13 June 2007

Royal legacy #1 -- the 1985 Royals (91-71)

Nope, I haven't forgotten the Legacy countdown.....we're finally at #1, with THE team. The team that overcame great adversity three times (once in a tough AL West race, twice facing deficits in the playoffs) to put an exclamation point on a 10-season run that etched the Royals' winning tradition into stone and, simultaneously and unknowingly, marked the zenith of baseball in Kansas City. It's been a long, disappointing trip downhill since then, for the most part, starting with the death of manager Dick Howser two years later. But 1985 will always be there for Royals fans, with the names of Dane Iorg, Darryl Motley, Buddy Biancalana, Jorge Orta and even poor Don Denkinger (the Cardinals' longtime whipping boy now, never mind they still coulda won game 7 rather than crapping the bed like they did, including the rest of game 6) always having a special meaning. It's arguable that Iorg's hit in game 6 of the World Series is the most important/memorable moment in team history, rivaled only (and not really closely) by the Pine Tar Incident in '83. Close call after close call finally became the reality of a championship in Kansas City, all under the slogan "The Thrill of It All". Never before or after had a Royals season lived up to its slogan more than in 1985. And, really, what more appropriate time is there to post this than the week of the interleague series with the Redbirds???

The '85 Royals' offense was nothing special, really, other than another great season from George Brett a
nd some good contributions from Hal McRae and Steve Balboni. It was the pitching that made the team special during the regular season. The team was top-five in the AL in only two categories -- triples (second) and steals (fifth). In fact, the team was in the bottom half of the 14-team league in most categories, which made the fact they won the AL West title a more amazing achievement looking back. The team's batting average of .252 was 13th, the OBP of .311 was dead last in the league, the slugging percentage was better at .401 but still good for only eighth, the 687 runs scored were 13th in the AL, and the 473 walks drawn was 12th. The Royals were 12th in hits, sixth in doubles and eighth in homers and in the middle of the pack in Ks at seventh. That below-average offense was supplemented by a great performance from the rotation and solid bullpen that accounted for a 3.49 team ERA that was second in the AL. The team's 41 saves were third in the league and KC was best in the league with only 103 HR allowed and 11 shutouts. The staff was second in fewest walks allowed, fifth in hits allowed and seventh in Ks. Four starters combined for 27 CG (sixth in the AL) and the team's 639 runs allowed was second in the league, which led to a pythagorean W-L record that was five wins less than the Royals' actual total of 91.

The meat of the Royals' lineup in '85 was put in place by GMs Cedric Tallis and Joe Burke, but GM John Schuerholz, then in his fourth season as general manager, did have a definite hand in the team's success in '85, mainly as the guy who pieced together the rotation. Coming off an '84 season that saw a sixth AL West title in KC but another disappointing playoff loss to a Detroit juggernaut, Schuerholz shook up some of the 25-man roster. Longtime SS U.L. Washington was jettisoned in a trade with Montreal and young C Don Slaught was part of a 4-team trade that paid off with the addition of defensive specialist C Jim Sundberg in January '85. Those deals turned over two positions and another key addition was made to the bullpen in May with the signing of free agent RP Steve Farr, who posted decent numbers in '85 but would go on to better days in KC's pen. The postseason was foreshadowed in another key May deal that reaped KC OF Lonnie Smith from St. Louis for OF John Morris, who wouldn't see action on the east side of the state until '86. A tie was cut soon after in May as P Larry Gura was released after posting 2 seasons of ERAs in the 5-point area. The 1985 January and June drafts netted no immediate impact players for KC as the big additions were Hal's son OF Brian McRae in round 1 and C Mike MacFarlane in round 4. Interestingly, KC picked OF Deion Sanders, who grew up around the Royals' training complex in Florida, in round 6 but he didn't sign. The biggest miss in January was RP John Wetteland while, in June, KC took McRae over Raffy Palmeiro and Randy Johnson, passed up Bobby Thigpen and David Justice in round 3, took current Royals scouting director Deric Ladnier with an eighth-round pick, and along with every other team, passed on P John Smoltz for 21 rounds before Detroit took him in the 22nd. and Mark Grace for 23 rounds before the Cubs took him in the 24th.

