On April 10, 1973, Royals Stadium hosted its first MLB game, a 12-1 win over the Texas Rangers. Since then, the stadium has undergone a name change to honor team founder Ewing Kauffman, hosted two All-Star Games, and 15 post-season series including four World Series. Over the last 50 years, the Royals have won 2,032 games at Kauffman Stadium (losing 1,903 for a .516 winning percentage), scoring 18,072 runs. Fans have seen a combined 6,391 home runs hit at the stadium by the Royals and their opponents (the Royals have been out-homered 3,487 to 2,831).
My first game was a 1988 game against the Orioles, and over the years I’ve been to hundreds of games with family and friends - my father, my mother, my kids, and my wife, my best friends, and even some of you. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, I wanted to look back and list the top 50 moments in Kauffman Stadium history. I’m sure I forgot some good ones, so let me know the best memories I omitted, or your favorite personal memories. You can also check out Darin Watson’s countdown of top Kauffman Stadium moments at UL’s Toothpick.
50. John Mayberry hits the first home run in Royals Stadium
John Mayberry was one of the most prolific sluggers in Royals history, and he not only hit the last home run at Municipal Stadium, but he hit the first home run at Royals Stadium in the 12-1 win over Texas.
49. Ken Harvey walk-off against the Tigers in 2003
The 2003 Royals got off to a crazy good start, and the fans came out in droves for a near-sellout on April 18 against the Tigers. The game was knotted at 3-3 going into the eleventh, but Ken Harvey sent the raucous crowd home happy with a walk-off home run to keep the good times going.
48. Nolan Ryan no-hits the Royals in 1973
The first of Nolan Ryan’s record seven-no hitters came in Kansas City against the Royals on May 15, 1973. The Ryan Express struck out 12 and walked 3, needing 132 pitches to accomplish the feat while pitching for the Angels.
47. Kevin Seitzer goes 6-for-6
It was a scorching hot August day when Kevin Seitzer had the game of his life. The rookie sensation finished with six hits, including two home runs and seven RBI and four runs scored in a 13-5 win over Boston.
46. Brian McRae goes after Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy
Usually when batters are mad after getting plunked, they charge the mound. Royals outfielder Brian McRae went after the real instigator - Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy. After his hitters were plunked a few times in a July 1993 game against the Royals, Kennedy was upset. “We’ll take care of it. We can take care of ourselves,” he told reporters. The next night, Ken Patterson hit McRae, sending him on a mad dash to the Rangers dugout where he was restrained before he could get to Kennedy.
45. Chip Ambres drops the ball, extends the losing streak
The Royals probably hit rock bottom as a franchise in 2005 after manager Tony Peña resigned in embarrassing fashion. The Royals had a 10-game losing streak in late July and August and were coming off a 16-1 drubbing to the A’s when they carried a 7-2 lead into the ninth against Cleveland. Closer Mike MacDougal wobbled, but it appeared he had the last out when Jeff Liefer lofted a fly ball to left. Only Chip Ambres dropped it, the floodgates opened, and the Indians won 13-7, extending the losing streak to what would eventually be a club-record 19 games in a row.
44. Runelvys Hernández shuts out White Sox to begin 9-0 start
Royals manager Tony Peña literally determined his 2003 Opening Day starter by flipping a coin, but it turned out Runelvys Hernández was the right choice. The young right-handed tossed six shutout innings, then Jason Grimsley and Mike MacDougal secured the 3-0 victory, kicking off a nine-game winning streak to begin the year.
43. Ken Harvey collides with Jason Grimsley
Ken Harvey was not known for being light on his feet, once toppling over the tarp chasing a foul ball. Pitcher Jason Grimsley found that out the hard way when the two went to field a weak grounder hit by Cesar Crespo in a July 2004 game against Boston. Harvey picked it up and tried to throw home, but Grimsley was in his way and the two had a spectacular collision. Fortunately everyone turned out okay.
