – Piniella had been selected 28th in the Expansion Draft by the Seattle Pilots from Cleveland, but was traded to the Royals for pitcher John Gelnar and outfielder Steve Whitaker only one week prior to Opening Day.  The 1969 season would be considered his rookie season despite playing in four games for Baltimore in 1964 and six games for Cleveland in 1968. Piniella would be the primary left fielder for the Kansas City Royals. He would play center field on Opening Day despite playing only four games at that position all season.  He led the team with 68 RBIs for the season and hit 11 home runs. He would go on to win the American League Rookie-of-the-Year Award for 1969. Piniella would go on to play for the Royals until 1973 and is second only to Alex Gordon for the most innings played as a left fielder.

  • 2nd – Jerry Adair (Second Base) – Adair was a veteran infielder who was selected 51st in the Expansion Draft from the Boston Red Sox.  He was the primary second baseman for the Royals in their first season. By 1970, he played in only seven games before ending his major league career.

  • 3rd – Ed Kirkpatrick (Left Field) – Kirkpatrick had been traded to the Royals, along with utility player Dennis Paepke, for future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm.  The Royals had selected Wilhelm 49th in the Expansion Draft from the Chicago White Sox. Kirkpatrick was an outfielder with some experience as a catcher who had played limited time for the Angels.  Despite being the Opening Day left fielder for the Royals, Kirkpatrick played most of the season as a utility outfielder with a few games as a catcher. He would go on to lead the team with 14 home runs and play for five seasons with Kansas City as both an outfielder and catcher.

  • 4th – Joe Foy (Third Base) – Foy was an extremely versatile and speedy player that was selected fourth overall in the Expansion Draft from the Boston Red Sox.  He was the primary third baseman for the Royals in their first season, but had playing time at every position except pitcher and catcher. He had 37 stolen bases and enjoyed the best season of his career.  His time in Kansas City was short lived because he was traded after the season to the New York Mets for pitcher Bob Johnson and Royals Hall-of-Famer Amos Otis.

  • 5th – Chuck Harrison (First Base) – Harrison’s minor league contract was purchased from the Atlanta Braves after the Expansion Draft.  He had not played in the major leagues since 1967 when he was a first baseman and pinch hitter for the Houston Astros.  The Royals had him split time with Mike Fiore at first base as Harrison was a righty and Fiore was a lefty. He was sent to the minors in Omaha for the entire 1970 season.  He only had limited playing time in 1971 before ending his major league career.

  • 6th – Bob Oliver (Right Field) – Bob Oliver was picked 19th in the Expansion Draft from Minnesota, having only played in the farm system for the Twins.  He had only played three games in the major leagues in 1965 for Pittsburgh. Oliver played nearly every day, primarily in right field, left field, first base and third base.  He would play for the Kansas City Royals until 1972 when he was traded to the California Angels for pitcher Tom Murphy.

  • 7th – Ellie Rodriguez (Catcher) – Rodriguez was picked 13th in the Expansion Draft from the New York Yankees and was the primary catcher for the Royals in their first season.  He was the first Royals player to be selected for the All-Star Game, but did not play. Rodriguez played for two seasons as a catcher in Kansas City before being traded to the Seattle Pilots for Carl Taylor.  He did not know at the time that they would move to Milwaukee to become the Brewers baseball team only a few days before Opening Day of 1970.

  • 8th – Jackie Hernandez (Shortstop) – Hernandez was picked 43rd in the Expansion Draft from the Minnesota Twins.  Now he was playing against his old team on Opening Day as the starting shortstop for the Royals.  Hernandez played more innings at shortstop than any other player at any position on the team in 1969.  He played for the Royals for two seasons before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. That trade brought Freddie Patek to Kansas City.

  • 9th – Wally Bunker (Starting Pitcher) – Bunker was a right-handed starter who had pitched for six seasons in Baltimore.  He had pitched in the 1966 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After winning the World Series, Bunker had been nagged by injuries to his elbow.  He led the team with 12 wins during the 1969 season and a 3.23 ERA. He pitched in Kansas City until 1971 when he ended his major league career. The Royals decided to pick Bunker in the Expansion Draft from Baltimore over future Hall-of-Famer Jim Palmer.

The Royals were managed by Joe Gordon, a former major league second baseman and manager.  As a player, he was considered one of the greatest second basemen of his era.  He managed for a short time for the Kansas City Athletics in 1961. He had decided not to manage again and instead became a scout and batting instructor.  Royals General Manager Cedric Tallis begged Gordon to come out of managerial retirement to coach the expansion Royals. Gordon agreed to a one-year contract to help start the franchise.

There were 17,688 in attendance at Opening Day for the Royals.  This was slightly more than half of the seats available in Municipal Stadium.  The Royals, as the home team, took the field to start the game. Bunker made the first pitch to center fielder Ted Uhlaender of the Twins.  The first pitch was a strike. Uhlaender would hit a fly ball to right field where Bob Oliver caught the first out in franchise history. By the end of the top of the first inning, Bunker was able to retire the first three hitters for Minnesota, including future Hall-of-Famer Rod Carew.