The key reason George Brett broke the team record for intentional walks drawn and led the league in that category with 31 in '85 was that there was no dominant protection option for him in the lineup. As it was, Brett made a strong case for his second MVP award that ended up going instead to Yankee 1B Don Mattingly. Brett also won his only Gold Glove and second Silver Slugger in '85 for added factors that probably make the season even sweeter in his memory. Over 155 games, Brett hit .335/.436/.585 for a 1.021 OPS and led the league in slugging, OPS and OPS+ (178) while finishing second in batting (33 percentage points behind Wade Boggs) and second in OBP (14 points behind Boggs). His '85 batting average was third all-time among Royals (second at the time behind his .390 in '80), his OBP, OPS and OPS+ are second all-time for Royals (again behind '80) and his slugging percentage is fourth all-time now (second then). He added 108 RS, 184 hits, 38 doubles, 5 triples, 30 HR and 112 RBI (team lead) with 103 walks (fourth all-time for Royals) and a team record 142 runs created. Somewhat behind in production were DH McRae, who hit .259 with a .799 OPS, 19 doubles, 14 HR and 70 RBI in 112 games and 1B Balboni, who set the team record with 36 HR (still stands, third in AL in '85) and 166 Ks (led AL, broken by Bo in '89) while hitting .243 with a .784 OPS and 28 doubles in 160 games of solid defense at first. Everyone else on the team was below league average in on-base-plus slugging but CF Willie Wilson was close to average by hitting .278 with a .724 OPS, 87 RS, 168 hits, 25 doubles, a team-record 21 triples (also led AL), 4 HR and team-leading 43 SB while playing his usual great D in center. After that you had 2B Frank White, who played rock solid defense at the keystone while hitting .249 with a .698 OPS (ugly .284 OBP, tho), 25 doubles, 22 HR, 69 RBI and 10 SB; catcher Sundberg, who played good defense while hitting .245 with a .689 OPS and tied a then-career-high with 10 HR (eclipsed with 12 for KC in '86); OF Smith, who didn't come by his "Skates" nickname by accident as he played shaky defense while hitting .257 with a .687 OPS, 77 RS, 23 doubles, 6 HR and chipped in 40 SB; OF Motley, who hit a lowly .222 with a .670 OPS, 20 doubles, 17 HR and 17 double plays grounded into while playing only slightly better D than Lonnie; and, last and least, SS Onix Concepcion, who played slightly below-average defense and hit .204 with a whopping .500 OPS with 8 XBH in 131 games. That made backup Biancalana's .538 OPS look great. The best bat off the bench was DH Orta, who hit .267 with a .700 OPS, 21 doubles and 45 RBI in 110 games. Biancalana and the rest of the backups weren't putting up good numbers at the plate, as fourth OF Pat Sheridan hit for a .642 OPS in 78 games, fellow backup OF Lynn Jones hit for a .518 OPS in 110 games, backup C John Wathan hit for a .643 OPS in 60 games and IFs Iorg and Greg Pryor hit for OPS of .599 and .542, respectively. In contrast, OF Omar Moreno, who Schuerholz added in September, posted only a .280 OBP but a .420 SLG helped place him atop the OPS category for bench players, albeit in less games and ABs than Orta.