42. Jim Colborn tosses a no-hitter against the Rangers in 1977
Colborn was acquired from the Brewers in a big trade, and was solid for the division-winning Royals that year. He won 18 games and tossed a no-hitter on May 14 against the Rangers, allowing just one walk and one hit batsman.
41. Mark Quinn walks
Mark Quinn loved to hit. He did not love to walk. The rookie showed promise, but never saw a pitch he didn’t like, going 244 consecutive plate appearances without an unintentional walk. He finally drew ball four on August 30, 2001 against Angels starter Jarrod Washburn, with the Royals setting off fireworks in a bit of humor.
40. Bobby Witt Jr. first hit is Opening Day game-winner
Expectations were high for Bobby Witt Jr., and on Opening Day of 2022 he lived up to fan expectations. The rookie laced a double to left for his first hit, the game-winner against Cleveland.
39. Johnny Bench 480-foot blast in 1973 All-Star Game
Royals Stadium hosted the All-Star Game in its inaugural season, bringing National League stars like Willie Mays - who was appearing in his last All-Star Game - to Kansas City. The NL squad was full of Cincinnati Reds, like catcher Johnny Bench, who drilled this blast off Bill Singer that cleared all the seats in left, believed to be 480 feet and one of the longest home runs in stadium history.
38. Royals/Angels brawl in 1998
The Royals and Angels erupted into a bench-clearing brawl that included Royals shortstop Felix Martinez sucker-punching an Angels player. Jeff Conine later explained that the incident happened because of a misunderstanding by Royals pitcher Jim Pittsley, who tried to retaliate for a Royals batter being hit not knowing the Royals had already done so.
37. Jarrod Dyson celebrates win with a backflip
The Royals went from pretender to contender in the blink of an eye in 2014. When the team got rolling, Jarrod Dyson celebrated their hot streak after an August 11 victory over Oakland with a backflip in the outfield.
36. Carlos Beltrán makes an amazing catch against the Mariners in 2003
The 2003 Royals were a surprise contender, and by late July they were still in first place when the Mariners came to town. Before a packed crowd, Carlos Beltrán showed why he was one of the best defensive outfielder in the game, drifting back and robbing Dan Wilson of a home run to preserve a 5-1 win.
35. Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar say goodbye
Royals fans knew they would all leave eventually, but it was still sad day on October 1, 2017 when Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas all saluted the fans and walked off the field together. Moustakas and Escobar would actually return for one more year, but Hosmer would depart for San Diego while Cain would sign with the Brewers.
34. Mike Sweeney takes on Jeff Weaver
Mike Sweeney’s devotion to religion was sometimes erroneously mistaken for passivity, but he showed that was a mistake when he charged Tigers pitcher Jeff Weaver in 2001. Sweeney had asked Weaver to move the rosin bag from the mound, and when Weaver responded with some insults, Sweeney erupted.
33. Bret Saberhagen tosses a no-hitter against the White Sox in 1991
The two-time Cy Young Award winner tossed the most recent no-hitter in club history, blanking Chicago on August 26, 1991. The no-no was almost broken up by a misplay by left fielder Kirk Gibson, but the Dan Pasqua liner was ruled an error.
32. Aikens homers twice in World Series against the Phillies
The Royals’ first trip to the World Series was a close series against the Phillies, and it was Willie Aikens who provided the lumber, tying up the series in Game Four with a pair of home runs, including one in the fountains.
31. Fans mourn Yordano Ventura
The news that Yordano Ventura had died in a 2017 car crash was hard for many Royals fans to process, and many came to the stadium to congregate and share their grief. They were even welcomed by some Royals fans, including pitcher Danny Duffy.
30. Danny Jackson shuts out the Blue Jays in Game 5 of the 1985 ALCS
Baseball expanded the ALCS to a best-of-7 format in 1985, and that benefited the Royals who had to storm back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Blue Jays. To comeback they needed a great start from Danny Jackson in Game 5 and he responded with a complete game shutout.