In the bottom of the first inning, Lou Piniella was the leadoff batter for Kansas City.  On the first pitch, Piniella hit double off of Tom Hall into left field, the first hit in franchise history.  The next batter, Jerry Adair, hit a single to left field, scoring Piniella from second base. The Royals were now up 1-0.  Despite Adair advancing to second base on a passed ball, the Royals were unable to score again and the inning ended with the Royals in the lead.

In the top of the second inning, Bunker faced one of the best players in the American League, Harmon Killebrew.  Killebrew, a future Hall-of-Famer, would eventually play for the Royals in 1975 as their designated hitter. Despite having Killebrew ground out, the second batter, Graig Nettles, hit a solo home run into left field to tie the game.

The third and fourth innings saw the score unchanged.  Piniella got another leadoff single in the third and was able to advance to third base, but the Royals were unable to bring him home.  In the top of the fourth inning, Rod Carew had a leadoff single and then stole second base, but the Royals left him stranded and the score remained tied.  Oliver came up with a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth, but was left stranded at first base.

In the top of the fifth inning, the Twins started to threaten the Royals.  Bunker gave up a leadoff single to first baseman Rich Reese. However, he was caught stealing second while shortstop Leo Cardenas was up to bat.  Cardenas walked and then advanced to second base on a single to center field by catcher John Roseboro. Bunker was able to have the next two batters lineout and groundout, leaving two stranded on base for the Twins.  

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Wally Bunker became the first pitcher in franchise history to get a hit.  Bunker hit a leadoff double into right field. Piniella then had his third hit into left field, advancing Bunker to third base.  Jerry Adair then hit a flyout to center fielder Ted Uhlaender who was able to throw out Pinella trying to advance to second base.  The next two batters, Ed Kirkpatrick and Joe Foy, each hit in the infield for outs, ending the inning.

In the top of the sixth inning, Bunker faced Rod Carew for the third time.  Carew hit a single into left field. Manager Joe Gordon decided to bring in a relief pitcher to face Tony Oliva.  Gordon decided on left-hander Tom Burgmeier.  Burgmeier had been picked 47th in the Expansion Draft from the California Angels.  It was his second season in the major leagues and had pitched in 56 games for the Angels in 1968.  With Carew on first base, Oliva hit a single into right-center field to advance Carew to third base.  Now right-hander Killebrew was up to bat. On the first pitch, Killebrew hit a ground ball to third baseman Joe Foy.  Foy threw to Chuck Harrison at first to get the out, but Carew was able to score from third and Oliva had advanced to second base.  The Twins were now up 2-1. The Twins decided to pinch hit a right-handed batter for Graig Nettles by bringing in Cesar Tovar. During Tovar’s at bat, Oliva tried to steal third base but was caught in a rundown.  Tovar then hit a single into center field. The next batter, Rich Reese, then hit a double into right field, scoring Tovar and putting the Twins up by two runs. Left fielder Ed Kirkpatrick overthrew second base and Reese tried to advance to third base, but Harrison was able to make the throw to third baseman Joe Foy for the final out.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Twins pitcher Tom Hall was able to get both Chuck Harrison and Bob Oliver to hit into outs.  With two outs, Royals catcher Ellie Rodriguez hit a double into left field. Afterwards, shortstop Jackie Hernandez hit a ground ball to third baseman Killebrew, who bobbled the ball for an error.  Now Rodriguez was at third base and Hernandez was at first. With the pitcher Burgmeier up to bat, the Royals elected to pinch hit for him with Jim Campanis.  He was the son of the General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and was sent to Kansas City on a “conditional deal.”  The young Campanis had played very limited time as a catcher for the Dodgers. Now, he is the first pinch hitter in franchise history.  Campanis hit a single to center field, scoring Rodriguez from third base and advancing Hernandez to second. The Twins manager, Billy Martin, who had briefly played with the old Kansas City Athletics, elected to bring in right-hander Bob Miller in relief to face Lou Piniella.  The Royals then replaced Campanis with Pat Kelly as a pinch runner.  Kelly had been picked 34th in the Expansion Draft from the Twins.  He had very limited playing time in the major leagues for Minnesota, but would split time between left field and right field for Kansas City over the next two seasons.  Despite having Miller pitch to a right-hander, Piniella was able to hit a single into center field, scoring Hernandez from second base and advancing Kelly to second. Now, the score was tied.  The next batter, Jerry Adair, hit a single to third base, loading the bases. The Twins then brought Ron Perranoski into the game to pitch for Miller. Unfortunately for the Royals, Perranoski was able to get Kirkpatrick to hit a groundout to second baseman Rod Carew to leave the bases loaded and end the inning.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Royals brought in veteran relief pitcher Dave Wickersham for pinch runner Kelly.  Wickersham had previously pitched for the Kansas City Athletics and the Detroit Tigers.  He had suffered from injuries and spent most of the 1968 season in the minor leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Now, Wickersham was trying to make a comeback with the Royals. Wickersham, who would only pitch one season with Kansas City, was able to get out of the top of the seventh inning with only one hit allowed to Minnesota.

