The Royals Hall of Fame was created in 1986 as a way to honor the top players in franchise history. Amos Otis and Steve Busby made up the inaugural class, and since then the club has honored twenty-five individuals, ranging from MLB Hall of Famer George Brett to groundskeeper George Toma.
This year you can "tweet" your vote for who should be inducted in to the Royals Hall of Fame, putting the hallowed institution on par with "American Idol."
There is no limit to how many can be inducted, and there is no requirement that any player get inducted. The requirements to get on the ballot are:
players must have played at least three seasons for the Royals with a minimum of 1,500 plate appearances or 150 innings pitched. They must be retired from playing for at least three years.
Some of the nominees are quite curious. Where is Joe Randa? Or for that matter Danny Tartabull? Willie Aikens? Mike MacFarlane?
Let's take a moment to review those that did make the final cut.
Emil Brown 2005-2007
410 Games .279/.340/.428 38 HR 229 BI 1.4 WAR
Yea, this is a head-scratcher. No one in the Royals Hall of Fame played as few as three seasons with the club, much less three seasons of average-to-below average play like Emil. Emil wasn't a particularly well-known or popular player. He was just kinda there. The only things I remember about him are (1) the delicious pun the Royals scoreboard would display when Brown was up saying "ITS NOT A SNACK, ITS EMIL!"; (2) he made some ridiculous comment about going "Nationwide"; and (3) he shot KMBC reporter Karen Kornacki in the eye with a pellet gun. Those don't strike me as reasons to honor him for generations.
Emil pretty much embodies the terrible Royals of the Allard Baird years. We picked up for nothing because we had no better options, allowed him to play and be mediocre because we had no better options; and let him go despite still not really having any better options. You gotta love these guys.
Al Cowens 1974-1979
812 Games .282/.329/.404 45 HR 374 BI 10.5 WAR
I wrote a bit about Al Cowens recently here. "A.C." was a speedy, defense-first outfielder who enjoyed one monster MVP-type season in the Royals heyday in the 1970s. He combined with Amos Otis and Willie Wilson to make one of the fastest outfields you will ever see.
Al struggled a bit to win an every-day job with the Royals, and when he finally did, he was fairly average. The one exception was 1977, when he erupted for 23 home runs (his only season in double digit home run territory with Kansas City) while hitting a career best .312 with 112 runs batted in, finishing second only to Rod Carew in MVP balloting. After two more average seasons, the Royals dealt him to the Angels for Willie Aikens. A pretty good player, but probably not quite good enough to make the franchise Hall of Fame.
Jermaine Dye 1997-2001
547 Games .284/.344/.477 85 HR 329 RBI 7.8 WAR
Jermaine was looking like a huge bust until he finally flipped the switch in 1999 and emerged as one of the league's best outfielders. He enjoyed back-to-back four WAR seasons in 1999-2000 and was voted into the All-Star Game in 2000. He hit a career best .321 in the 2000 season, driving in 118 runs and flirting with the club home run record with 33 dingers. He also won a Gold Glove that year, and was one of the most coveted trade assets on the market. The Royals ultimately dealt him in the summer of 2001, giving Royals fans just two and a half seasons of greatness, far short of what is required to make the club Hall of Fame.
Al Fitzmorris 1969-1976
243 Games 70-48 3.46 ERA 1098 IP 391 K 14.2 WAR
If there was a mullet wing of the Royals Hall of Fame, Fitz would be in there with Pat Tabler and Mark Gubicza (but ironically not George Brett, whose nickname was "Mullet.") Sadly, there is not, and thus, Al Fitzmorris will not be enshrined.
Jimmy Gobble 2003-2008
235 Games 22-23 5.23 ERA 423 IP 285 K 1.1 WAR
HAHAHAHA. No, seriously.
Runelvys Hernandez 2002-2006
78 Games 25-33 5.38 ERA 435 IP 231 K 3.3 WAR
GO HOME ROYALS, YOU ARE DRUNK!
