If you are looking for analysis, move along...nothing to see here. This is just a look into the Royals' once glorious past. A very small look at just one day in the life of seasons headed in the directions of that mirage we call the playoffs.
Short of burying yourself, not a lot of what happens in April gives us much indication of where a team is headed. Now, you combine April and May and the picture gets clearer, but that is for another day. That said, I thought it might be fun do see where the Royals teams of the past (the good ones, mind you) stood at the end of April and what their lineup was on May 1st.
The very first Kansas City team to reach the post-season, the 1976 squad stood at just 5-7 at the end of April (they played ONE game prior to April 13th) and were in 3rd place in the A.L. West, 2 1/2 games out of first.
On May 1st, they hosted the New York Yankees and won 4-1 as Steve Busby outdueled Ed Figueroa: both pitchers going the distance. Yes, boys and girls, starting pitchers used to play the entire game back in the good ole days. The lineup:
Jim Wohlford LF, Amos Otis CF, George Brett 3B, John Mayberry 1B, Hal McRae DH, Al Cowens RF, Bob Stinson C, Freddie Patek SS, Frank White 2B. That lineup had two doubles, three steals, three walks and zero strikeouts.
Starting with that May 1st victory, the 1976 team would win 16 of their next 19 games. They would ascend to first place on May 18th and never fall out of that spot the rest of the season on their way to a 90-72 record.
Denny Matthews will tell you that this was the best Royals team ever and they did finish 102-60, after all. On May 1st, they stood at 11-8 and were just a half game out of first.
Their opponent that day was the expansion Toronto Blue Jays, who the Royals smacked around 8-2 thanks to a three run first and a five run eighth. Larry Gura got the win, with Mark Littell getting the save (he entered the fray in the 8th with the score was just 3-1). The lineup:
George Brett 3B, Hal McRae DH, Tom Poquette LF, John Mayberry 1B, Darrell Porter C, Amos Otis CF, Al Cowens RF, Freddie Patek SS, Frank White 2B. That group combined for five doubles, a steal, three walks and ONE strikeout.
This team would actually play pretty poorly for much of the early season and was below .500 as late as June 20th. They would then put together win streaks of 8, 5, 10, 16 and 8 to win the division by eight games.
On their way to winning 92 games, the 1978 Royals streaked out of the gate with a 14-5 April showing which included winning 11 of their first 13 games. Still, that was good for only second place in the West.
On May 1st, they dropped what would be the first of five straight games: this one to the Yankees by an 8-4 score. Paul Splittorff, Doug Bird and Steve Mingori combined to give up four runs in the seventh to let the game slip away. Rawly Eastwick got the win in relief for New York. The lineup:
Willie Wilson CF, Tom Poquette LF, Hal McRae DH, Al Cowens RF, Darrell Porter C, Clint Hurdle 1B, Jerry Terrell 3B, Freddie Patek SS, Frank White 2B (Amos Otis had the day off and George Brett was injured, by the way).
The first Royals team to reach the World Series, the 97 win 1980 Royals finished April 10-8 and two games out of first place. They would reach first place on May 23rd and never give up. At one point, this team was up TWENTY games, eventually winning the division by a cool 14 game margin.
They did not play on May 1st, but took on Boston on the 2nd day of May and lost 6-5 in 11 innings. Rich Gale pitched the first seven innings of the game, with Dan Quisenberry pitching the last FOUR and taking the loss. Quiz, by the way, would pitch another two innings just two days later. Anyway, the lineup:
Willie Wilson CF, Frank White 2B, Hal McRae DH, Willie Aikens 1B, John Wathan C, Jamie Quirk 3B, Pete LaCock LF, Clint Hurdle RF, U.L. Washington SS.
This game marked the first appearance of the year by Darrell Porter (he pinch hit for Washington) and, once again, George Brett was out with an injury and hitting just .259 (on his way to .390).
It was a stupid strike year and half the teams seemed to make the playoffs, excepting the one that had the best overall record or something like that. It was the strike year, who cared? The Royals finished fifth with a 20-30 record in the 'first half', but finished first in the 'second half' to make the playoffs. Jim Frey was replaced by Dick Howser as manager with 33 games left in the season.
The Royals were a miserable 3-10 that April, but did pick up a 4-0 win on May 1st over the Texas Rangers behind Larry Gura's complete game six-hitter. The lineup:
Willie Wilson LF, Hal McRae DH, George Brett 3B, Willie Aikens 1B, Amos Otis CF, John Wathan C, Frank White 2B, Cesar Geronimo RF, U.L. Washington SS. Brett had four hits, Aikens three walks (two intentional) and Otis had two walks and two hits. This game featured an appearance by outfielder Danny Garcia, who I have zero recollection of. Absolutely none.
The 1984 Kansas City squad only won 84 games, but that was enough to win the A.L. West and earn the right to be obliterated by the juggernaut that was the 84 Tigers. The Royals were only 8-11 at the end of April, but they won 3-0 over Milwaukee on May 1st.
Larry Gura threw eight plus shutout innings, with Dan Quisenberry getting the last two outs of the game. That Brewers team featured an infield of Sundberg, Simmons, Gantner, Yount and Molitor, which is a pretty decent set of names. The Royals' lineup that day:
Darryl Motley LF, Pat Sheridan CF, Jorge Orta RF, Hal McRae DH, Frank White 2B, Steve Balboni 1B, Don Slaught C, Greg Pryor 3B, U.L. Washington SS. The team started the season with Willie Wilson serving a drug suspension and he would not play until May 15th. Brett and McRae each barely cracked the 100 games played mark.
The fun part of this team was, of course, three young pitchers named Saberhagen, Gubicza and Jackson - heck, even Bud Black was just 27 that year.
Who knew that the Royals' one World Championship would also be the last post-season appearance for 29 years (or more)? This 91 win team was 11-8 at the end of April, two games out of first place. Like the 1984 version, they would not sniff first place until September (well, except for one lonely day in May).
On May 1st, this squad lost to Cleveland 6-5, the first of five straight defeats. Mark Gubicza had a rough outing that featured four walks and two wild pitches. The lineup that day:
Willie Wilson CF, Pat Sheridan RF, George Brett 3B, Jorge Orta DH, Steve Balboni 1B, Frank White 2B, Darryl Motley LF, Jim Sundberg C, Buddy Biancalana SS. The Royals had two sacrifice flies and a sac bunt - by the DH - and used three pinch hitters. They also committed three errors (two by Biancalana and one by White).
And no, there is no real excuse for the last entry of this little trip down memory lane being freaking 1985.