Ewing Kaufman and Cedric Tallis
When looking at the names in the Royals’ Hall of Fame, it’s impossible to argue with any of them. There are great players and executives whose careers were defined by excellence. One name, however, is missing. That of Cedric Tallis. Tallis was the Royals’ first General Manager, coming to Kansas City in 1968 and serving in that capacity until being replace by Joe Burke in June of 1974.
During his time in Kansas City, Tallis built a model organization from scratch and assembled a management team that included future General Managers John Schuerholz, Lou Gorman, Syd Thrift, Jack McKeon and Herk Robinson. He supervised the founding and operation of the Royals Baseball Academy and built a strong farm system. Among the draft choices he made for the Royals were Paul Splittorff (1968); Al Cowens and Doug Bird (1969); George Brett, Steve Busby and Mark Littell (1971); Dennis Leonard (1972); Ruppert Jones (1973) and Willie Wilson in 1974. He also signed Frank White as an amateur free agent in 1970. During the 1968 expansion draft, he astutely went for younger players while the Seattle Pilots leaned heavier on older veterans.
In 1971, under Tallis’ guidance, the Royals posted the fourth-best record in the American League, in only their third season, going 85-76 to finish second in the American League West to the budding dynasty of the Oakland Athletics. This earned Tallis the Executive of the Year from the Sporting News.
Tallis’ draft record was terrific, but he really made his bones as a trader. He orchestrated a series of deals from 1969 to 1973 that can best be described as highway robbery. In chronological order:
12/12/1968 Traded Hoyt Wilhelm to California for Ed Kirkpatrick and Dennis Paepke
04/01/1969 Traded Steve Whitaker and John Gelnar to Seattle for Lou Piniella
12/03/1969 Traded Joe Foy to the New York Mets for Amos Otis and Bob Johnson
12/02/1970 Traded Bob Johnson, Jackie Hernandez and Jim Campanis to Pittsburgh for Fred Patek, Bruce Dal Canton and Jerry May
06/13/1970 Traded Fred Rico to St. Louis for Cookie Rojas
12/02/1971 Traded Jim York and Lance Clemons to Houston for John Mayberry
11/30/1972 Traded Roger Nelson and Richie Scheinblum to Cincinnati for Hal McRae and Wayne Simpson
In fact, Tallis’ only bad trade was his last one, shipping Lou Piniella to the Yankees for an aging Lindy McDaniel. Piniella went on to play 11 more productive seasons in New York.
Of the 17 players enshrined in the Royals’ Hall of Fame, Tallis was responsible for drafting, signing or trading for 11 of them.
After being forced out of Kansas City, Tallis landed with the Yankee’s as assistant GM. He took over General Manger duties in 1978. During his tenure, the Yankees won the World Series in 1977 and 1978. Tallis left New York in 1983 to become the Executive Director of The Tampa Bay Baseball Group. He remained in that capacity until suffering a fatal heart attack, May 8, 1991. Tallis was 76.
To this day, I’ve never read a good explanation of why Tallis was fired in Kansas City or why he is not in the Royals’ Hall of Fame. There have been many rumors over the years, the most persistent being that Tallis had some disagreement with Ewing Kaufman and that Kaufman left explicit instructions to never let Tallis be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Mark Armour wrote a terrific piece in 2015 making the case that Tallis was one of the top 25 MLB General Managers of all time. I would agree with him. Tallis’ body of work in Kansas City is, in my opinion, superior to any other GM the Royals have employed. The fact that Tallis is not in the Royals’ Hall of Fame is a grave injustice that the Royals should address.