From the bottom of the seventh to the bottom of the ninth innings, neither team was able to score.  Perranoski was able to retire all nine batters he faced. Wickersham gave up hits to Killebrew and Cardenas, but kept the Twins from scorings.  Both pitchers were left in the game to have at-bats and both hit into groundouts. Both pitchers continued pitching into extra innings.

In the top of the tenth inning, Wickersham gave up a two-out hit to Tony Oliva, but left him stranded.  Perranoski gave up a one-out hit to Chuck Harrison in the bottom of the tenth, but he too was left stranded.  In the top of the 11th inning, Wickersham was able to get a flyout, strikeout and groundout to end the inning.  

In the bottom of the 11th inning, Perranoski was able to get Jackie Hernandez to groundout in the first at bat of the inning.  The Royals elected to bring in Hawk Taylor to pinch hit for Wickersham.  Taylor had been the Royals first-ever Rule 5 selection from the California Angels.  He was a veteran utility player who had been playing mostly in the minor leagues over the past five years.  Taylor would go on to play two seasons with Kansas City as a pinch hitter. He is fourth all-time for pinch hitting appearances for Kansas City with 105.  Unfortunately, Taylor hit a groundout to the shortstop. Perranoski then walked Piniella before getting Adair to groundout and end the inning.

In the top of the 12th inning, the Royals brought in veteran pitcher Moe Drabowsky to pitch.  Drabowsky is the only pitcher in the modern era to be from Poland.  He had been pitching since 1956 in the major leagues and spent four seasons with the Kansas City Athletics.  He was the 42nd pick in the Expansion Draft and would go on to pitch until 1970 with Kansas City. Drabowsky was able to get the leadoff batter, John Roseboro, to ground out.  The Twins brought in Charlie Manuel to pinch hit for Perranoski. Manuel ground out as well. Then Drabowsky got Uhlaender to flyout to retire the side.

In the bottom of the 12th inning, the Twins brought in former Kansas City Athletics pitcher Joe Grzenda to pitch in place of pinch hitter Charlie Manuel.  Kirkpatrick led off the inning with a lineout to center field. Joe Foy came up to bat and hit a one-out single into left field. Foy then was able to advance to second base on a passed ball by Grzenda while pitching to Chuck Harrison.  Then the Twins elected to intentionally walk Harrison. Bob Oliver was now up to bat for the Royals. On the first pitch, Grzenda threw a wild pitch that allowed both Foy and Harrison to advance. The Twins then instructed Grzenda to intentionally walk Oliver before taking him out of the game.  Now, the bases were loaded.

The Twins brought in right-handed pitcher Dick Woodson.  It would be Woodson’s major league debut. The Royals then replaced their catcher Rodriguez with pinch hitter Joe Keough.  Keough had been the second pick in the first-ever amateur major league draft in 1965 by the Kansas City Athletics.  He had worked his way through the minor leagues to then debut with the Oakland Athletics in 1968. He was picked eighth in the Expansion Draft in 1969 by the Royals and would go on to play four seasons with Kansas City.  One the second pitch by Woodson, Keough hit a single into right field, scoring the winning walkoff run by Joe Foy from third base to win the game. It was the first walkoff in the first extra inning game in Royals franchise history.  The final score was 4-3.

The Royals had the best record of any of the four expansion teams in during the 1969 season with a record of 69-93, 28 games behind the Minnesota Twins.  This placed them fourth in the West Division of the American League. Today, only the San Diego Padres and the Kansas City Royals continue to be teams in their original cities.  Their .242 team batting average was only slightly below the league average. Their 129 stolen bases was second in the league only to the expansion Seattle Pilots. The Royals’ team ERA of 3.72 was only slightly above the league average.

In 1976, the Royals would be the first team to make the postseason of any of the 1969 expansion teams.  They have made nine postseason appearances and four World Series appearances. They lost their first World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980 in six games.  In 1985, they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games for their first world title. Their next World Series was in 2014 when they lost to the San Francisco Giants in seven games.  They last World Series trip was in 2015 when they defeated the New York Mets in five games. They played in the old Municipal Stadium until the 1973 season, when they moved to the new Royals Stadium, later renamed Kauffman Stadium in honor of their first owner.  The stadium, although one of the oldest still in use in the major leagues, is considered ahead of its time and still a wonder of baseball.

