KC World Series Win in a Tale of Two Cities
By winning the World Series against the New York Mets, the Kansas City Royals restored the franchise to its former glory thirty years after its first and only World Series title. Baseball in Kansas City, however, has long been a tale of two cites – perennial contenders and perennial doormats.
Baseball got off to a particularly dismal start in Kansas City, with the National League’s Kansas City Cowboys. In 1886, the team finished 30-91, 58.5 games behind the first place Chicago White Sox (now the Chicago Cubs) and folded in the off-season.
The Kansas City Blues played in the Western League, a predecessor to the American League from 1894-1900. When the new league was upgraded to Major League status in 1901, the Blues moved to Washington and became the Senators (now Minnesota Twins).
In 1920, the Kansas City Monarchs were a charter member of the Negro National League and its longest running franchise. The Monarchs won ten league championships before integration, and triumphed in the first Negro League World Series in 1924. The Monarchs had only one season in which they did not have a winning season. After sending more players to the major leagues than any other Negro League franchise (including Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks), the team was finally disbanded in 1965. The Royals wear a Monarch’s throwback uniform once a year.
Kansas City Athletics
In 1954, real estate magnate and New York Yankee’s business associate bought the Philadelphia Athletics and moved them to Kansas City for the 1955 season. That year the team drew 1,393,054 to Municipal Stadium, an A’s club record easily surpassing the previous record of 945,076 in 1948. It was the third-highest attendance figure in the majors, behind only the Yankees and the recently relocated Milwaukee Braves. It would remain the club record for attendance until 1982.
Johnson, however, may have been too cozy with the Yankees as he repeatedly sent promising young players to the Yankees, including Roger Maris, in return to aging stars and cash. Johnson died in 1960 and Charlie Finley took over in 1961 and immediately began efforts to move the team to Dallas, Louisville and Oakland. The league denied Finley’s requests but ultimately green-lighted their move to Oakland for the 1968 season despite voters approval of a bond for a new baseball stadium.
The Kansas City A’s had 13 consecutive losing seasons and averaged a .403 win percent and approximately 34 games behind. The worst part of it was in their last season fans got a glimpse of a rookie named Reggie Jackson who would prove to be their nemesis when baseball returned.
The move infuriated powerful Missouri Senator Staurt Symington (who was John Kennedy’s first choice for Vice President) who threatened to revoke baseball’s antitrust exception and challenge its reserve clause that prevented free agency at the end of a contract unless Major League Baseball (MLB) added Kansas City to its current expansion plan for 1971 and moved up the date to 1969. MLB complied, adding Kansas City to the expansion and moving up the date despite the fact that the Seattle stadium was not fully ready.
MLB Returns to Kansas City
The Kansas City Royals joined the Seattle Pilots (now Milwaukee Brewers), San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals) as expansion teams in 1969. The Royals quickly became a perennial contender – with 16 winning seasons, 7 playoff appearances, two pennants and a World Series title in their first 25 years. Only their rival the Oakland A’s and the Pittsburgh Pirates had more playoff appearances in this era.
The Royals would have had more success in this era were it not for Reggie Jackson and the Oakland A’s dynasty which won the American League West Division five years in a row from 1971-1975, with the Royals finishing second in three of those years (as this was in the pre-wild card era). The Royals won five division titles from 1976-1981 but again ran into Reggie Jackson and the revived New York Yankees dynasty which beat the Royals in the ALCS three years in a row from 1976-1978.
In 1980, the Royals finally broke through and swept the Yankees to win their first pennant.
The Royals lost 4-2 to the Philadelphia Phillies. They returned to the World Series five years later, beating cross-state rival St. Louis 4-3 thanks in part to a controversial first base call that fueled a 9th inning Royal comeback in Game 6.
Heart of Glass and Doing Moore with Less
Former Walmart executive David Glass took over as CEO of the Royals at the end of the 1993 season following the death of Royals founder Ewing Kaufman. He would become its sole owner in 2000. Glass would bring the franchise back to its od Athletics days, as he cut the Royals payroll by more than half and reducing Kansas City to a perennial cellar dweller. From 1994-2008, the Royals had only one winning season and failed to the make the post-season as attendance plummeted.
In 2006, native son Dayton Moore was brought in as General Manager who, through the farm system and key trades, built the Royals back into contention. By 2014, the Royals had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 25 years and qualified for the Wild Card. In their first post-season appearance since the 1985 World Series, the Royals staged epic comeback to tie then win a truly wild Wild Card game 9-8 in 12-innings over Oakland. The Royals then swept the Orioles in the ACLS for their third pennant. In the World Series, they had the tying run on third base in bottom of the 9th in Game 7, but couldn’t bring him home as they lost to the San Francisco Giants.
The Royals came back in 2015 determined to prove the prior year was no fluke. With the American League’s best record, the Royals won their first division title since 1985 and set a record for attendance.
In the playoffs, the Houston Astros pushed them to the brink of elimination, but the Royals came back to win 3-2. After that the Royals went on a 8-3 streak as they beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-2 in the ALCS and then won the World Series 4-1 against the New York Mets in true Royal fashion. Down 2-0 going into the 9th inning, the Royals scored two runs to tie the game and then exploded for 5 runs in the 12th to win. Of the Royals’ 27 runs in the World Series, 15 came after the 7th inning, compared to only 1 for the Mets.
The franchise was finally back to its old glory.