The Royals are celebrating their 50th season. The following is a Top 50 list of the greatest moments in Royals history. Today is 20-16
20. George Brett becomes first player ever to win three batting titles in three different decades.
When you’re a Hall-of-Famer, you set the bar for those players who play after you. George Brett was no exception. Brett was, arguably, the best hitting third baseman who ever played the game. This was evident when he became the first player ever to win a batting title in three decades.
Brett’s career spanned twenty-one years, all of which were spent in Kansas City. In 1973, Brett was called up and hit a paltry .125. Brett would never hit below .250 in a season again. His first batting title came in 1976, when Brett would lead the American League with a .333 average and the Royals to their first of three straight American League Western Division Titles.
In 1980, Brett would start off slow. On May 21, George would go 0-6 in a 4-2 loss to Oakland. From that point on, he would get as hot as the summer in Kansas City. Brett would hit .427 in his remaining games and would be at .400 on September 19. Brett would lead the league with a .390 average, the highest since Ted Williams hit .407, and would lead the Royals to their first American League pennant.
By 1990, injuries and father-time was catching up with Brett. At the end of April, George was hitting a slim .217. At the All-Star Break, he was only hitting .267. However, Brett caught fire in the second-half of the season, hitting .388 and leading the league in hitting at .329. With that batting title at the age of thirty-seven, George would become the first (and, to date, only) player to win a batting title in three decades.
19. David Cone throws three consecutive shutouts.
The Royals starting staff in 1994 was one of the best in team history. The ace of the staff was the hometown hero in David Cone.
Cone started his career in Kansas City in 1986. However, he was traded to the New York Mets after the season, where he would become one of baseball’s best pitchers. In 1993, the Royals signed Cone to join a staff with Kevin Appier, Tom Gordon, and Mark Gubicza.
On May 11, 1994, David faced off against the Minnesota Twins. He was 5-1 on the season, but, his ERA was an unspectacular 4.04. In front of 17,740 Royals fans, Cone threw a three-hit masterpiece, shutting out the Twins 9-0.
His next start would come against the Seattle Mariners and a lineup that featured Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez, and future Hall-of-Famer, Ken Griffey Jr. Facing a lineup with four of the best hitters in baseball, Cone allowed on four hits while striking out ten in a 4-0 victory in Seattle.
Five days later, the Royals made a trip Anaheim to face off against the California Angels. The Angels lineup featured Tim Salmon, future Royal Chili Davis, and Jim Edmonds. Davis would lead off the fifth inning with a single. That would be the only hit the Angels would get against the soon-to-be American League Cy Young winner as Cone would shut out the Angels, 4-0.
Cone would have a scoreless streak of 28.2 innings over four-games and this was a sign of things to come for the right-hander.
18. George Brett gets hit number 3,000.
Only thirty-two players have reached the 3,000-hit plateau. Only seven of these players are not in the Hall-of-Fame (two are active, three are in the waiting period required for ballot eligibility, and two are not in because of personal choices that Hall-of-Fame voters frown upon).
Entering September 30, 1992, Brett was stuck on 2,996 hits. Brett had been battling injuries and age the previous few years and there was talk that this may be Brett’s final season.
Brett, who hit third and was the designated hitter, doubled in the first inning off California Angels’ pitcher, Julio Valera. In the third, Brett hit a single off Valera, putting him just two shy of 3,000. In the fifth, Brett again singled off Valera, putting him at 2,999 hits.
The key moment came in the seventh inning. With one out and facing Angels’ pitcher, Tim Fortugno, George Howard Brett would become the eighteenth player to reach 3,000 hits with a single. He would accomplish the feat just miles from where he grew up in California and in front of his wife and mother with his brother, Ken Brett, in the broadcast booth.
George would finish his career with 3,154 hits and is currently sixteenth on the all-time hits list.
Also, in a rare moment of complacency from George, he was picked off first base for the second out of the inning.
17. Royals win 2014 American League Pennant.
The 2014 postseason was memorable for Royals’ fans of all ages. The Royals had not made the postseason since their World Series title in 1985 and they did not waste any time in making new memories.
They won their first seven games with thrilling come-from-behind wins and lots of late-inning heroics. They were up 3-0 over the favored Baltimore Orioles and looking to clinch the pennant in front of their long-suffering fans.
Jason Vargas, who had struggled down the stretch before pitching a brilliant Game 1 against the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS, threw 5.1 innings of one run ball before giving way to Herrera-Davis-Holland. The bullpen did their jobs with some help from the defense.
With two outs in the ninth, J.J. Hardy stepped to the plate. A chopper to third was fielded in fair territory by Mike Moustakas, who threw across the diamond to Eric Hosmer to end the Royals twenty-nine-year World Series drought.
This would be the first of consecutive American League pennants for the Royals.
16. Willie Aikens walks it off for the first Royals World Series win.
The Royals would host their first World Series game on October 17, 1980 against the National League Champion, Philadelphia Phillies. It was a time of celebration for Royals fans who, after three consecutive ALCS losses to the New York Yankees, would sweep the Yankees in the 1980 ALCS on their way to the World Series. In many ways, beating the Yankees was their World Series.
The series shifted to Kansas City after the Royals dropped the first two games in Philadelphia, despite having a lead in both games. This provided a crucial Game 3 in Kansas City. A Philadelphia win would all but seal the World Series for the Phillies. A Royals win would cut the series lead in half with two more games in Kansas City.
Game 3 proved to be a back-and-forth affair. The Royals jumped out to an early 1-0 lead thanks to a home run by George Brett. The Phillies would strike in the top of the second with a RBI groundout by future Royal, Lonnie Smith. Hal McRae would put the Royals back on top with a RBI single in the fourth. The Phillies would strike with a home run from Hall-of-Famer, Mike Schmidt, to tie it in the fifth. Amos Otis would put the Royals on top, again, in the seventh with a solo home run. True-to-form, the Phillies would tie it in the next half-inning on a Pete Rose single. Dan Quisenberry would stop the damage there.
The game went to extra innings and the Royals would have to face Phillies closer, Tug McGraw. U.L. Washington would lead off with a single and Willie Wilson would draw a walk. Frank White came to the plate just trying to move the runners. However, Washington was caught trying to steal third and White struck out. What started off with two one, no out, quickly turned to a runner on first and two out.
George Brett stepped into the box. On a 1-1 pitch, Wilson stole second and the Phillies gave Brett an intentional pass. That brought up Willie Aikens, who was quietly putting together a great series after two home runs in Game 1 and a triple earlier in Game 3. Aikens hit a 2-1 pitch over Phillies center-fielder, Garry Maddox’s, head. This would score Wilson and give the Royals a 4-3 victory. It would be their first World Series win ever.
The Royals would win the next day, evening the series. However, the Phillies would take Games 5 and 6 to win the series, 4-2. However, Game 3 was something of magic for Kansas City baseball fans who had to suffer through the years of the Kansas City Athletics and the heartbreak of the postseason losses to the New York Yankees. For the first time, Kansas City got to show its love of baseball on the world stage. It passed with flying colors.
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