29. Gil Meche and Alex Gordon make their Royals debut
There was new hope for Royals fans in 2007 with new GM Dayton Moore having brought in big free agent pitcher Gil Meche to start on Opening Day with one of the best prospects in baseball - Alex Gordon - making his MLB debut. Meche would not disappoint, holding the Red Sox at bay in a season-opening win.
28. Mike Moustakas disputed home run in Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS
Mike Moustakas gave the Royals a 2-0 lead with a solo home run in Game 6 against the Blue Jays. But a fan had reached over to catch the ball, leading to a replay review, which ended up confirming the home run.
27. Willie Aikens walk-off single to win Game 3 of the 1980 World Series
Had the Royals won the 1980 World Series, Wilie Aikens is almost certainly MVP. In addition to his Game Four heroics, he gave them a Game Three walk-off win with a single that helped erase a managerial blunder that took the bat out of George Brett’s hands.
26. Edinson Volquez starts Game 1 of the World Series after his dad dies
It was a bittersweet day for Royals starter Edinson Volquez, who learned his father had died just before tossing six solid innings, allowing just three runs against the Mets in Game 1 of the World Series.
25. Billy Butler steals second during the 2014 ALDS
The Royals stunned the top-seed Angels by winning the first two games in Anaheim before coming home in what seemed like a coronation. The Royals quickly finished off the sweep, with Billy Butler stealing second as extra salt in the wound for the Angels.
24. Royals blow Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS
The Royals won a club-record 102 games in 1977, but still had to face their hated rival, the New York Yankees in the ALCS. It was a close series, and the Royals took a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning of the deciding Game 5, but Mickey Rivers tied it up with a single, and a parade of pitchers couldn’t stop the bleeding as the Yankees went on to a 5-3 win and the pennant.
23. Justin Maxwell walk-off grand slam in 2013
Royals fans got a taste of a pennant push in 2013 when the team caught fire and were in the Wild Card race. The most thrilling moment was a walk-off grand slam by Justin Maxwell late in the season against the Rangers.
22. George Brett homers twice against the Jays in the 1985 ALCS
The Jays grabbed the first two games at home, so it was must-win in Game Three and George Brett rose to the occasion. Brett went 4-for-4 with two home runs to keep the Royals alive in a 6-5 win.
21. Mendy Lopez ties it and Carlos Beltrán wins it with an Opening Day walk-off home run in 2004
Royals fans were hopeful in 2004 after the signings of Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago. For at least one game, that hope was rewarded when pinch-hitter Mendy Lopez hit an improbable game-tying ninth-inning home run against the White Sox, and Carlos Beltrán won it in extras with a blast.
20. Mike Moustakas dives into the dugout to catch a foul ball in Game 3 of the 2014 ALCS
The 2014-15 Royals made their reputation through defense, and Mike Moustakas showed off his glove by making a fearless diving catch into the dugout against the Orioles.
19. Fans cheer Billy Butler and boo Robinson Canó at the 2012 All-Star Game
American League Home Run Derby captain Robinson Canó had agreed to put a hometown player on his squad, but forgot to make good on his promise, omitting Royals representative Billy Butler. That led Royals fans to rain a cascade of boos on the Yankees All-Star, while wildly cheering on Butler at his introduction.
18. Royals/Yankees brawl in Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS
The Royals and Yankees were rivals in the 70s every sense of the word. A heated ALCS came to a head in the first inning of the deciding Game 5, when George Brett tripled and came into third base hard with a hard tag from Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles, leading to a bench-clearing brawl.
17. Bo Jackson’s first home run hits the top of the hill in left
Royals fans knew they had something special with the two-sport athlete Bo Jackson, and he didn’t disappoint with his first MLB home run, a 475-foot blast off Mike Moore that landed on top of the grass hill in left field, believed to be one of the longest home runs in stadium history.
16. Wade Davis closes out the Blue Jays for the pennant
The Blue Jays put the tying run at third with no outs in the ninth against Wade Davis, but he struck out the next two hitters and forced a ground out to clinch back-to-back pennants for the Royals.
