Back in 1985, I was first discovering baseball. As I tuned in to the World Series that year, I became fascinated with Dan Quisenberry, whose submarine pitching style seemed so completely foreign to me that I immediately became a Kansas City Royals fan. To this day, Quisenberry remains my favorite player of all time, and a bit of an obsession when it comes to sports memorabilia.
That World Series run, culminating with the only championship that the Royals have thus far in their history, was truly a moment to cherish. It would also turn out to be a bittersweet moment in hindsight. See, that would turn out to be one of the final games that Dick Howser would manage in his career.
Howser, who had the longest tenure of any manager in Royals history prior to Ned Yost, would last another half a season. The Royals were 40-48 at the All-Star Break, and after winning the World Series, Howser was set to manage the All-Star Game. During the game, he was having problems getting his signals correct, even when changing pitchers, something that the broadcasters commented on. He admitted to feeling sick before the game, but the American League was able to win the Mid-Summer Classic 3-2 despite his illness.
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As it turned out, Howser’s illness was due to a brain tumor. He underwent surgery on the tumor, and missed the rest of the year. However, Howser was not going to give up on managing just yet. He attempted to come back to the Royals in February the following year to continue his role with the club, but he was just too weak and ill to continue at his post.
Tragically, Howser passed just over three months later on this day in 1987 at the age of 51. His number 10 became the first number to be retired by the Kansas City Royals, and a bronze statue depicting Howser with his foot upon the top step of the stairs leading out of the dugout is a part of the Outfield Experience at Kauffman Stadium. The man who was able to guide the Royals to their only title is certainly not forgotten.
That 1985 team was truly a reflection of his own managerial style and personality. Guided by his steady hand and quiet confidence, the Royals never gave up. As easy as it would have been to fold during Game Six that year, with one of the best closers in the game in Todd Worrell on the mound, the Royals refused to give in. With a little help from honorary Royal Don Denkinger, the Royals came back to force Game Seven, an outing that cemented the legacy of Bret Saberhagen in franchise history.
It has now been 28 years since Dick Howser was taken away from us far too early. While he may be gone, his mark upon the Kansas City Royals will never be forgotten.