Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune - October 14, 1980
At Last... A Royal Pennant
By The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - There have been sheep in the stadium, uniforms that seemed to glow in the dark and a mascot who expressed himself by braying.
There have been minor league teams that looked like they could play in the majors, and major league teams that appeared to belong in the minors.
There have been speedsters, sluggers and flops. Pitchers who weren't old enough to vote, and at least one who wasn't far away from Social Security.
There has been baseball in Kansas City off and on since 1884, and five different leagues have been represented at one time or another.
But there has never been an American League pennant in this city on the Missouri River — at least until the 12-year-old Kansas City Royals shocked the New York Yankees by sweeping the AL Championship Series last week.
"It's been a long, long struggle," said Royals General Manager Joe Burke Friday night after Kansas City clinched the pennant with a 4-2 victory over the Yankees. "I just feel numb."
The triumph sparked a city- wide celebration among weary residents who had witnessed just about everything in baseball — except a league championship.
Kansas City's first professional team was an 1884 entry in the Union Association; it finished 11th. There have also been teams in the old American Association, the Federal League and the National League; none did better than fourth.
In 1901, the Kansas City Blues were formed and went on to win seven American Association pennants as the Yankees' prize farm club. The Kansas City Monarchs began playing in the Negro National League in 1920 and produced such greats as Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks.
Major league baseball returned to Kansas City in 1955 when Arnold Johnson bought the A's from Connie Mack and moved them from Philadelphia.
Mediocrity was the A's byword in the early years; their best finish was sixth and most of their top players seemed to end up in Yankee pinstripes via ill-advised trades.
But in 1960 came a new owner, businessman Charles O. Finley, and innovation to the point of eccentricity.
Finley introduced fireworks after night games, flashy Kel)y green and Fort Knox gold uniforms. He put multicolored sheep to graze beyond the outfield fence. He made a Missouri mule the team mascot, named it after himself and sent it on tour with the team.
Pitcher Lew Krausse was 18 when he made his debut with the A's in 1961 as part of a Finley promotion; veteran hurler Satchel Paige returned at the age of 59 to pitch three innings for the A's.
The A's also boasted such future stars as base thief Campy Campaneris, slugger Reggie Jackson and pitching ace Catfish Hunter, but Finley's tempestuous reign and the team's poor showing took its toll on the city's patience.
Finley obtained permission to move the team to Oakland after the 1967 season — but Missouri Sen. Stuart Symington successfully lobbied for an expansion AL franchise in 1969 and an era was born.
From the beginning, Ewing Kauffman's team was among the most successful of expansion franchises, finishing second in only its third year in existence.
In 1970, Kauffman opened the Baseball Academy, the Royals' innovative effort to groom youths for baseball careers. The most prominent products are second baseman Frank White and shortstop U.L. Washington.
Player drafts yielded the likes of 20-game winners Steve Busby and Dennis Leonard, and hitters George Brett and Willie Wilson.
The Royals also built from the outside, trading for such players as Amos Otis, Hal McRae, Fred Patek, Larry Gura and Darrell Porter.
In 1973, the team moved into Royals Stadium, a spacious ballpark with artificial surface tailored for their speed-oriented attack. Busby pitched no-hitters in 1973 and '74; Jim Colborn tossed one in 1977.
Under the direction of Whitey Herzog, Kansas City ended Oakland's reign as AL West champions in 1976 and began its own string of three division titles.
Brett emerged as one of the game's best hitters, winning batting titles in 1976 and 1980.
In 1973, the Royals began a streak of eight straight seasons of over 1,000,000 attendance. They have drawn more than 2,000,000 the last three years.
But frustration loomed for the Royals in the form of three straight playoff losses to the Yankees — in five games in '76 and '77, in four in '78.
After a second-place finish in 1979, former Baltimore coach Jim Frey took over the Kansas City managerial duties — and the Royals won the AL West by 14 games.
Now they are just four victories away from their first World Championship.
"It's great for Kansas City," said Burke. "The way the fans have supported us. They deserve it."