The 79th Greatest Royal is Jamie Quirk
Former George Brett drinking buddy Jamie Quirk
Jamie is best known as the wingman for George Brett in his high-flying single days, but Quirk was a very gifted athlete. He was offered a scholarship to play football for Notre Dame, and was a first round draft pick by the Royals in 1972.
Quirk was from Whittier, California, and was actually drafted a shortstop by the Royals. Quirk struggled early in his minor league career, hitting .255 his debut year of 1972 in Billings, .231 the next year in San Jose, and .227 the next season in Jacksonville. Midway through the 1974 season he was promoted to AAA Omaha, and Quirk began to hit, posting a .281 batting average with ten home runs in fifty-three games.
Quirk spent the next season in Omaha, and posted a .274 average with thirteen home runs in a full season. This earned him a cup of coffee in the big leagues at age 21. Quirk made the big league team in 1976, but rode the bench much of the year. He didn't start a game until June, and served mostly as a pinch hitter or reserve infielder. He hit just .246 and that winter, the Royals traded their former first round pick to the Milwaukee Brewers in a blockbuster deal that landed them All-Star catcher Darrell Porter and pitcher Jim Colborn.
Quirk spent much of 1977 as Milwaukee's designated hitter, with less than stellar results. He hit just .217 with three home runs in ninety-three games, and the next season they demoted him to AAA Spokane. In August, they traded him back to the Royals for a minor leaguer. In 1979 Royals manager Whitey Herzog told Quirk that learning how to catch might extend his playing career.
"I went to the Instructional League and Gene Lamont, one of the Royals' instructors, had me drilling," he said. "Blocking balls one morning, throwing that afternoon, different things. I loved everything about it. I'd been a quarterback. This is where the action is. "The toughest thing was getting pitchers like Dennis Leonard and Larry Gura to trust me as a catcher. And to figure out pitch selection and pitching patterns. I worked and worked, and before long I was considered a catcher who can play infield, not the other way around."
Quirk still spent much of the season as a pinch hitter off the bench, starting in just ten games, but hitting .304 in limited action. In 1980 Quirk had one of his finer seasons, batting .276 in 163 at-bats filling in for his injured buddy George Brett at third base. The Royals took their first AL pennant that season, although Quirk did not participate in the playoffs. He played very sparingly for the Royals the next two seasons, hitting .250 and .231 respectively, leading to his release.
In 1983 Jamie's old manager Whitey Herzog, fresh off a World Championship with the Cardinals, brought the catcher to St. Louis. Whitey didn't play Jamie, instead using him as a coach until the Chicago White Sox called. St. Louis let Jamie go and play for the White Sox top affiliate in Denver, but Jaime hit just .209 in the mile high air. Quirk appeared in just three games for Chicago before they sold him to Cleveland. With the Indians, Jamie appeared in just one game - and cracked a home run. Oddly, the Indians let him go just after the season ended.
"I was acting as my own agent...I called every team. I couldn't even get invited to camp. John Schuerholz (Royals' general manager) called, but said I'd have to go to the minor-league camp. I mean, I'd been in the majors since '75, and now I'm training in Sarasota and the big guys are in Fort Myers. A low point."
Quirk performed adequately for Omaha that year, hitting .245, and he was called up to contribute late in the season as the Royals won the division. Quirk was added to the post-season roster, and finished with just one at bat in the ALCS. His hard work paid off in a World Series ring, the first championship in Royals history.
Quirk would be the primary backup catcher for Jim Sundberg in 1986 and would hit .215, but with a career high eight home runs. The next season, the Royals rotated between Ed Hearn and Larry Owen before giving the starting catching job to Quirk. He finished with a career high in at-bats with 296, but hit just .235. He split catching duties in 1988 with a young rookie named Mike MacFarlane, and hit .240 with eight home runs. That winter, the Royals decided to go with a veteran and signed Bob Boone, and let Quirk go.
From there, Quirk bounced around the league from the Yankees to the Athletics to the Orioles back to the Athletics. He was on the post-season roster for Oakland in 1990 and 1992, even starting Game Four of the 1990 World Series. After failing to make the Cincinnati Reds roster in 1993, Jamie finally called it quits and got into coaching.
Quirk rejoined the Royals as a bullpen coach in 1994, and in 1996 he was promoted to bench coach. In 1998, Quirk got a taste of managing, leading the Royals to a 4-4 record while manager Tony Muser was suspended. Quirk was a favorite with the players, causing Muser to feel that Quirk was undermining his authority. After the 2001 season, Quirk was fired, shocking both players, fans, and Quirk himself. General Manager Allard Baird said Quirk was being fired for a "lack of support" of Muser.
"It was an accumulation of things, not just one incident. Things got back to me. "But I don't think that Jamie deliberately undermined me or went behind my back in any way, shape or form. What is true and what isn't true, I really don't know."
-Royals Manager Tony Muser
After his dismissal from the Royals, Quirk was interviewed for the Blue Jays and Rockies managerial positions, but was ultimately passed over. After a season as a coach for the Rangers, he was hired by the Rockies as a bench coach. In 2003, he did get to manage the Rockies to a victory, filling in for regular manager and former teammate Clint Hurdle.
Quirk has since been interviewed by the Rangers and Athletics for their managerial positions. He is still the Colorado bench coach, and there are rumors he may join the Royals broadcast team next season. But there is one job that was available this winter that Quirk would have love to been offered.
In a perfect world, yes, I would love to be manager of the Royals. I would absolutely love it. But there are no guarantees I will ever get the job.