From Minor League Team to the Majors

The last two expansion-team games had the distinction of both being night games and on the west coast.  The newly-created San Diego Padres played host to their first-ever game. The temperature was 59 degrees for this historic evening of baseball.  The Padres were playing the Houston Astros, who had finished dead last in the National League during the previous season.

Dick Selma, who had been the Padres’ fifth pick in the Expansion Draft, had been picked as the Opening Day starter for San Diego from the New York Mets.  He faced the ace of the Astros, Don Wilson. Wilson had been in the starting rotation for Houston since 1967.

The lineup for the Padres was a follows:

  • 1st – Rafael Robles (Shortstop) – Robles was the 51st pick in the Expansion Draft by the Padres from the San Francisco Giants.  He had never played higher than minor league “A” baseball and only played six games with San Diego at the beginning of the 1969 season before the Padres acquired Tommy Dean from the Dodgers as their full time shortstop.  Robles would play in only 47 games with the Padres between 1969 and 1972.

  • 2nd – Roberto Pena (Second Base) – Pena was the 48th pick in the Expansion Draft from the Philadelphia Phillies.  He would be a utility infielder for San Diego for the 1969 season, hitting a respectable .250 batting average.  He would only play one season in San Diego. He would go on to play only two more season for the Oakland Athletics and the Milwaukee Brewers.

  • 3rd – Tony Gonzalez (Center Field) – Gonzalez was a veteran outfield that was picked 37th in the Expansion Draft from the Philadelphia Phillies.  He had played for the Phillies since 1960. He primarily played left field for San Diego before being traded in June to the Atlanta Braves for three minor league players.  Gonzalez only played in 53 games with San Diego.

  • 4th – Ollie Brown (Right Field) – Ollie Brown was the first pick in the Expansion Draft from the San Francisco Giants.  He had been a rising star with San Francisco, but found himself in the minor leagues in 1968 because the Giants had Willie Mays, Jesus Alou and Bobby Bonds playing superb ball in the outfield.  Brown became angry and did not report immediately to AAA Phoenix when he was demoted. This angering the Giants management and after the season, they elected not to protect him from the Expansion Draft.  He led the team with a .264 batting average and belted 20 home runs. He was the primary right fielder for San Diego.

  • 5th – Bill Davis (First Base) – Davis was one of the first trades made by the Padres.  He was traded to San Diego by the Cleveland Indians for Zoilo Versalles, who was the 20th pick in the Expansion Draft from the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He had only played in 33 games prior to arriving in San Diego and had not been in the major leagues since 1966. He severed his Achilles tendon in a basketball game in early 1967 and missed the entire 1968 season.  Because of his slow start to the 1969 season, Davis was relegated to pinch hitting for the rest of the season and sent down to the minor leagues. He only appeared in 31 games and never played in the majors again after the 1969 season.

  • 6th – Larry Stahl (Left Field) – Stahl was the 26th pick in the Expansion Draft from the New York Mets.  He spent parts of three seasons with the Kansas City Athletics before being traded to New York.  Despite being the Opening Day left fielder, Stahl spent most of the season as a pinch hitter and utility outfielder.  He would stay in San Diego until 1972.

  • 7th – Ed Spiezio (Third Base) – Spiezio was traded to the Padres, along with three other minor league players by the St. Louis for right-handed pitcher Dave Giusti.  Giusti had been the third pick in the Expansion Draft by San Diego from St. Louis and the Cardinals wanted him back. Spiezio had played in both the 1967 and 1968 World Series and had only 281 plate appearances with St. Louis as a pinch hitter and utility infielder.  In San Diego, he became the primary third baseman for the first time in his career, hitting .234.

  • 8th – Chris Cannizzaro (Catcher) – Cannizzaro had been acquired in a trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates less than two weeks before Opening Day for a minor league player and San Diego’s first-ever Rule 5 player, infielder Bobby Klaus.  The Padres had acquired catcher Bob Barton from San Francisco in a four-player trade, but an arm injury sidelined him and allowed Cannizzaro to be the Opening Day catcher. He would hit .245 before the All-Star game.  He was picked to represent the Padres, but did not play in the game. He would be the primary catcher for the Padres in their inaugural season. He slumped at the plate after the All-Star game and ended the season with a .220 batting average.

  • 9th – Dick Selma (Starting Pitcher) – Selma was a right-handed starter who was made a starter for the first time in 1968 for the Mets.  He had a 2.75 ERA with New York. Selma had earned the nickname “Mortimer Snerd” by his Mets teammates for his talkativeness.  Despite being the Opening Day starter for San Diego, he pitched in only four games before being traded to the Chicago Cubs for right-handed pitcher Joe Niekro, relief pitcher Gary Ross, and infielder Frankie Libran.  

The Padres picked Preston Gomez to be the team’s first manager.  He started managing in 1957 in the Central Mexican League.  Gomez then started coaching in the minor leagues before becoming a coach with the Dodgers in 1965.  He only played in four games in the major leagues during the 1944 season. It was felt that he would be a good coach to shape young players.  He would be the manager for the Padres for the next three seasons. He was fired after only 11 games in 1972.

