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In memoriam: the Royals we lost in 2021

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Rest in peace.

George Brett - Kansas City Royals

Note: some of these excerpts are reprinted from an article from earlier this year.

The end of the year gives us a chance to reflect and remember those that we lost throughout the year. In the baseball world, we lost home run champ Henry Aaron. We also lost former Yankees infielder and American League President Bobby Brown, beloved Red Sox player and broadcaster Jerry Remy, Cy Young-winning reliever Mike Marshall, fireballing two-time strikeout leader J.R. Richard, All-Star pitcher Mudcat Grant, Hall of Famer Don Sutton, Cy Young winner LaMarr Hoyt, and other notable names such as Bill Freehan, Ray Fosse, Del Crandall, Joe Cunningham, Bill Virdon, Rennie Stennett, Julio Lugo, Doug Jones, Stan Williams, and Dick Tidrow.

Unfortunately, we also lost a few members of the Royals family. Let’s look back at their careers and celebrate their achievements.

Joe Beckwith

Thomas Joseph Beckwith was born in Opelika, Alabama, and was a standout at Auburn High School. He tossed a perfect game in the playoffs and led his team to the state championship series.

He attended nearby Auburn University and became one of the most acclaimed pitchers in school history. He tossed a no-hitter his junior year and helped lead the Tigers to a College World Series in 1976. He turned down the Cleveland Indians to return to Auburn for his senior year, and became a second-round pick by the Dodgers in 1977.

The right-hander skipped A ball and went straight to Double-A, posting a 3.35 ERA in 12 starts for San Antonio. By 1979, he was in the big leagues with the Dodgers at age 24. In 1980, he posted a career-best 1.96 ERA in 59 2/3 innings. But his career was derailed in the spring training of 1981. When tossing batting practice without a screen, Beckwith jerked his head to avoid a line drive. He began experiencing double vision after that, a condition that caused him to miss the entire season.

After two surgeries, Beckwith returned to serve as an effective reliever for the Dodgers the next two seasons, getting his first taste of post-season action in 1983 against the Phillies in the NLCS. The Royals liked his arm, and sent three minor leaguers to the Dodgers in exchange for Beckwith after the 1983 season. The Royals were hoping to convert him back to a starter, but when they had a crop of young starters emerge in 1984, Beckwith was back in the pen as a trusted reliever.

George Brett - Kansas City Royals

Beckwith pitched in 100 2⁄3 innings in 1984 with a 3.40 ERA and his 1.4 WAR were in the top 20 of all American League relievers that year. He made 98 relief appearances between 1984 and 1985 with the Royals, second on the club only to Dan Quisenberry. In the 1985 World Series, the Royals used only two relievers the entire series - Quiz and Beckwith. He pitched two shutout innings with three strikeouts in Game Four, and won his only title with the Royals that year.

The Royals let him go after the season and after he failed to make the Toronto Blue Jays’ roster in spring training, he signed on with the Dodgers for 18 1⁄3 innings before ending his career. He continued to coach youth baseball back in his home state of Alabama and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. Auburn celebrated Joe Beckwith Day this spring, with the Auburn pitching great returning despite battling colon cancer. Sadly, he finally succumbed to cancer in May at the age of 66.

Cloyd Boyer

If there was a family that best represented baseball in Missouri, it might be the Boyers. The family lived near Carthage in Jasper County in the southwest corner of Missouri. Cloyd grew up one of 14 children, and he was one of six to go on to play professional baseball, with younger brothers Ken and Clete eventually joining him in the big leagues.

Cloyd signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, and after a short stint in the Navy, he rose through the system and was in the big leagues by age 21. He pitched three full seasons with St. Louis, but was plagued with a sore arm and was selected by the Kansas City Athletics in the 1954 Rule 5 draft. He pitched just one season in Kansas City and struggled with a 6.22 ERA. He bounced around the minors for a few seasons before getting into coaching.

After serving as a minor league manager for a decade, Boyer was named pitching coach of the Yankees in 1975. He was replaced in 1976 when Billy Martin took over, but returned in 1977 to help coach the World Champions. He spent three seasons as the Braves pitching coach before joining the Royals in 1982. He oversaw an older staff of veterans like Larry Gura, Vida Blue, Paul Splittorff, Steve Renko, and 44-year old spitballer Gaylord Perry.

Boyer continued coaching in the minors until his retirement in 1992. He died in September at the age of 92, survived by his wife of 72 years, Nadine.