21-year-old Bret Saberhagen was the story of the season on the pitching mound but an unsu
ng hero played a pretty big role in the team's success as well. Sabes won his first Cy Young Award with a 20-6 record (second in wins behind Ron Guidry's 22), 2.87 ERA (third in the AL), 1.05 WHIP (best in the AL and fourth in Royals history), 10 complete games, 1 shutout and 158 Ks in 32 starts and 235 IP. Saberhagen's 1.45 BB/9 mark was best in the AL and second among Royals all-time and his 4.16 K/BB was best in the AL and a team record then (now it's second). The unsung hero was lefty Charlie Leibrandt, who went 17-9 with a 2.69 ERA (second in the AL behind leader Dave Stieb and Sabes, fifth all-time among Royals (second then)), 8 CG, 3 shutouts and a 154 ERA+ (a team record at the time and now fifth among Royals) in 33 starts and 237 IP. What made Sabes better were the Ks, the K/BB ratio and WHIP, all of which he held a large advantage over Charlie. Fellow lefty Danny Jackson also had a standout year with a 14-12 record, 3.42 ERA, 4 CG and 3 shutouts in 32 starts and 208 IP. Lefty Bud Black had a losing record at 10-15 but was around average with a 4.33 ERA, 5 CG, 2 shutouts and a better than 2/1 K/BB ratio with 122 Ks (second on the team) in 33 starts and 205 IP. The fifth starter was 22-year-old Mark Gubicza, who went 14-10 with a 4.06 ERA in 29 games (28 starts) and 177 IP. The bullpen was headlined by another banner year from "The Quiz" Dan Quisenberry, who won his fifth and final Rolaids Relief Award and set a team record with 84 appearances (also led the AL). He was 8-9 with a 2.37 ERA, an AL best 37 saves (fifth all-time among Royals and third then) and a better than 3-1 K/BB ratio in 129 IP. Farr stepped in to go 2-1 with a save and a 3.11 ERA in 16 games (3 starts) and 37 IP and RP Joe Beckwith was also above league average with a 1-5 record, 1 save and a 4.07 ERA in 49 games and 95 IP. His 80 Ks were also a best out of the bullpen. Not as spectacular were RPs Mike Jones and Mike LaCoss, who posted ERAs of 4.78 and 5.09 in a combined 104 IP, both with more walks than Ks.

1985, as already shown, was hardly a season dominated by the Royals. In all, Kansas City spent less than a month -- 28 days -- in first place but a sizzling second half and a 9-4 record versus the Angels made the difference in the division race. The Royals went 3-3 versus the Blue Jays in the opening month of the season and finished April at 11-8 and 2 games back of California. May started with KC losing 7 of 8 to drop into fourth, 5 1/2 games out, but the Royals bounced back to win 12 of 15 to get back to second and a 1/2 game back of the Halos. The hot streak didn't last but the Royals took the first 2 of 3 from California in early June to momentarily take over first place June 8. Jackson lost the third game of the series, 1-0, to drop KC back into second and June ended with the Royals at 37-35 and 3 1/2 games back, although they did go 2-1 in another series with the Angels to end the month. At the all-star break the Royals sat at 44-42 and a season-worst 7 1/2 games out of first but the Royals won 9 of 11 directly after the break to close the deficit to 2 1/2 games. The deficit wavered between 1 and 4 games until September 2, when the Royals began an 8-game win streak and won 12 of 13 to build a 3-game division lead. A 4-game sweep at the hands of Seattle dropped the Royals back into a tie for first and, on Sept. 30, the Royals entered a 4-game home set with California 1 game back. Saberhagen won the opener to tie the race but Leibrandt lost to Mike Witt Oct. 1 to reset the Halos' lead to 1 game. Black stepped up at the right time the next day with a 3-hit shutout and Danny Jackson bested future HOFer Don Sutton in the series finale to give the Royals a 1-game lead. California moved on to face Texas while KC played host to Oakland for the final series of the season. Gubicza won the opener for KC while the Rangers shut down the Angels and KC clinched at least a tie for the division crown. A walkoff single by Willie Wilson in the 10th inning in the next game meant KC had another AL West title and a ticket to the AL Championship Series. Meanwhile, in the AL East, Toronto (with manager Bobby Cox) led the division most of the way and held off the Yankees in September to win 99 games along with the division by 2 games. The Royals finished '85 18 games over .500 in the friendly confines and 2 games over .500 on the road. After the so-so first half, the Royals were 47-29 in the second half and, in all, KC drew 2.16 million fans to Royals Stadium.

