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A history of the Angels-Royals rivalry

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These franchises have some bad blood between them.

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

The Royals and Angels have been separated ever since the leagues went to three divisions in 1994, but at one time they were once smushed together in the same division, 1,600 miles apart, in the wild, wild American League Western Division. Following a double in a 1985 game between the two teams, Hal McRae was greeted by Angels All-Star second baseman Bobby Grich.

"Are we going at it again?" smiled Grich.

From 1976-1986, the two teams combined for nine division titles (ten if you count the Royals second-half division title in the strike-shortened 1981 season) in eleven seasons. Five times over that period, the two clubs finished first and second together, all of them within five games of each other.

Let's take a quick look at the Royals-Angels rivalry that continues tonight in the ALDS.

1978

The Royals were two-time defending Western Division champs, while the Angels were a team filled with high-priced free agents that had underachieved and was coming off seven consecutive losing seasons. In 1978 the Angels finally put things together and were hot on the tails of the Royals for much of the summer. They hosted for a four-game set in Anaheim in early September, taking three games to pull within a half-game of first place Kansas City.

But the Royals were resilient and swept a four-game series in Oakland while the Angels dropped three of four to the Rangers to fall back to 3.5 games back. The Royals then hosted the Angels and when they won the opener on a walk-off single by Pete LaCock off Nolan Ryan, the Angels' fate was sealed.

1978 Final Standings W L GB
Kansas City Royals 92 70 --
California Angels 87 75 5

1979

The Angels flourished in 1979, led by co-MVP Don Baylor, while the Royals stumbled out of the gate. A hot August allowed the Royals to climb back in the race and by August 30, they had climbed back into first place by a half-game. The Angels then won nine of ten to reclaim first place. On September 18, the Angels came to Kansas City for a huge four-game series with a three-game lead. The Royals blew out the Angels in the opener, 16-4, but Rich Gale could not finish the first inning of the second game and the Royals fell 6-4. The Royals would win the third game 6-4 due to a crucial error by Angels rookie shortstop Jimmy Anderson. The Royals had a chance to close within a game of the Angels in the series finale.

Meanwhile, back in Anaheim, Autry tried to rally the troops. He sent Manager Jim Fregosi a pair of tapes. One was an interview with Kansas City owner Ewing Kauffman, in which Kauffman said some nasty things about the Angels.

The other was Autry's response. Fregosi played the tapes only for his players, who then went out and tied the series with an 11-6 victory. Reportedly, Kauffman had said that he didn't care who won the West, as long as it wasn't the Angels; that the Angels had no fans coming to their home games; that the Angels were mercenaries and that the Kansas City players were home-grown, dyed-in-the-wool, loyal Royals.

Fregosi looked down the Royals' roster and commented: "I guess he fails to realize Porter came in a trade, LaCock came in a trade, Otis came in a trade, McRae came in a trade, Gura, Pattin, Hrabosky . . . "

The Angels stormed back and won the finale 11-6 to take a three game lead. The next week, in Anaheim, the Royals dropped the first to games of the series to clinch the first division title in franchise history for the Angels.

1979 Final Standings W L GB
California Angels 88 84 --
Kansas City Royals 85 77 3

1982

The 1982 Royals were perhaps one of the best clubs in franchise history not to make the playoffs. The team rolled all summer, and by the end of August were behind only the "Harvey Wallbanger" Brewers for the best record in baseball. But the club dropped seven of nine to begin September, then had a seven-game losing streak to lose the division lead to California. On September 20, the two teams began a three-game series in Anaheim tied for the division lead. Angels starting pitcher Geoff Zahn provided bulletin board material for the series.

"They've always had an attitude of extreme cockiness that's irked me some," Zahn said. "I don't like to see it on my club and I don't like to see it on others. I simply get more excited when I beat the Royals, and more disappointed when I lose."

Zahn would hold the Royals to just two runs over eight innings of work. Meanwhile, light-hitting Angels shortstop Tim Foli lofted a fly-ball down the left-field line that Willie Wilson tracked, only to look up and find a fan had reached over and caught it. The ball was ruled a home run, much to the ire of the Royals. It would prove to be the difference in a 3-2 Angels victory.

"We have a rivalry because of our head-to-head confrontations..."It always seems to come down to us two." -Doug DeCinces

The next night, closer Dan Quisenberry would uncharacteristically give up three ninth inning singles to give the Angels a walk-off 2-1 victory. The Angels would complete the sweep with and 8-5 win on Wednesday that included a bench-clearing incident after Angels slugger Reggie Jackson barrelled into Frank White on a force-out. Jackson would roll over on White's leg, injuring the All-Star second baseman and keeping him out of action for a week. Royals manager Dick Howser called the slide a cheap shot, saying "a player of Jackson's experience should have more poise than to try and break up what was only a force play in that manner."