Adrian Garrett

Henry Adrian “Smokey” Garrett, Jr. grew up near Sarasota, Florida, one of three sons in his family to play professional baseball, one of them being Mets infielder Wayne Garrett. Adrian signed with the Braves out of high school in 1961 and established himself as a power-hitting first baseman. He made the Braves Opening Day roster in 1966, but went hitless in four games before being sent down.

Garrett would become a power-hitting AAA player, but found MLB opportunities brief. He played in three games for the Cubs in 1970, then went to the A’s organization where he erupted for 43 home runs for Triple-A Tacoma in 1971. Despite that, he would appear in just 28 games over the next two seasons with the A’s. He went back to the Cubs in 1973, and in 1975 they sold him to the Angels where he received his longest look in the big leagues, hitting .234/.310/.438 with 7 home runs in 146 plate appearances.

After little big league action again in 1976 with California, Garrett looked to go even further west - to Japan. He signed with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and hit 15 home runs in his first month, tying a record set by the great Sadaharu Oh. He was an All-Star his first season and smacked 35 home runs. He would stay with Hiroshima for three seasons, clobbering 102 home runs.

Garrett joined the White Sox organization in 1982 as a minor league coach, and moved to the Royals in 1987 after befriending farm director John Boles. He became the hitting instructor for Triple-A Omaha in 1987, and joined the big league club as a third base coach in 1988. He took on hitting coach duties as well in 1991, and stayed on after manager John Wathan was fired that May and replaced with Hal McRae.

After the 1992 season, the Royals let him go, but he was quickly hired by Boles who was then with the expansion Florida Marlins. He would coach in the minors until 2002, when he moved on to the Reds organization.

Adrian Garrett died in April at the age of 78 due to pneumonia.

Grant Jackson

Grant Dwight Jackson grew up in Fostoria in northwest Ohio, the fourth of nine kids. Fostoria happened to be the hometown of legendary scout Tony Lucadello, who discovered numerous players for the Phillies over the year, including Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. He signed with Philadelphia for $1,500, despite the Braves offering him $35,000 two days later.

Jackson would be in the big leagues by 1965, and by 1969 he was an All-Star, winning 14 games with 253 innings pitched. The Phillies shipped him to the defending World Champion Baltimore Orioles for the 1971 season where he reinvented himself as a reliever. The Orioles returned to the World Series that fall, with Jackson appearing in one game as Baltimore fell to Pittsburgh. He posted a 2.67 ERA in his first five seasons out of the Orioles pen, but was shipped to the Yankees in a huge ten-player deal in 1976.

Jackson pitched against the Royals in the 1976 ALCS, giving up the huge three-run home run to George Brett in the eighth inning of the pivotal Game 5. The Yankees would end up victorious, however, and Jackson would earn his first ring, appearing in one game of the World Series against the Reds.

The Seattle Mariners selected him in the expansion draft that winter, but shipped him to Pittsburgh just weeks later. By 1979 the Pirates were back in the World Series, and Jackson earned his second ring with the “We Are Family” Pirates by pitching some huge innings in the deciding Game Seven.

Pirates v Orioles

The Pirates sent Jackson to the Expos for cash considerations in 1981, and the following spring training, Montreal traded him to the Royals for first base prospect Ken Phelps. It proved to be a lackluster deal for Kansas City, as the 39-year old veteran couldn’t strike hitters out anymore, posting a 5.17 ERA in 20 games before being released mid-summer, while Phelps went on to become a decent slugger (and a Seinfeld punchline)

Jackson would retire after the season after 692 games pitched and a 3.46 ERA. He would spend the next two decades coaching in the minors, with occasional stints on MLB coaching staffs with Pirates and Reds.

“If someone asks me what my stats were, I tell them to talk to my wife. She knows all of that stuff much better than I do. All I know is, I signed my contract in 1962 and I retired in 2002. I had a lot of fun in between and it was all because of baseball.”

Grant Jackson died in February at the age of 78 from complications from COVID-19.

Ron Johnson

Ronald David Johnson grew up in Southern California, attending Garden Grove High School and attending junior college at nearby Fullerton College. He stood out on both the football gridiron as an offensive lineman and on the baseball field a catcher who could hit tape-measure home runs. He turned down a chance to sign with the Angels to attend Fresno State where he was named conference MVP and an All-American.

The Royals selected him in the 24th round of the 1978 draft as a first baseman, but he struggled to hit for much power in his first two seasons with just 11 home runs in 176 games. But he rediscovered his stroke in 1980 in Double-A Jacksonville, smacking 23 home runs with 104 RBI and a line of .270/.365/.482.

Johnson struggled in 1981 with a shoulder injury in Omaha, but rebounded to hit .336/.405/.470 with 11 home runs in 137 games for them in 1982, earning a cup of coffee with the Royals. He made his first start in his native Southern California against the Angels, with his father and wife in the stands.