The playoffs didn't start well for KC in Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, where the Jays were 54-26 in the regular season. Game 1 starter Dave Stieb allowed only 3 hits and a walk and K'd 8 over 8 IP and Charlie Leibrandt got knocked around for 5 runs as the Blue Jays won, 6-1. Brett was the only bright light with a 3-4 night and RF Pat Sheridan accounted for the only run with a ground out in the 9th. Game 2 went differently but the end result was the same as the Blue Jays won in 10 innings. Willie Wilson hit a 2-run homer off Toronto starter Jimmy Key in the 3rd and Jim Sundberg doubled home a run in the 4th to chase Key and make it 3-0. A Brett error led to a Blue Jays run in the 4th and Jesse Barfield hit a 2-run single in the 6th off SP Bud Black to tie it up. Dan Quisenberry came in for the 8th and a Sundberg throwing error led to a Lloyd Moseby sac fly to give the Jays a 4-3 lead. Jays reliever Tom Henke came out for his second inning of work in the 9th and Sheridan came through with perhaps the hit of his career with a solo leadoff homer to tie the game. The Royals had 1 on with 2 out in the 10th when Frank White singled home Wilson to hand Quisenberry a 5-4 lead. Moseby came through with a 1-out RBI single to tie the game and a 2-out single by Al Oliver scored Moseby to get Toronto the win and a 2-0 series lead. Wilson led the way for KC with a 3-5 game and 2 RBI. The series shifted to KC for game 3 and the Royals would need a big comeback to keep from falling into a 3-0 hole. Wilson was caught stealing in the 1st and the out hurt as Brett homered and the Royals took a 1-0 lead. Brett led off with a double in the 4th and scored on a White sac fly to make it 2-0 KC. Saberhagen started and held Toronto scoreless into the 5th before giving up a 2-run homer to Barfield, Moseby RBI single and 2-run homer to former Royal Rance Mulliniks to get pulled for Black with the Royals down, 5-2. Sundberg homered in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to 2 and Brett stepped up in the 6th for a 2-run homer off starter Doyle Alexander to tie the game. Brett led off the 8th with a single and Steve Balboni hit a clutch 2-out single to bring him home. Farr set the Jays down 1-2-3 in the 9th to end it for the win. Brett had a huge 4-4 game with 2 HR, 3 RBI and 4 RS. The Royals were within 3 outs of the win in game 4 to potentially even the series but the game fell apart. Stieb was on the mound in a duel with Leibrandt, who had a much better game 4 than game 1, and the only run through 8 innings was on a bases-loaded walk of Hal McRae in the 6th as Stieb allowed only 2 hits but walked 7. Leibrandt was equal to the task in taking the 1-0 lead into the 9th but walked Damaso Garcia to start the inning and a Moseby double tied the game at 1. Quisenberry was brought in and allowed a George Bell single and 2-run Oliver double to give the Jays a 3-1 lead. Henke gave up walks to Balboni and Dane Iorg in the 9th but Howser pinch-hit Jamie Quirk for Lynn Jones with 2 out and watched Quirk pop out as the Blue Jays took a 3-1 series lead. Wilson was 2-3 and the only Royal with a hit. The Royals' backs were against the proverbial wall in game 5 with Jackson back on the mound to face Key. Like Black in his game against California, Jackson chose the right time to step up as the Royals won, 2-0. Lonnie Smith led off the Royals 1st with a double, stole third and scored on a Brett ground out to give the Royals a 1-0 lead and a Darryl Motley sac fly in the 2nd was all Kansas City would need. Jackson got out of a 2-in-scoring-position, none out situation in the 5th and left the bases loaded in the 6th as he retired the final 10 Jays in order to give KC the 2-0 win. Smith was the main man for KC in the win with a 3-4 game as White and Balboni also had 2 hits each. Despite the loss, Toronto returned to Canada needing only 1 win in the last 2 games to move on to the franchise's first World Series. The Royals kept the pressure on in game 6 as Alexander gave up another 5 runs. McRae hit an RBI single in the 1st but the Blue Jays tied the game off Gubicza in the bottom of the inning. McRae hit an RBI double in the 3rd, but once again the Jays responded with a Moseby RBI to retie it at 2. Brett homered in the 5th and, this time, Gubicza held the line as KC added 2 in the 6th on RBI doubles by Buddy Biancalana and Smith to make it 5-2 Royals. Black came on with 2 on and 1 out in the 6th and gave up an RBI single but kept the lead at 2 at 5-3. Black stranded 2 in the 7th and 1 in the 8th before leaving in the 9th with 2 out and 2 on. Quisenberry struck out Dane's brother, Garth Iorg, and the series was set for a game 7 with a 5-3 KC win. McRae was 3-5 while Biancalana was 2-4 in the victory. Stieb came back on short rest to face Saberhagen in game 7 and the gamble didn't pay off for Cox. Sundberg started a big night personally with an RBI single in the 2nd after Sabes left the bases juiced in the 1st. Saberhagen left the tying run at third in the 3rd and Sheridan cracked his 2nd homer of the series with a solo shot in the 4th to make it 2-0 KC. Leibrandt came out for the 4th and allowed a 2-out RBI double by Willie Upshaw in the 5th to cut the lead in half. The short rest finally got to Stieb in the 6th as the Royals loaded the bases with 2 outs and Sundberg hit a triple to clear them and chase Stieb. RP Jim Acker gave up a White RBI single and the Royals had a 6-1 lead. Leibrandt held the line into the 9th before getting pulled for Quiz with 2 in scoring position and 1 out. Quiz gave up an RBI ground out to Garcia before a Moseby ground out ended the game and sent the Royals to their second World Series after an improbable comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. Sheridan, Smith and Sundberg had 2-hit games and Sundberg drove in 4 runs to make the difference. Brett was named MVP after hitting .348 with a 1.326 OPS, 3 HR and 5 RBI in the 7 games; Wilson hit .310; and Sundberg led the team in RBI with 6 in the series. Black and Jackson had the best ERAs on the team while Leibrandt and Saberhagen both had high ERAs in the series. Jackson's game 5 and Leibrandt's game 7 were the standout pitching performances, tho. The one thing I remember about the ALCS was all the fans in Toronto that caused problems and ran out on the field (back in those days they still showed people who ran onto the field), which gave me the impression as a 9-year-old that Canadians were crazy. The NLCS was famous for two implosions by Dodgers reliever Tom Niedenfuer, who allowed a walkoff shot to Ozzie Smith in game 5 ("I don't believe what I just saw") and a huge 3-run homer to Jack Clark in the 9th in game 6 as the Cardinals set up what would be known as the "I-70 Series". The Cardinals had won 101 games, won the NL East by 3 games over the Mets and, like the Jays, won 54 games at their home stadium, Busch. In an appropriate matchup, the Cardinals were led by former Royals manager Whitey Herzog, who had gotten the Royals close to the big series but never in.