Royals fans would let their anger with Jackson be known when the Angels returned to Kansas City with a 3.5 game lead the next week. Jackson, limited to pinch-hitting duties, had a beer cup thrown at him on the on-deck circle, nearly causing a row when Don Baylor rushed over to confront the fan. Jackson wasn't the only Angels player that had to dodge debris from Royals fan, as Rod Carew was also the subject of Royals fan's ire.

"They're crybabies," Carew added. "That's why they won't win it again. I hope we wrap it up right here. I'm so tired of all this that I'll get on the loudspeaker before the game tomorrow and let them know how I feel."

The Angels grabbed the first game in a 3-2 win, taking a commanding 4.5 game lead. The Royals took the next two games to stave off elimination, but the Angels would clinch a few days later in Texas.

1982 Final Standings W L GB
California Angels 93 69 --
Kansas City Royals 90 72 3

1984

The Royals were in a bit of a transition in 1984 with a very young pitching staff with rookies Mark Gubicza and Bret Saberhagen, and they were without George Brett due to injury and Willie Wilson due to drug suspension to begin the year. Kansas City slumped to an awful start, and were 40-51 as late as July 18. Fortunately, no team had run away with the division, and even though the Royals trailed the Angels by eight games, the race was not over.

The Royals won fifteen of their next twenty (no joke!) and climbed back in the race. By September 5 they had finally climbed back over .500 at 70-69, which actually tied them for the division lead with the Twins with the Angels one game back. The three teams were still battling it out when the Royals went to Anaheim for a four-game set on September 17. Reggie Jackson hit his 500th career home run in the first game, interrupting the match for several minutes with a ceremony and a speech from Jackson to commemorate the occasion, much to the ire of Royals players. The Royals shrugged it off and slugged three home runs of their own en route to a 10-1 laugher.

"We won the game and Reggie hit a solo home run. It couldn't be better," said Royals skipper Dick Howser.

The Royals destroyed the Angels again in Game Two, 10-0, to take a 2.5 game lead. The Angels accused the Royals of corking their bat, asking light-hitting Jorge Orta's bat removed for league inspection. When the Royals countered by asking for the bat of Angels outfielder Juan Beniquez, the Halos cried foul. It turned out neither bat was corked.

The Angels took the final two games of the set, but still trailed by 1.5 games when they traveled to Kansas City for a four-game set.

"We have a rivalry because of our head-to-head confrontations," Angel third baseman Doug DeCinces said. "It always seems to come down to us two."

The Royals swept a doubleheader to open the series behind two outstanding performances by rookies Bret Saberhagen and Danny Jackson. The Angels led 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th of the third game, when a walk and a steal by Willie Wilson led to a run when Dane Iorg singled him home. Iorg would prove to be the hero in the twelfth when he led off the inning with a double and scored on Steve Balboni's walk-off single.

The loss effectively ended the Angels chances, while the Royals still had to fend off the Twins for an improbably division title.

1984 Final Standings W L GB
Kansas City Royals 84 78 --
California Angels 81 81 3

1985

The young defending division-title winning Royals were now hungry for a championship, and the veteran California Angels were the team that stood in their way. The Royals had chased the Halos all year, but an eight game winning streak in September had seen the Royals surge to first. The Angels caught them on September 21, and for the next ten days, the two teams were either tied, or had one game between them. The Angels came to town September 30 for a four-game set with the Royals trailing by a game and reeling after a disappointing sweep at the hands of the Twins. A four-game sweep by the Angels would eliminate the Royals.

On a cold Monday night in front of 34,200 fans, Bret Saberhagen was masterful in a 3-1 Royals victory. Sabes would preview his October performance with a sensational outing, going the distance with ten strikeouts, including a whiff of future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson to end the game.

"Felt like the seventh game of the World Series to me," Kansas City Manager Dick Howser said. "I don't see how baseball gets much better than that. And I don't see how pitching can be much better than Saberhagen."

Charlie Leibrandt - who had been red-hot in the month of September, faltered on Tuesday as the Royals lost 4-2 to give the Angels back a one-game lead. Royals fans were nervous with the disappointing Bud Black taking the hill on Wednesday, but Black turned in the performance of his life, tossing a three-hit shutout, as George Brett's three-run home run was all the offense needed for a 4-0 Royals win.

With the two teams now tied, the Royals sent Danny Jackson to the hill against future Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton. The Royals would get on the board first with a first inning two-run home run by Frank White. Steve Balboni would add a solo shot in the fourth, and George Brett would add a blast in the fifth to make it 4-0 Royals. Meanwhile Danny Jackson sprinkled eleven hits, and tossed eight shutout innings before finally allowing a run in the ninth. Closer Dan Quisenberry shut things down for the 4-1 win, to give the Royals a one-game lead they would not relinquish en route to their first championship in franchise history.

1985 Final Standings W L GB
Kansas City Royals 91 71 --
California Angels 90 72 1

Will history be made tonight?