“My dad [John] was more shocked than anybody,” Johnson said. “They thought he was going to have a heart attack — the big one. My wife was there and she had to run get him a beer,”

Johnson made the Opening Day roster in 1983 as a third-string catcher and bench bat, but didn’t see any action for seven weeks before being sent back down. He returned in September, but appeared in just nine games. That December, the Royals traded him to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Tom Dixon. He played five games for the Expos, but never again appeared in the big leagues, and was out of baseball by 1985.

The Royals called him in 1987 about working as a coach, and he began working as an instructor before earning a gig as a manager in the Florida State League in 1992. He would rise through the organization, eventually reaching Triple-A Omaha, and managed players like Johnny Damon, Bob Hamelin, Joe Randa, Jon Lieber, Mark Quinn, and Mike Sweeney. He would move on to the Red Sox organization in 2000 and eventually served as first base coach for manager Terry Francona in 2010. He would also manage in the Orioles organization until 2018. Upon his retirement, he had 1,752 career minor league wins as a manager.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs Boston Red Sox - September 20, 2005 Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

Johnson’s son Chris would also play in the big leagues, spending eight seasons as a third baseman for the Astros, Diamondbacks, Braves, Indians, and Marlins. Ron Johnson died on January 26 at the age of 64 due to complications from COVID-19.

Richie Scheinblum

Richard Alan Scheinblum was born in New York City and attended Long Island University where he played baseball, basketball, and track and field. The Cleveland Indians signed him in 1964 at the age of 21 as a switch-hitting outfielder, and by the end of ‘65 he was in the big leagues for a cup of coffee.

“My first season in the minors [in Burlington, N.C.], my roommate said, ‘Would you mind if I touch you?’ Then he phones his parents and said, ‘They don’t have hair all over their body.’ He’d never seen a Jew before,” Scheinblum said.

Scheinblum shuttled between Cleveland and the minors over the next few seasons, surviving a harrowing experience in winter ball in Nicaragua. He stuck in the big leagues in 1969, spending a year as a fourth outfielder for the Indians. The Washington Senators purchased him in 1970, and he was back in the minors, hitting .388 with 25 home runs for Triple-A Denver. There was a knock on him that he was a slow starter. Later, it was discovered that he was unusually sensitive to cold weather, perhaps the cause of his poor hitting in the early months.

Really, all Scheinblum needed was an opportunity. The Royals gave him that opportunity when they purchased him after the 1971 season.

“We know that Richie did not hit too well in previous major league trials, but he is coming off a phenomenal year and we feel this is a good gamble. He may be maturing as a hitter and we’ll give him every opportunity to win a job. His arm is strong enough for right field, a position that right now certainly is up for grabs.”

-Royals General Manager Cedric Tallis

Scheinblum had a bench role the first month, but in May, the Royals shipped outfielder Bob Oliver to the Angels and made Scheinblum the starter. Once the weather warmed up, Scheinblum turned it on, hitting .386 in the month of June. By mid-season, he was leading the American League in batting average and was one of five Royals named to the All-Star team.

Denver Post Archives Denver Post via Getty Images

Scheinblum did not have big-time power, but this was an era where his eight home runs were good enough for fifth on the club. Although he had a strong arm, Scheinblum was considered a bit of a defensive liability.

“Amos [Otis] covered everything. I was told to stand on the right field line and don’t move. Lou [Piniella] was told to stand on the left-field line and don’t move. What our job was, when the ball was hit, we’d point.”

What he did provide was a high-contact approach that led to a high batting average. He had a chance to win a batting title, going into late August virtually tied with A’s outfielder Joe Rudi, an amazing turn of events for a guy that was grinding as a journeyman in Triple-A the previous season.

“Anybody would like to win it, but it does not matter if you hit .395 and your club doesn’t win ball games.”

A September swoon due to a foot injury would put him at exactly .300, good for sixth-best in the league. His .383 on-base percentage was fifth-best in the league and he struck out just 40 times in 520 plate appearances.

The Royals were moving into a new artificial turf field for 1973, and needed more speed in their outfield. Despite his breakout season, Scheinblum was traded with pitcher Roger Nelson to the Reds for pitcher Wayne Simpson and an oft-injured reserve outfielder named Hal McRae. McRae would become one of the greatest designated hitters of all-time and a clubhouse leader for several Royals post-season clubs.