The World Series would become nearly a carbon copy of the ALCS for Royals fans as the same template played out, only with KC having home-field advantage. The Royals got a break before the series started as Whiteyball prototype CF Vince Coleman was steamrolled by a tarp during the NLCS and knocked out of the postseason with a leg injury after he had stolen 110 bases in the regular season. In game 1 in Kansas City, Cards starter John Tudor set the tone by allowing only 1 run over 6 2/3 IP. That run came on a Balboni single in the 2nd but the Royals stranded 2 in the frame. The Cardinals tied the game in the 3rd and took the lead in the 4th on a Cesar Cedeno RBI double off starter Danny Jackson. Sundberg got thrown out at home to end the 4th and the Royals didn't threaten again until the 7th when Lynn Jones hit a 2-out pinch hit triple and the Royals loaded the bases before Wilson fouled out to left to end the rally abruptly. Clark added some insurance in the 9th with an RBI double off Quisenberry. Sheridan led off the Royals 9th with a double but Cards RP Todd Worrell shut the door for the save. The Royals had 8 hits, all from different batters, in the loss. The Royals were an out away from evening the series in game 2 (similar to game 4 in the ALCS) but St. Louis put together a clutch rally. Charlie Leibrandt was on his best game as he 2-hit the Cards over 8 innings and St. Louis starter Danny Cox was only touched for runs in the 4th as Brett hit an RBI double and White brought George home with a double to make it 2-0 KC. The Royals looked to add some insurance in the 7th but, on a 2-out Smith single, Biancalana was thrown out at home by LF Tito Landrum to keep the lead at 2-0. Leibrandt gave up a leadoff double to Willie McGee in the 9th but got 2 outs before Clark knocked in a run, the Cards loaded the bases and Terry Pendleton came through with the big hit -- a 3-run double to make it 4-2 St. Louis. Howser went to the pen a little too late and Quisenberry got the final out. Balboni singled in the bottom of the 9th but PH Orta grounded into a 4-6-3 twin killing to end the game. Frank White was 3-3 for KC while Smith and Wilson had 2 hits each. Saberhagen made his series debut in game 3 opposite Cards starter Joaquin Andujar and the Royals knocked Andujar around. Kansas City left the bases loaded in the 3rd and, in the 4th, Lonnie Smith got revenge on his former team with a 2-out, 2-run double to give KC a 2-0 lead. White hit a 2-run homer to chase Andujar in the 5th and Saberhagen took a 3-hit shutout into the 6th, when Clark hit an RBI single to cut the lead to 4-1. White stepped up again in the 7th with an RBI double and Biancalana added an RBI single to give the Royals a 6-1 lead that stood up. Saberhagen K'd 8 in the complete-game win and five Royals had 2-hit games, including White's 2-4 day with 3 RBI. Smith also had 2 RBI in the win. Tudor struck again in game 4 by one-upping Saberhagen with a 5-hit complete-game shutout and Bud Black took the loss for KC. Homers by Landrum and McGee gave St. Louis all the lead Tudor needed and another run in the 5th made it 3-0 Cards. Tudor sat down 13 Royals in a row at one point and the Royals' biggest threat came when they loaded the bases with 2 out in the 7th only to see pinch hitter McRae ground into a force out to end the threat. The Royals had 5 hits from 5 different batters in the loss. The win gave St. Louis a 3-1 series lead and a chance to close out the series in Busch in game 5. It was deja vu all over again in game 5 for Danny Jackson as he went the distance again and the Royals got to Bob Forsch to force a return to Kansas City. Smith and Wilson singled to start the game and a White RBI ground out gave the Royals a 1-0 lead in the 1st. Jackson gave up back-to-back doubles to Tom Herr and Clark in the bottom of the 1st to tie the game but Sundberg hit a 1-out double in the 2nd, scored on a Biancalana single and, with 2 out, Willie Wilson hit a 2-run triple to knock Forsch out for a 4-1 KC lead. Jackson buckled down to leave the bases loaded in the 3rd but RP Bill Campbell did the same to the Royals in the 4th. An Ozzie Smith error allowed an insurance run to score in the 8th as Jackson was in the midst of retiring 11 in a row. Sheridan