The Cleveland Indians had a remarkable run this month, winning an American League record 22 games in a row before they ran into a buzzsaw called the Kansas City Royals. It was the longest winning streak in the American League since the 2002 “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics won 20 in a row. But before they passed up the A’s, this year’s Indians had to pass another American League club with a long winning streak - the 16 game winning streak of the 1977 Kansas City Royals.
Everyone knew the ‘77 Royals would be a fearsome bunch. They were the defending Western Division title champs, having won 90 games the previous season, before falling to the Yankees with a gut-punching walk-off home run in the final game of the ALCS, the first post-season in franchise history. The Royals returned nearly the entire club from that season, and added two critical pieces in a big trade with the Brewers, acquiring catcher Darrell Porter and pitcher Jim Colborn. Porter would blossom into an All-Star in Kansas City, while Colborn would win 18 games that season.
The club was pretty mediocre to begin the season, hovering around .500 in late June. Then they went on a tear, winning 25 of 32 games from June 16 to July 22. They began August 5.5 games back of the White Sox, but went 20-11 that month to surge into first.
At a Royals game on August 30, a young woman known as “Morganna the Kissing Bandit” accosted George Brett on the field with her trademark kiss during a loss to the Rangers to drop them to 75-54. It would, perhaps, be the good luck kiss the Royals needed. The next night, the Royals defeated the Rangers 5-4. The Royals went on to sweep the Brewers in a four-game series, with Paul Splittorff nearly throwing a no-no.
The Royals easily swept the expansion Mariners in a four-game set in Seattle, smashing 12 home runs - five in one game. They swept the Twins in Minnesota, to give the Royals the longest winning streak in franchise history at 12 games.
Then the rains came. Kansas City was hit with a deluge of rain, with 16 inches of water flooding the Plaza in 24 hours, sending cars into Brush Creek, and costing 25 people their lives. Two Royals games were washed out, with the rain seemingly the only thing that could stop the red-hot Royals.
The Royals returned to action on September 14 by sweeping a doubleheader against the A’s. With another doubleheader the next day, the Royals outdid themselves. Al Cowens won the first game with a walk-off home run in extra innings, and Pete LaCock won the second game with a walk-off single. The Royals had a 16-game winning streak, the longest in baseball since 1953. It is still the 14th-longest winning streak in baseball since 1900.
Finally, on September 16, Doc Medich of the Seattle Mariners contained the Royals juggernaut in a 4-1 Mariners win to snap the streak. The Royals were now 91-55, 10.5 games up on the division. The Royals had outscored opponents 98-39 during the streak. They hit .304 as a team over the streak. Their pitchers had a 2.02 ERA over the streak, tossing three shutouts. Starters went the distance in half of the wins.
Splittorff gave up just four runs in four starts during the streak, going 3-0. George Brett, no surprise, hit .344/.403/.563. Al Cowens and Darrell Porter each smashed four home runs during the streak, part of a career-best season for Cowens, who finished second in MVP voting.
The loss to the lowly Mariners didn’t affect the Royals at all - they went on an eight game winning streak immediately after their loss. In all, they won 24 of 25 games. They won 35 of 39 in a stretch from August 17 to September 25.
Ultimately, the season would as the previous one had - a frustrating loss to the Yankees in the playoffs. But the 1977 Royals may have been the best regular season Royals club in franchise history. And for nearly two months, they were darn near unbeatable.