Scheinblum would spend just 29 games with the Reds before they traded him to the Angels. In 1974, the Royals re-acquired him in exchange for veteran third baseman Paul Schaal, to make room for young star George Brett. Scheinblum would spend 36 games with the Royals that year, hitting .181. They sold him to St. Louis the next year, where he played in just six games. The journeyman continued his journey to the east - Far East. He spent the next two seasons playing for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, winning a title.

In 1976, Scheinblum tore his Achilles, effectively ending his career at age 33. He ran a successful jewelry business in California and his son Monty became a golf pro. His family announced he had died on May 10 at the age of 78.

Kansas City Athletics that passed away in 2021

We also lost a number of Kansas City Athletics in 2021. Here are their stories.

Tom Carroll - He was the second-youngest player ever to appear in a World Series when he pinch-ran for the Yankees in the 1955 Fall Classic at age 19. Towering at shortstop at 6’3’’, the New York native was the heir apparent for Phil Rizzuto, but never returned to the Yankees after his required two-year stint as a “Bonus Baby” and he was traded to the A’s in 1959 with Russ Snyder for Mike Baxes and Bob Martyn. He appeared in 14 games in Kansas City, going 1-for-7. He would later go on to a 27-year career in the CIA. He died in September less than a week after his 85th birthday.

Art Ditmar - After a tryout for the legendary Connie Mack, Ditmar signed with the Philadelphia A’s out of high school in Pennsylvania. Two years in the military during the Korean War interrupted his career, but he was in the big leagues at age 25 for the last year the A’s would play in Philly before their move to Kansas City. He won 24 games for the A’s in his first two full seasons, but also led the league in losses in 1956. Still, a lot of teams saw potential in him, and he was a coveted trade asset that winter. The A’s had a cozy relationship with the Yankees at the time, and Ditmar was shipped to the Bronx with former MVP Bobby Shantz in a massive 12-player deal that netted the A’s - well, not much.

Ditmar would serve as a valuable swingman for the Yankees the next four seasons, pitching in three World Series, and winning a championship in 1958. He won 15 games in 1960 and started Game One of the World Series, but he struggled the next spring, and was shipped back to Kansas City with Deron Johnson for Bud Daley. After failing to make the team in 1963, he decided to retire. Following his career, he coached college sports teams and became the director of parks and recreation for the city of Brook Park, Ohio. He died in June at the age of 92.

Chuck Dobson - The Kansas City native and three-sport standout at De La Salle High School originally attended the University of Kansas to play football. But a back injury before he stepped foot on campus ensured he would never play on the gridiron, and instead he played on the freshman basketball team and for the baseball team. Hed led the Big 8 in strikeouts and was selected to play on Team USA in the Olympics. He signed with his hometown Kansas City A’s and was quickly in their big league rotation, winning 10 or more games in five consecutive seasons.

He was known as one of the first white players to share a room with an African-American roommate on the road, and also one of the first to openly admit the use of amphetamines. The right-hander battled elbow pain much of his career, eventually getting surgery that never quite left him the same. In nine seasons, he won 74 games with the A’s and Angels. After his playing career he coached, become involved in television, eventually serving as sports director of KMOX-FM in St. Louis, and ended his career as an addiction counselor after his own struggles with alcoholism. He died in September at the age of 77.

Johnny Groth - Groth was from Chicago before joining the Navy during World War II. He played on a baseball team with some big leaguers and held his own as an 18-year old, catching the eye of Bob Feller, who ran the baseball events. The Detroit Tigers won a bidding war for his services, and by 1949 he was their regular centerfielder, hitting two home runs on Opening Day and getting off a torrid start that whipped up tremendous hype for the 22-year old, with some calling him the “another Joe DiMaggio.”

Groth hit .293 with 11 home runs and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting, then hit .306 the next season. But his power never really developed and despite being a very solid player, he drew criticism for not living up to unrealistic expectations. The Tigers shipped him to the St. Louis Browns in 1953, and he would bounce around from the White Sox and Senators before the A’s purchased him in 1956. Still just 29, he was a part-timer at that point, and the next summer they shipped him back to Detroit. Groth would play 15 years in the big leagues, with 1,064 hits and a .279 batting average. He served as a scout for 27 years until retiring in 1990. He died in August at the age of 95.

Lew Krausse - Krausse was the son of a former big league pitcher of the same name who served as a coach with the A’s. He signed with dad’s team and went from high school to the big leagues in three weeks, tossing a three-hit complete game shutout against the Angels in his big league debut in 1961. He pitched in the minors the next two seasons, and had some struggles in his return, but by 1966 he won 14 games with a 2.99 ERA as a swingman.