doubled home a run in the 9th and Jackson stranded 2 in the 9th as the Royals cut the series lead to 3-2 and set up a memorable game 6. Four Royals had 2-hit games in game 5, led by Wilson, who added 2 RBI. With Leibrandt on the mound, the trend would reverse as the Royals would be within 3 outs of losing the series only to have the infamous Denkinger missed call cause the Cardinals to fall apart. Leibrandt and Cox put on a classic pitchers' duel as Leibrandt was perfect through 5 IP. Meanwhile, the Royals pieced together several hits over the first 5 innings but couldn't score on Cox. Leibrandt allowed two singles to start the 6th but got out of the jam unscathed. Kansas City stranded 2 in the 7th and St. Louis finally broke the ice in the top of the 8th when pinch hitter Brian Harper hit a 2-out RBI single to center to score Pendleton for a 1-0 lead. Quisenberry came on with the bases loaded and salvaged the 1-0 deficit. I was laying on the living room floor watching the game on ABC when the Royals came up for their last at-bats in the 9th, and it was an inning I wouldn't forget. Worrell came on to close out the game and Jorge Orta pinch-hit for Motley to start the inning. Worrell appeared to get Orta to ground out to first with 1B Jack Clark flipping the ball to Worrell covering first but umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe, much to the chagrin of the entire St. Louis team, Herzog and probably every Cardinals fan in creation. Balboni followed with a single as you could feel something big was happening watching the game -- I can't imagine what it would have been like to be one of the 41,628 at Royals Stadium for the game. Jack Clark blew a foul pop during Balboni's at bat as the Cardinals helped the Royals out before Sundberg bunted into a force out of Orta at third. A Darrell Porter passed ball was another symptom of Cardinal choking as the runners advanced to second and third and, after McRae was walked intentionally to load the bases, Iorg stepped up and singled to right. Andy Van Slyke gunned the ball home but Sundberg slid in safely and the Royals had a dramatic 2-1 comeback win. Say what you want about Denkinger, but the Royals still got the job done in game 6. They just as easily could have gone down without a fight even with the blown call, and Orta didn't score anyway. Cardinal crybabies. Balboni was 2-3 in the win while Iorg had THE hit of the season and the only 2 RBI for the Royals. Instead of using the tough loss as a rallying point, the Cardinals barely showed up in game 7 as Saberhagen went the distance again. The fireworks started in the 2nd when Darryl Motley cranked a 2-run homer off Tudor. Tudor loaded the bases with 1 out in the 3rd and walked in Sundberg before Whitey pulled him out, only for Tudor to go crazy on a dugout bathroom after the crappy start. Balboni singled home 2 runs off Campbell and Kansas City had a 5-0 lead. With Saberhagen carrying a 2-hit shutout through 5 innings, the wheels exploded on the Cardinals in the Royal 5th as the Royals hit 3 straight singles off Campbell and Jeff Lahti, the third being an RBI base hit by Motley; Lonnie Smith hit a 2-out, 2-run double; Wilson singled Smith home; White singled Wilson home off Andujar; Andujar walked Sundberg and got ejected (by home plate umpire Denkinger, think he was wanting to hear it from the Cardinals?) for bitching about it, as did Whitey; and Brett scored on a wild pitch by Bob Forsch to make it 11-0 Royals. The massive lead afforded Kansas City the chance to loosen up and Saberhagen cruised into the 9th. Van Slyke flew out to Motley in right, Saberhagen and Brett embraced between the mound and first, and the Royals' hometown faithful celebrated a World Series victory. Saberhagen shut out the Cards on 5 hits and was named series MVP (0.50 ERA in 2 complete game wins) while Brett was 4-5 in game 7 and Motley was 3-4 with 3 RBI in the win. Balboni and Smith also knocked in 2 runs each. Brett, Motley, Wilson, Smith and Balboni all hit over .300 in the series while White paced the team with 6 RBI. Tito Landrum was the only Cardinal to hit over .300 in the series as six Royals pitchers combined for a 1.89 ERA and WHIP of under 1, and that included Bud Black's 5.06 ERA in 5 IP.