Bo Jackson 1986-1990
511 Games .250/.309/.480 109 HR 313 RBI 6.2 WAR
Scott McKinney and others have argued that Bo is the most overrated player in Royals history, and I tend to agree, but he seems like the perfect candidate for enshrinement into something like the Royals Hall of Fame. The club Hall of Fame is about honoring those that made a significant contribution to the franchise, and its hard to argue that Bo didn't make a significant contribution to the Royals. For a brief 2-3 year period, he was one of THE most famous athletes in the country, a man with his own tennis shoe, his own ad campaign, even his own Saturday morning cartoon.
Were there serious flaws to his game? Yes. He has the 13th worst on-base percentage in club history for anyone with 1000 plate appearances (although Royals Hall of Famer Frank White is worse). He only played in 511 games, fewer than any position player in the Royals Hall of Fame. But he has the 8th best slugging percentage in club history, has the best ISO in club history, is the only All-Star Game MVP in club history, and put the Royals on the map in the late 80s/early 90s. It is hard to say there are too many players in Royals history more famous than Bo.
Darrell Porter 1977-1980
555 Games .271/.375/.435 61 HR 301 RBI 15.8 WAR
Darrell Porter was the catcher for three division winning clubs, including the pennant-winning 1980 club. He was a pretty underrated catcher in the league who had some pop, walked a lot, and enjoyed his career best seasons in Kansas City. In three of his four seasons in Kansas City, he was an All-Star. His best year was 1979 when he led the league in walks with 121 (second most in franchise history), hit .291/.421./484 with 20 home runs and 112 RBI, and finished ninth in MVP balloting.
However Porter only spent four season in a Royals uniform before leaving via free agency. His drug abuse was a dark stain on his career, as he once had to leave the club for drug rehab. Drugs also led to his ultimate demise - Porter was found dead in a park in suburban Kansas City after overdosing on cocaine.
A very underrated player in history, but probably just a bit short in accomplishments.
Kevin Seitzer 1986-1991
741 Games .294/.380/.394 33 HR 265 RBI 16.4 WAR
Seitz burst on the scene, leading the league in hits his rookie season and finishing second in Rookie of the Year balloting to Mark McGwire. He pretty much declined every year after that, with very little power, and suspect defense. He was also known as a hothead, which he has later admitted was due to alcohol abuse. Since his playing days, he has become a popular fixture in the Kansas City community, having conquered his addiction, and was recently the hitting instructor for the club.
Seitzer was a pretty darn good hitter for about four seasons, but fell off quickly and didn't stick around long enough. He played in an era in which the Royals were good, but did not reach any post-seasons. He is one of the most prolific hitters in club history at drawing walks (his numbers are not dissimilar to Darrell Porter's) but is probably in the next tier below Royals Hall of Famers.
John Wathan 1976-1985, Royals Manager 1987-1991
860 Games .262/.318/.343 21 HR 261 RBI 3.7 WAR
John "Duke" Wathan is a Royals lifer. He was drafted by the Royals, spent his entire ten year Major League career with the Royals, coached for the Royals, was named Manager for the Royals, later became a scout for the Royals, spawned two kids who played in the Royals minor leagues (Dusty reached the big leagues with the Royals). I'm pretty sure John will be buried in a coffin with the Royals logo on it.
Few people have dedicated as much of their career to the Royals as John has. Should longevity and dedication merit enshrinement into the Royals Hall of Fame? Wathan was pretty much a bench player for most of his career - he was only a starter in three seasons. He did receive MVP votes in 1980, his best season, but aside from that he never posted an above-average OPS+ in a full season.
As a manager, he was good, but not great. He finished second and third to some great Oakland Athletics clubs (in 1989 he led the Royals to the third best record in baseball - but the team failed to make the playoffs). Wathan was very much like the man who he shared a nickname with - John "Duke" Wayne. Both were quiet and gritty, dependable and loyal. Wathan probably deserves some sort of recognition for his time with the club. I'm just not sure its enshrinement into the club Hall of Fame.