The Kansas City Royals became a Major League Baseball franchise in 1969. They have won two World Series (1985, 2015) and have quite a few very good players to consider for their Mount Rushmore. Let’s see who makes the cut.
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George Brett (1973-1993)
The Royals drafted the third baseman out of El Segundo HS in California in the second round in 1971. Brett made it to the big club in August of 1973. Although he played in only 13 games that year and had five hits, he showed his ability to make contact, only striking out five times in 41 PAs. The following season he started to make better contact but was still a slap hitter with a .363 SLG in 133 games. 1975 is when he began to drive the ball.
That year he led the American League in hits with 195 and triples with 13. He also chipped in 35 doubles and 11 homers. In 1976, Brett again led the AL in hits (215), triples (14) and, this time, in batting (.333). He finished second to Thurman Munson for the MVP. This would begin a stretch of seven playoff appearances in 10 years for the Royals. Unfortunately for the Royals, they faced the Yankees each year from 1976-1978 and lost all three ALCS. It certainly wasn’t Brett’s fault as he went 21-56 with four HRs and 10 RBI in those 14 games.
In 1979 Brett became the fifth member* of the 20-20-20 club. He hit 42 doubles, 20 triples, and 23 HRs. He also chipped in 17 SBs, knocked in 100 runs (107) for the first time, and set a career-high with 119 runs scored. Unfortunately, and somewhat unbelievably, he finished third in the AL MVP voting to winner Don Baylor and runner-up Ken Singleton.
The following year was one for the ages for Brett. The season started off slow as Brett was hitting just .267 after an 0-3 game vs. the Oakland A’s on May 26. He then went 26-53 to raise his average to .337 on June 10 but suffered an injury that would keep him out until July 10. There wasn’t any rust. He returned to hit .494 in July and .430 in August to enter September with a BA of .403**. After a 2-4 night on September 19, Brett was hitting .400. That would be the last he would see the number. After going 0-4 the following night, he went 14-42 the rest of the year to settle in at .390.
He is still one of only three players to hit .390+ in a season since 1932 (Ted Williams .406 in 1941, Tony Gwynn .394 in 1994). But that wasn’t his only accomplishment that season. He hit more HRs (24) than strikeouts (22). He also had 118 RBI in 117 games. It was the first time in 30 years a player had averaged an RBI per game in over 100 games. Brett was named AL MVP and the Royals finally beat the Yankees in the ALCS sweeping them in three games including this memorable moment…
He also had this classic against the Yankees on July 24, 1983…Sounds Familiar
In 1985, Brett hit 30 HRs for the only time in his career and led the AL in OPS at 1.022. He also walked 103 times to just 49 strikeouts. More importantly, the Royals won their first World Series title…But more on that later. Brett was a playoff star in his career. He slashed .337/.397/.627 with 10 HRs and 23 RBI in 43 games. He also won the 1985 ALCS MVP award.
Brett finished his career in 1993 with impressive stats. He is one of only four players with 3,000 hits, 300 HRs, and a .300 average (Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron). His Number 5 was retired by the Royals in 1994. Brett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 with 488 of 497 votes. He is considered one of the best third basemen ever and certainly is a no-brainer on the Royals Mount Rushmore.
Willie Wilson (1976-1990)
First off…Happy Birthday to Willie Wilson who turns 65 today. The Royals drafted him in the first round of the 1974 draft out of Summit HS in New Jersey. After his first few years of being mainly a pinch-runner, Wilson got his first everyday shot in 1979. He led the AL with 83 stolen bases that season and batted .315, establishing himself as the Kansas City leadoff hitter for years to come.
In 1980, he had his best season leading the league in hits (230), runs (133), and triples (15), while batting .326 with 79 SBs. He also took home his only Gold Glove that year and finished fourth in MVP voting. In 1982, he batted .332 and took home the AL batting title. He was the first switch-hitter since Mickey Mantle in 1956 to accomplish the feat.
After a tumultuous couple of years, Wilson again led the league in triples with 21 in 1985. He also went 20-59 with four SBs and a HR in the playoffs that season helping the Royals to their first World Series victory. After 109 games over four years with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s, Wilson called it a career in 1994. He finished with 668 SBs which is 12th all-time. He was elected to the Royals Hall of Fame in 2000.
Bret Saberhagen (1984-1991)
The lanky right-hander was taken in the 19th round of the 1982 draft out of Grover Cleveland HS in California. He made his major league debut a week before his 20th birthday in 1984 and didn’t look back. Although his first year was a mix of starting and relieving games, he recorded the only save of his career that season, the Royals made him a full-time starter in 1985. It paid off.
At the ripe old age of 21, Saberhagen went 20-6 with a 2.87 ERA in 235.1 innings and took home the AL Cy Young Award. He had unbelievable command and control for a pitcher in his first full season walking only 38 batters. Once the regular season was over, it was time for the playoffs. After a rough first series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Saberhagen turned it on for the World Series. He threw two CGs and allowed one run on 11 hits and one walk. He finished off the series with a CG SHO in Game Seven and took home the MVP of the series.
He had an odd, no pun intended, streak of seasons. From 1984-1991 his stats were weird:
K/BB: 650/179 (3.63)
K/BB: 443/152 (2.91)
In 2005, he was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame. During his time in KC, he won two CYAs (1985,1989) and was a World Series MVP. Although he played only eight seasons with the Royals, he deserves a spot on their Mount Rushmore.
Dan Quisenberry (1979-1988)
Q wasn’t drafted at all. He signed with the Royals as a 22-year-old amateur free agent in 1975. He eventually made his debut in 1979 and pitched fairly well despite his “lack of stuff”. In 1980, he developed his submarine delivery to add more deception. He went 12-7 with a 3.09 ERA and led the AL in appearances (75) and saves (33).
From 1980-1985 Quisenberry had 212 saves, appeared in 412 games, and walked a total of 93 batters (36 intentional) in 724.2 innings. He also pitched to a 2.45 ERA and allowed only 42 HRs. He is the only pitcher (min. 1,000 IP) in the top 20 of career BB/9 (1.397) who pitched after 1926. He lasted only one year on the Hall of Fame ballot, which is ridiculous, and never made it past the Expansion Era committee either.
Sadly, Quisenberry lost his battle with brain cancer on September 30, 1998 at the age of 45. He was a fixture out of the bullpen for the Royals in their heyday and, along with his great ‘stache, belongs on their Mount Rushmore.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images