15. Darryl Motley homer begins World Series Game 7 rout
Bret Saberhagen didn’t need much run support the way he pitched, but Motley provided just enough offense with a two-run home run in the second that would set the tone for a 11-0 laugher.
14. Christian Colón infield single ties up the Wild Card game
In one of the most improbable comebacks in Royals history, Christian Colón had some post-season heroics with an infield chopper that allowed Eric Hosmer to score the game-tying run in the 12th.
13. Royals finish sweep of the Orioles for the pennant
The 2014 Royals were under .500 as late as July, but in October Mike Moustakas threw across the field to Eric Hosmer for the last out in a four-game sweep to give the Royals their first pennant in 29 years.
12. Kendrys Morales three-run home run finishes off the Astros in the ALDS
The Royals had looked finished at one point of the 2015 ALDS, but they rose from the dead and Kendrys Morales put the icing on the cake with a three-run blast in the deciding Game 5 to put the Astros away for good.
11. Yordano Ventura forces a Game 7
Less than 48 hours after the tragic death of friend Oscar Taveras, Yordano Ventura took the hill against the Giants in a pivotal Game 6 of the World Series, and promptly shut them out over seven innings in a 10-0 rout to force a Game 7.
10. Alcides Escobar inside-the-park home run in the World Series
Esky ambushed the Mets with a fly ball that was misplayed by Yoenis Cespedes, allowing Alcides to circle the bases for an inside-the-park home run in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series.
9. George Brett kisses home plate after his last home game
There is only one lifetime Royals player in the Hall of Fame - George Howard Brett. After his last game at Royals Stadium, he circled the field to take in cheers from adoring fans, and finished it off by kissing home plate.
8. Lorenzo Cain scores from first on a single against the Jays in the ALCS
Scouting, coaching, and speed all converged to allow Lorenzo Cain to make one of the most amazing baserunning feats in recent memory, scoring from first base on a single by Eric Hosmer to right in Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS.
7. George Brett goes over .400
Ted Williams hit over .400 in 1941, but no one had reached that mark since, although George Brett came the closest. On August 17, 1980 against the Blue Jays, Brett went 4-for-4, ending with a bases loaded double to go over .401. He would finish the season at .390, the highest mark by a hitter in a full season since Williams.
6. Gordo nearly touches ‘em all against Madison Bumgarner
Madison Bumgarner seemed like Superman during the 2014 World Series, but Alex Gordon appeared to be his kryptonite when he laced a base hit in the ninth inning with the Royals trailing 3-2. Miscues by the Giants outfielders allowed Gordon to get all the way to third, with some believing he had a chance to score. Unfortunately, Salvador Perez would pop up to end the game and the series, leaving fans to wonder “what if.”
5. Dane Iorg’s game-winning hit against the Cardinals
The Royals staged an improbable comeback in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series that took some luck - a call at first base - and an implosion by the Cardinals - dropped foul ball by Jack Clark, passed ball by Darrell Porter, and allowing light-hitting Dane Iorg to single to right to score Jim Sundburg for the game-winning hit.
4. Alex Gordon’s game-tying World Series homer
The Mets took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, but Alex Gordon tied things up with a triumphant blast off Jeurys Familia. The Royals would eventually win the game in the 14th inning on a sacrifice fly by Eric Hosmer.
3. Orta is safe!
In an era before replay, the Royals benefitted from the judgment of umpire Don Denkinger, who called Jorge Orta safe on a routine grounder to first base in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the World Series. The Cardinals would not get over the call and would implode, losing the pivotal game.
2. Salvy’s game-winning hit in the Wild Card
In what is probably the most thrilling Wild Card game in MLB history, Salvador Perez ended a thrilling roller coaster ride with a shot down the third base line past a diving Josh Donaldson to give the Royals their first post-season win in 29 years.
1. “To Motley....for the title!”
The Royals finally clinch their first championship in 1985 with an 11-0 win over the Cardinals, with Darryl Motley catching the last fly ball to end the game.