There were 23,370 in attendance at the two-year old San Diego Stadium.  It had been used for the last couple of years as the home field for the San Diego Chargers football team.  The stadium was only 40% full for this first game of the expansion Padres. The Padres took the field with Selma pitching.  The first batter for the Astros was right fielder Jesus Alou, who was newly acquired from the San Francisco Giants. Selma gave up a leadoff single to Alou to start the game.  Despite not being known as a base stealer, Alou stole second just before Selma walked future Hall-of-Fame second baseman Joe Morgan. The first out of the game came when center fielder Norm Miller hit a flyball to center field.  Tony Gonzalez recorded the first-ever out for the Padres. Then, third baseman Doug Rader hit a single into right field, scoring Alou from second base and advancing Morgan to second. Selma was able to retire the next two batters, but the damage was done and the Astros had the early 1-0 lead.

In the bottom of the first inning, Rafael Robles became the first batter for the Padres.  Robles hit a ground ball to second base which was bobbled by Morgan. Robles became the first baserunner in Padres history, reaching base on an error.  Robles then stole second base just as Roberto Pena struck out. Tony Gonzalez hit a ground ball to the shortstop for the second out, but was able to advance Robles to third base.  The threat ended when Don Wilson got Ollie Brown to flyout to center field.

The score remained the same for the next two innings while Selma and Wilson battled it out on the pitcher’s mound.  Selma was able to retire the next six batters with two strikeouts. Wilson retired all three batters in the second inning, but faltered in the third by giving up a leadoff walk to Chris Cannizzaro, committing a balk to advance him to second, and giving up a sacrifice bunt to starting pitcher Dick Selma to advance Cannizzaro to third base.  But then Wilson struck out the final two batters to end the brief threat by San Diego.

Selma started off the fourth inning by striking out Doug Rader before giving up an infield single to first baseman Curt Blefary.  Belfary advanced to second on a passed ball, but Selma was able to strike out left fielder Bob Watson and have shortstop Denis Menke groundout to end the inning.  In the bottom of the fourth inning, Wilson was able to retire the side.

In the fifth inning, Selma got the first two batters out by groundout and strikeout.  Then leadoff batter Jesus Alou hit a triple into center field and the Astros were threatening to score again.  Fortunately for the Padres, Joe Morgan hit a ground ball to second baseman Roberto Pena to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, Wilson got left fielder Larry Stahl to hit a flyout to the third baseman Doug Rader.  The next batter was third baseman Ed Spiezio, who hit only his sixth home run of his career to left field. Now the game was tied.  Wilson gave up only one more single in the fifth inning before it was over. The Padres had their first run in franchise history.

In the top of the sixth inning, Selma looked stronger than ever, striking out two and retiring the side.  In the bottom of the sixth, Wilson hit Roberto Pena with a pitch to leadoff the inning. After a flyout by Tony Gonzalez, Ollie Brown hit a double into left field, scoring Pena from first base.  The Padres now had a 2-1 lead. Wilson retired the next two batters with infield floyouts.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Padres brought in Nate Colbert to play first base for Bill Wilson.  Colbert was the 18th pick in the Expansion Draft from the Houston Astros.  He would become the primary first baseman for the Padres during the 1969 season, leading the team with 24 home runs on the season.  Colbert would play in San Diego until 1974, and be a three-time All-Star. Colbert was now facing his old team, which he had only played 39 games with between 1965 and 1968.  With Colbert in the game, Selma retired three of the next four batters in the game, two by strikeout.

In the bottom of the seventh, Jack Billingham was brought into the game to pitch in relief for Gary Geiger, who had pinch hit for Wilson in the top of the seventh inning.  Billingham retired the first two batters before giving up a single to left field by the Padres’ starting pitcher. It would not amount to anything for San Diego as Billingham was able to get Robles to ground out to end the inning.

Selma continued to pitch into the eighth inning.  He gave up a leadoff single to Jesus Alou, but then retired the next three batters.  Billingham returned in the bottom of the inning to retire all of the Padres batters, two of which were strikeouts.  

The Padres elected to stick with Selma in the ninth inning.  First, he got Blefary to ground out to the first baseman for the first out.  Then, he got the left fielder, Bob Watson, to strikeout looking. Finally, the shortstop Denis Menke was up to bat.  Selma poured on the heat and was able to strike him out to end the game. It was the first-ever complete game by a Padres pitcher.  The expansion Padres had defeated the Houston Astros 2-1. Their game lasted only two hours and 14 minutes, finishing before the end of the other west coast expansion game in Anaheim, California.