Krausse shuttled between the rotation and bullpen the next few years, winning 42 games with the A’s in seven seasons. He was traded to the Seattle Pliots in 1970 (who became the Milwaukee Brewers just months later) with Mike Hershberger, Phil Roof and Ken Sanders for Ron Clark and Don Mincher. He would finish his career with the Red Sox, Cardinals, and Braves before retiring after the 1975 season with 68 career wins. He would work as a metal salesman in Kansas City before starting his own business, which he ran until they sold it in 1997. He died in February from complications from cancer at the age of 77.

Tommy Lasorda - Before he became the ever-optimistic manager of the Dodgers and pitchman for SlimFast, Lasorda was a Pennsylvania kid signing with his hometown Phillies. He served two years in the military, then returned to the minors and attracted the attention of scouts when he struck out 25 hitters in one game and topping it off with a home run. The Brooklyn Dodgers selected the young left-hander in the minor league draft and he reached the big leagues with them in 1954. He would only get into eight games with the Dodgers over two seasons before the Kansas City A’s purchased him for the 1956 season. He struggled with his command and in 18 games with Kansas City posted a 6.15 ERA. He spent the next three years in the minors before hanging up his cleats and beginning the career that would eventually get him into the Hall of Fame - coaching.

Lasorda became a minor league manager in the Dodgers organization and won at every level. By 1977 he was the skipper of the Major League club, winning 98 games and a pennant in his first year as the full-time manager. He would manage for 22 seasons, winning 1,599 games, four pennants, and two championships. He died in January with heart issues at the age of 93.

Eddie Robinson - After growing up in Texas, Robinson signed with the Cleveland Indians, but lost three seasons of his career to service in the Navy during World War II. A leg operation jeopardized his career, but he returned in 1946 and was in the big leagues by 1947, serving as Cleveland’s regular first baseman. He clashed with manager Lou Boudreau and was traded to Washington after the 1948 season with two other players for pitcher Early Wynn and first baseman Mickey Vernon. He became an All-Star with the Senators, but they would deal him to the White Sox in 1950 in a six-player trade.

Robinson would have two All-Star seasons in Chicago, hitting a career-high 29 home runs in 1951. They traded him to the Philadelphia A’s in 1953 in a five-player deal for Ferris Fain, but he enjoyed another All-Star season with 22 home runs and 102 RBI. Despite that, he was traded to the Yankees in an 11-player deal, but returned to the A’s - now in Kansas City - for the 1956 season. Robinson was 35 years old by then, and hit just .198 in 75 games for KC. Shortly after that he got into coaching and scouting, but moved to the front office with the new franchise in Houston. He became general manager of the Atlanta Braves in 1972, then moved on to run the Texas Rangers in 1976. He would work with MLB teams in several scouting and front office capacities until his retirement in 2004. He had been the oldest living former big leaguer, spending 65 years in pro baseball until he died in October at the age of 100.

Tim Talton - The left-handed hitting catcher signed with the Giants out of high school in North Carolina. He would have won a batting title in his first full season had he qualified, and was a Texas League All-Star the next season. His career stalled in Triple-A, and the Giants had a crowded catching situation, so Talton was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in 1965. He spent all season in the minors and nearly quit the game of baseball, refusing to even report to spring training the next season. But by May, the A’s came calling with a chance to play and he reported to Double-A. He was called up that summer to make his Major League debut and made the most of his opportunity, hitting .340 in 55 plate appearances as a pinch-hitting specialist.

He spent all of 1967 on the roster as their top pinch hitter, but slumped to hit just .254 in 68 plate appearances. He would spend two more years in the minors before retiring to North Carolina to work for Keebler Cookie. He died in July at the age of 82.

Wayne Terwilliger - The Michigan native saw action in the Pacific during World War II as a Marine, but when he had down time, played baseball and was selected to play on an all-star team in Guam. After the war, he played ball at Western Michigan and signed with the Cubs. He was in the big leagues by 1949, and became the starting second baseman the next year.

His numbers slumped in 1951 however, and he was shipped to the Brooklyn Dodgers in an eight-player deal. He found playing time hard to get behind future Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, and bounced around to the Washington Senators, then the New York Giants. In 1959, the Kansas City A’s selected the 34-year old infielder in the Rule 5 draft, and he hit .267/.335/.361 in 74 games. A back injury would keep him in the minors most of the next year, and he decided to get into coaching. He would join a big league staff in 1969 under Ted Williams with the Senators. After a few years of minor league managing, he would join the Rangers coaching staff, before moving on to the Twins, where he won two championships under manager Tom Kelly. In all, Terwilliger would spend 62 years in professional baseball. Even at age 88, he got bored and got a job bagging groceries. He died in February at the age of 95.