A Grand Old Time


The Royals have hit 108 grand slams in team history, most recently by Melky Cabrera last season against Cleveland.

I was flipping through the Royals 2011 Media Guide, looking for information on another piece, when I came to a listing of every Royal who’s ever accomplished the feat. Some of the names made me stop and think “I forgot he was ever on this team” while some I can remember seeing the game in  which the grand slam happened.

So if you’re okay with a little bit of trivia while waiting for the NFL Conference Championships (it’s okay, you’re allowed to like other sports – as long as baseball isn’t in season), here are some interesting finds:

  • Bob Oliver hit the franchise’s first grand slam in the 8th inning on Independence Day in 1969. The pitcher who surrendered the homer was Jim Bouton, infamous author of Play Ball. Here’s his account of the hit:

"I felt uncoordinated on the mound, and I threw one to Gene (sic) Oliver with the bases loaded that spun, and he knocked it over the center-field wall. On the bus home, some son of a bitch asked me if it was the longest home run I ever gave up."

  • Danny Tartabull leads the franchise with five career grand slams, including a stretch from October 2, 1987 to September 20, 1988 where he hit four, the only Royals grand slams during that stretch.
  • Twice the Royals have hit seven grand slams in a season – 1991 and 2004. Some of the names involved should be in your memory banks: Kurt Stillwell, Kirk Gibson, Mike Macfarlane, Brian McRae, Todd Benzinger, Tartabull, Tim Spehr in 1991 and Matt Stairs, Dee Brown, Mike Sweeney, John Buck, Calvin Pickering (!) and Abraham Nunez (twice).
  • Dee Brown has as many grand slams in his career as George Brett: 2.
  • Paul Phillips is the only Royal to hit a grand slam as his first major league home run. After August 17, 2005, he’d hit one more homer as a Royal and one more homer as a Rockie. He didn’t play in the majors in 2011 and signed as a free agent with Milwaukee on January 11 of this year.
  • The Royals have hit five grand slams in extra innings. Tartabull has one, as do Frank White and Rey Palacios. Cookie Rojas hit a grand slam twice in his Royals career. Both came in extra frames.
  • The 1985 World Series champions hit three grand slams – two by Steve Balboni and one by Frank White.
  • In 1980, the American League champions almost went all year without a grand slam, but in the last week of the season, George Brett hit one off Pete Redfern.
  • The sixth inning is designated as the Sonic Slam Inning during Royals broadcasts. If a Royal hits a grand slam during that inning, a randomly drawn listener or viewer wins $25,000. The promotion started in 2004 and in the first month, Matt Stairs hit a grand slam. Abraham Nunez hit another on August 13, 2004 in the sixth inning. It hasn’t happened since.
  • That August 13, 2004 game is the only instance when the Royals hit two grand slams in one game. Nunez hit his in the sixth and John Buck hit one in the eighth inning.
  • The team record for grand slams in one inning is three, held by Tartabull and Yuniesky Betancourt in 2010.
  • The first grand slam that I remember the Royals hitting was Jim Eisenreich‘s on August 19, 1989 in Seattle. My uncle was at that game and told me about it, while I also saw it on the television broadcast. The pitcher who surrendered the homer was Randy Johnson.
  • The Royals have managed to hit grand slams off some notable pitchers. Johnson is one. Lou Piniella hit one off Jim Kaat in 1973. Amos Otis cleared the bases against Jack Morris in 1982. One of Balboni’s grannies in 1985 came off of Bert Blyleven. Gerald Perry chased Nolan Ryan from a game in Texas in the first inning in 1990 with a grand slam. Gary Gaetti homered off Roger Clemens in 1993 and the Royals hit two off of Cliff Lee in 2005. Thank Ken Harvey and Mark Teahen for that.
  • On September 3, 2000, Mark Quinn hit a grand slam against new Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland, then pitching for Tampa Bay.
  • The Royals have victimized the same pitcher on more than one occasion with the bases loaded. They’ve hit two grand slams off of Dennis Rasmussen, Jim Abbott, Cliff Lee (see above), Carl Pavano (both in 2009) and Trevor Cahill (both in 2010).

That’s a fun little trip down memory lane. Grand slams are special since conditions have to be just right to have the opportunity to hit one, so actually getting there is notable, even if it’s just a matter of circumstance. During a game, it’s a pivotal moment, as it’s four runs scoring at once. I was actually surprised by how often the Royals had hit them, as many I didn’t remember until seeing them listed.

I’ve yet to see a grand slam in person by a Royal, however. Maybe 2012 is the year for that.

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