Of the four teams of the 1969 Expansion, only the Kansas City Royals and the San Diego Padres remain in their original cities.  The Padres ended their inaugural season with a 52-110 record, last place in the West Division of the National League and with the exact same record as the expansion-Montreal Expos of the East Division.  They were 41 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves. They had the lowest batting average, by far, of any team in the National League, hitting only .225. They were last in the league with 45 stolen bases.  The pitching staff had the second highest ERA at 4.24. Only the Montreal Expos had a higher ERA.

The Padres would make the postseason only five times over their 50-season span.  They made the World Series in 1984, only to lose to the Detroit Tigers in five games.  They made the World Series a second time in 1998 only to be swept by the New York Yankees.  The Padres played at San Diego Stadium (renamed Jack Murphy Stadium in 1981) until 2004 when they moved into Petco Park.

Sailing Home to Victory

The last expansion game of the evening was being held in Anaheim, California.  The temperature was 62 degrees at gametime as the expansion-Seattle Pilots were were preparing to play the California Angels at Anaheim Stadium.  It was only the fourth season of baseball at this new ballpark for the Angels. This night would introduce a unique team of the four expansion teams.

Marty Pattin, who had been the 18th pick in the Expansion Draft, had been picked as the Opening Day starter for the Seattle Pilots from the California Angels.  He faced former All-Star pitcher Jim McGlothlin. McGlothlin was considered one of the best pitchers in baseball, but had to retire prematurely due to a rare form of leukemia which took his life at the age of 32.  

The lineup for the Pilots on Opening Day was a follows:

  • 1st – Tommy Harper (Second Base) – Harper was a veteran player who had played for both Cincinnati and Cleveland since 1962.  He was the third pick in the Expansion Draft from Cleveland and brought a lot of speed to the new team. He led the American League with 73 stolen bases in 1969.  He would also show a lot of patience at the plate, walking 95 times while only striking out 90 at the plate. He would be the Pilot’s first leadoff batter. In 1969, he split time with Rich Rollins and Gus Gill at third base.

  • 2nd – Mike Hegan (Right Field) – Hegan signed with the Pilots prior to the Expansion Draft from the New York Yankees.  Hegan was primarily a first baseman, but was unable to dislodge Mickey Mantle from that position with New York.  He also played outfield, but was limited in playing time there as well due to an overabundance of quality outfielders on the team.  He spent the entire 1968 season in the minor leagues and had not played in the major leagues since 1967. Hegan was an All-Star in the International League in 1968 and had missed quite a bit of time playing baseball due to military service.  He would be the sole representative for the Pilots in the All-Star game in 1969, but missed playing due to a hamstring injury that also caused him to miss 67 games. Don Mincher replaced on the team. He played primarily in the outfield and led the team with a .292 batting average.

  • 3rd – Tommy Davis (Left Field) – Davis was the 16th pick in the Expansion Draft for the Pilots from the Chicago White Sox.  He was an All-Star outfielder in the 1960s with the Los Angeles Dodgers before moving to the New York Mets in 1967.  He was traded in 1968 to the Chicago White Sox and was one of the team’s best hitters. Despite playing most of the season with an injured leg, he would be the team’s primary left fielder and lead the team with 80 RBIs.  In August, he would be traded to the Houston Astros for outfielders Sandy Valdespino and Danny Walton.

  • 4th – Don Mincher (First Base) – Mincher was the first overall pick by the Pilots in the Expansion Draft from the California Angels.  In 1968, he suffered much of the season with a concussion and missed most of September. The Angels did not believe that he was able to play again and he was left unprotected for the Expansion Draft.  He would be the primary first baseman for the team, showing great discipline at the plate by drawing more walks than strikeouts.

  • 5th – Rich Rollins (Third Base) – Rollins was a former All-Star with World Series experience with the Minnesota Twins.  He was picked 26th in the Expansion Draft for Seattle. Despite being the Opening Day third baseman, Rollins would only make 58 appearances with Seattle, splitting time with Tommy Harper at third base.   

  • 6th – Jim Gosger (Center Field) – Gosger was the 55th pick in the Expansion Draft from the Oakland Athletics.  He had been in the Athletics organization since 1966 when he was traded to Kansas City from Boston.  Gosger slumped in 1968 and had very limited playing time due to the rise of Reggie Jackson in right field.  Gosger would not have a good season with Seattle and would eventually be sent to the minor leagues. By July, he would traded to the New York Mets for a minor league player.

  • 7th – Jerry McNertney (Catcher) – McNertney was the seventh pick in the Expansion Draft by the Pilots from the Chicago White Sox.  He had been in the Chicago organization since the early 1960s and and played parts of four seasons as a backup catcher.  This season, McNertney would find himself as the primary catcher for the Pilots.