The Royals were the toast of town following the series win with Saberhagen the most popular Royal of all, other than maybe Brett. The Royals seemed to be set for big things. After the season, Schuerholz had some decisions to make as Dane Iorg was let go after his moment of glory and fringe players OF Pat Sheridan and RPs Mike Jones and Joe Beckwith also looked for work elsewhere along with starting SS Onix Concepcion. Another light-hitting SS would take his place in Angel Salazar, who Schuerholz obtained in a trade with the Mets. The Royals would be in the mix in '86-89 but wouldn't be able to earn a division title as Howser was diagnosed with brain cancer over the '86 All-Star break and died in '87. The team enjoyed a small resurgence in the mid-90's under Hal McRae as Schuerholz, too, left for greener pastures and, when owner Ewing Kauffman died in '93, the dark ages slowly began. If Denkinger's blown call unleashed a karmic backlash on the Royals, it's been a doozy. Of course, the team's horrible mismanagement from '93 to '06 (hopefully it ended with the hiring of GM Dayton Moore) wouldn't have anything to do with it, right?

1985 Pipeline Royals MVP -- Let's go with the big two -- Brett and Saberhagen. The Royals wouldn't have gotten it done without either's contributions. You could even throw Leibrandt in there, too. Shoot, throw Iorg in there.

1985 Pipeline Royals LVP -- Pretty clear that it's SS Onix Concepcion. The Royals were weak enough offensively without his dead weight in the lineup.

The top of the heap, the cream of the crop, the '85 Royals. Wish we had more like them to celebrate.

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