Hundreds of pitchers have given up home runs in Royals history but few were as memorable as the one Steve Farr surrendered on opening day in 1990. Actually scratch that, none were as memorable. With the Royals up 3 runs, manager John Wathan allowed Farr, and not Mark Davis, to face Sam Horn in the 8th inning. Horn hit a 3 run home run off Bret Saberhagen earlier in the game, so when he came to the plate representing the tying run in the 8th, most people assumed Wathan would turn to Davis.
As you no doubt recall, the Royals became the first team in baseball history to have the AL and NL reigning Cy Young Award winners on the same staff. Wathan joked about the luxury of choosing between Cy Young winners with games on the line, but when he was handed the first opportunity to bring in his shiny new toy, he passed. Horn homered off Farr and the Orioles would eventually win in 11 innings. That game was a fitting opener for the Royals. Along with Mark Davis, KC had also signed 19 game winner Storm Davis away from the A’s, and were pegged as the team to beat in the AL West. And why not, they won 92 games in 1989 and on paper they looked like a complete team. It’s safe to say that the dual acquisitions brought high hopes (not unlike this year actually). Instead, the Royals finished 75-86, 27.5 games behind the A’s.
There are a lot of intelligent people, who to this day, believe the 1990 season would have turned out differently if Wathan had gone to Davis during that crucial moment on opening day. I don’t know about all of that but I think they would have won the opener. As bad as Davis was in 1990, left-handed hitters still only hit .182 against him.
When people think of Farr, they think of this game, and of John Wathan, and, of course, of Sam ‘Freaking’ Horn. And that, my friends, is unfortunate because Farr was one of the best pitchers in franchise history. In 1990 Farr became just the second, and the last, Royals pitcher to toss 100+ innings in a season with an ERA below 2.00. He recovered nicely from his opening day meltdown, even if nobody remembers.
Farr was more than just 1990 though, in 1986 he pitched 109.1 innings with a 136 ERA+, and two years later posted a 161 ERA+ in 82.2 innings. He finished his Royals career with a 135 ERA+, a number that places him third among pitchers with at least 500 innings.