  • 8th – Ray Oyler (Shortstop) – Oyler was the fifth pick in the Expansion Draft from the Detroit Tigers.  He was nicknamed “Oil Can Harry” by his teammates in Seattle. He was one of the worst players at the plate since the end of the Deadball Era, but considered one of the best fielding shortstops of his era.  In his career, he only hit .175 with over 1,000 plate appearances. Oyler established the “Mendoza Line” before Mario Mendoza. In Detroit, he was known as the “woodless wonder.” In Seattle, a local disc jockey started a “Let’s Help Ray Oyler Hit .300” drive after he hit a home run in the second game and was hitting .350 in the first two weeks in Seattle.  He suffered from a knee injury much of the season in Seattle. Oyler only played one season with the Pilots before being traded to the Oakland Athletics.

  • 9th – Marty Pattin (Starting Pitcher) – Pattin was a right-handed starter who was now receiving the opportunity to pitch against his former team.  In the previous season, Pattin was primarily a relief pitcher with a 2.79 ERA. Now, he was the Opening Day starter, but only compiled a 7-12 record with a 5.62 ERA.  Pattin would eventually become a part of the Kansas City Royals in the mid-1970s.

The Pilots were managed by Joe Schultz, who was formerly the third-base coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cardinals had been to the World Series the previous season. Schultz wanted the new expansion team to have a running style and he helped the Pilots to a league-leading 167 stolen bases.  Schultz had been a major league catcher during the 1940s with limited playing time with the Pirates and old St. Louis Browns. It would be the only season that Schultz would manage a full season in the major leagues.

Only 11,930 attended the game in a stadium designed for over 64,000.  During the previous season, the Angels were one of the worst teams in the American League.  The Angels took the field with McGlothlin on the mound. Tommy Harper was the first leadoff hitter for the Pilots.  On the fifth pitch, Harper hit a fly ball into left field for a double to start the game. Then, on a 1-2 pitch, Mike Hegan hit a two-run home run into right-center field to put the Pilots up 2-0.  It was the first home run in franchise history. The Pilots were on a roll. Tommy Davis hit a single into center field before advancing to second base when McGlothlin hit Don Mincher on an inside pitch.  Finally, McGlothlin was able to get the first out with Rich Rollins hitting a fly ball to Rick Reichardt in left field. The Pilot’s sixth batter, Jim Gosger, then walked to load the bases. On the next pitch, Jerry McNertney hit a single to left field to drive in both Davis and Mincher to put the Pilots up by four runs.  Angel’s manager Bill Rigney had seen enough and brought in lefty Clyde Wright in relief with only one out in the first inning. Wright was not quite ready to pitch and threw a 0-1 wild pitch to Ray Oyler that allowed Gosger and McNertney to advance. Oyler drew a walk, loading the bases for the second time in the inning. Pilots’ pitcher Marty Pattin was now up to bat and struck out looking for the second out.  Finally, Harper ground out to the third baseman in his second at bat during the inning to end the first with the Angels down 4-0.

Now the Pilots took the field for the first time in franchise history.  Pattin pitched to right-fielder Bill Voss who hit a flyball to Jim Gosger in center field to record the first out for the Pilots.  Pattin was able to get the Angels shortstop, Jim Fregosi, to do the same. Next, the Angels got a pair of singles from Jay Johnstone and Rick Reichardt, but Pattin ended the threat by striking out first baseman Dick Stuart to end the first inning.  

In the top of the second inning, the Angels relief pitcher settled down and retired all three Seattle batters.  When the Angels came up to bat in the bottom of the second, Pattin began to waver. Pattin gave up a pair of singles to start the inning off of Aurelio Rodriguez and Tom Satriano.  Then, former All-Star second baseman (and future Royals player) Bobby Knoop came up to bat. With two men on, Knoop hit a single to right fielder Mike Hegan that scored Rodriguez from second base.  Hegan fell when trying to get to the ball, reaggravating his pulled hamstring. Knoop ran to second base while Satriano tried for third. The Angels third base coach signaled for Satriano to turn around and go back to second base.  When he did, Knoop passed him on his way to third base. Knoop was called out for passing the runner. The game was stopped with Satriano still at second base while the Pilots helped Hagen off the field. Steve Whitaker was then brought into the game.  Whitaker was 23rd pick by the Kansas City Royals in the Expansion Draft, but was traded to the Pilots, along with pitcher John Gelnar, for Lou Piniella.  Whitaker was practically a hometown boy, growing up in nearby Tacoma, Washington. Whitaker was now in right field as the Angels pinch hit Vic Davalillo in place of their pitcher.  Davalillo hit a popfly into foul territory where it was caught by Tommy Davis. Bill Voss then hit a popfly, again to Davis, to end the inning. The Angels had cut the Pilots’ lead to three runs.

In the top of the third inning, the Angels brought in veteran relief pitcher Eddie Fischer, who retired six of the next seven batters for the Pilots.  Over the next two innings, Pattin gave up a single and two walks, but kept the Angels scoreless. The Pilots again threatened to score in the fifth inning against Fisher.  After Fisher retired the first two batters of the inning, Rich Rollins drew the walk and then stole second base. Fisher threw a passed ball while pitching to Jim Gosger and Rollins advanced to third.  In the end, Gosger struck out to end the threat.

The Pilots were not as fortunate in the bottom of the fifth.  After getting the leadoff batter, Bill Voss, to ground out, Jim Fregosi hit a homerun to left field to bring the Angels to within two runs.  Johnston hit a popup to second baseman Tommy Harper for the second out. The Angels threatened again with Reichardt hitting a single to center field.  Finally, Pattin was able to strike out first baseman Dick Stuart to end the inning.

In the top of the sixth, Fisher came out again pitching for the Angels.  After striking out the leadoff batter, McNertney, and forcing Ray Oyler to popfly out to third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez, the Pilots pitcher Marty Pattin hit a single in to shallow center field.  While pitching to Tommy Harper, Fisher threw a passed ball that allowed Pattin to advance to second base. The Pilots threat was short-lived as Harper popped out to third base to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, after Pattin walked the leadoff batter Rodriguez, the Pilots decided to bring in Diego Segui to pitch in relief.  Segui was the 14th pick in the Expansion Draft from the Oakland Athletics.  Segui got his start with the Athletics in Kansas City. He would pitch for the Pilots for just one season before being traded back to Oakland and the end of the season despite being voted the Pilots’ Most Valuable Player.  Now, Segui is being brought in to hold the lead for Seattle. After a full count, Segui gave up a single to Satriano, advancing Rodriguez to third base. Then he was able to get Bobby Knoop to strike out for the first out of the inning.  The Angels brought in pinch hitter Roger Repoz who struck out looking. Segui ended the inning by retiring Bill Voss in a flyball out to center field.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Angels moved Repoz to right field and replaced Voss with relief pitcher Rudy May.  Over the next three innings, May kept the Pilots from scoring and recorded six strikeouts. In the top of the eighth inning, despite a sacrifice bunt by Gosger to advance Rich Rollins to second base, and a throwing error on Angels first baseman Dick Stuart, May was able to get McNertney to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.  In the top of the ninth inning alone, May struck out Segui, Harper and Whitaker to retire the side. During the seventh and eighth innings, Segui recorded two strikeouts and gave up only one single to Tom Satriano.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Pilots continued to pitch Diego Segui.  The Pilots brought in Wayne Comer as a defensive replacement for Tommy Davis in left field.  Comer was the 41st pick in the Expansion Draft from the Detroit Tigers and would go on to be the primary center fielder for the Pilots in 1969.  The inning did not begin well for Segui as he walked both Roger Repoz and pinch hitter Lou Johnson. With no outs, the Pilots brought in Jack Aker, the 21st pick in the Expansion Draft from the Oakland Athletics.  In 1966, Aker was the American League Relief Pitcher-of-the-Year for the American League.  His first batter was Jim Fregosi, who hit a sacrifice bunt to third baseman Rich Rollins, who threw Fregosi out but allowed Repoz and Johnson to advance.  Jay Johnstone then hit a ground ball to Tommy Harper at second base, who threw to first base for the out, but allowed Repoz to score a run. This cut the lead to one run.  With two outs, Aker pitched to Rick Reichardt, who hit a ground ball to third baseman Rollins. Rollins threw to first base to get the final out. The Pilots had won their first game.  Pattin earned the win, Aker earned the save and Segui earned a hold. It was the first victory in franchise history. With the end of this three-hour game, the expansion games had concluded for the day.

The Pilots only lasted one season in Seattle before declaring bankruptcy.  Their stadium, Sick’s Field, is considered by many baseball historians to be the worst in the history of the major leagues.  The team finished last in the West Division of the American League. Despite leading the major leagues with 167 stolen bases, they had the second lowest batting average with .234.  Only the California Angels were worse. They also had the highest ERA in the league at 4.35.

The Pilots’ players showed up to spring training but were unsure where they were going to play.   They were officially declared bankrupt on April 1, 1970, which allowed them to move to Milwaukee. They were taken over by Bud Selig, the future Commissioner of Baseball.  Seattle would eventually receive a team in 1977 with the American League expansion Seattle Mariners. All that is left today of the Pilots is the Milwaukee Brewers, who moved from the American League to the National League in 1998.

The End of the Day

So ended April 8, 1969, Opening Day for America’s Pastime.  On this day, baseball expanded its membership from 20 to 24 teams.  It was a day of victory for the four fledgling clubs who helped change the face of baseball.  The Kansas City Royals would go on to play in four World Series teams. The San Diego Padres finally helped bring baseball to an already baseball city.  The Seattle Pilots, although short-lived, moved to Milwaukee to fill the void that was left after the departure of the Braves. And the Montreal Expos internationalized major league baseball for the first time.  April 8, 1969 was a day to remember because every new team won by one!

Tavish Whiting is a American Government teacher in Lee's Summit, MO

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Author: Tavish Whiting

I am an American Government teacher at Lee's Summit North High School

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