Bret Saberhagen was arguably the best pitcher in Kansas City Royals history. He won two Cy Young awards, was a two time All-Star and pitched the Royals last no hitter on August 26, 1991. The pitched the final game of the 1985 World Series, shutting out the St. Louis Cardinals 11-0 and won the 1985 World Series MVP. During his Royals career, Saberhagen produced a 110-78 record, 3.21 ERA and 1.134 WHiP, striking out 1093 batters in 1660.1 innings. His accomplishments on the field led to his induction into the Royals Hall of Fame in 2005.
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Earlier today, thanks to Maytag, who became the official washer and dryer company of Major League Baseball earlier this year, we had the opportunity to talk with Bret Saberhagen about his time with the Kansas City Royals, his thoughts on the season and his partnership with Maytag and their ‘Million Dollar Home Run.’
Kings of Kauffman: During your rookie year, you moved between the bullpen and the starting rotation before finally remaining as a starter at the end of the season. What was the most difficult part in moving back and forth from being a reliever to a starter?
Bret Saberhagen: Fortunately, I was not a reliever as much as a starter, but the biggest difference was knowing when you’re going into the game. Unless you’re the closer, and it’s a tight game, you never really know. You have to mentally prepare every day, just in case you end up going into the game.
KoK: The following year, at 21 years old, you had established yourself as the ace of the Royals. As a young pitcher, and fronting the staff for a team expected to contend for the postseason, what type of pressure did you feel at the beginning of the season?
BS: Being in the postseason the previous year, we felt we could go back and succeed. At a young age, the biggest key was finding something that works for an offseason program. You want to be in the best shape possible and to stay healthy for the entire season.
KoK: The 1985 season went about as well as could be expected, with the Royals winning the World Series that year. Before that final out in Game Seven, George Brett went to the mound and said something that made you both start laughing. What did he say to you in that moment?
BS: George came up to me and said, “Listen, you haven’t been here very long. When you get this last out, and you will get this out right here, I want to be the one to celebrate with you.” When that ball was up in the air, he kept telling me to wait until it came down in Darryl Motley‘s glove. I couldn’t wait to jump in his arms; it was a dream come true. Baseball had officially come back to Kansas City.
KoK: Following the 1991 season, you were traded to the New York Mets. What was it like being traded from Kansas City, where you were one of the stars of the franchise?
BS: I didn’t think I was going anywhere. I was happy in Kansas City, and wanted to spend the rest of my career with the Royals. I was very upset, and felt that the team didn’t want me. Then, I got to New York, and found that the Mets were excited to have me, and felt a little better. It’s not easy, and when I was traded again (to the Colorado Rockies) I was hurt once again. It’s a tough situation, but it’s a chance to be a part of something special.
KoK: In the strike shortened 1994 season, you had more wins (14) than walks (13). What was that season like, both from a performance perspective and with the looming spectre of the strike?
BS: Mel Stottlemyre was the pitching coach, and after the All-Star Break, we knew the numbers. He said that we were going for it, and that we wouldn’t be issuing any intentional walks. I would be pitching to everyone. I hated walking batters, especially with two outs. The old Metrodome used to have a graphic that said that walks would haunt you, and they usually did.
It’s one of my favorite stats, and something that I’m very proud of.
KoK: After twenty years of struggles, the Kansas City Royals finally broke through last year, making the World Series once again. Do you see any similarities between the current Royals team and the teams you were on?
BS: The biggest similarity is that this is a team, not individuals. Instead of being one of those teams with 25 taxis going 25 different directions after the game, we were all close. We would have get togethers on the off days, and everyone and their families were invited. The 2015 team is like that. They were all called up together and went through the tough times. Now, they are finding success together. It shows with Alex Gordon going down – different guys are stepping up and they kept winning.
KoK: This year, you were named as one of the Kansas City Royals Franchise Four, along side George Brett, Frank White and Dan Quisenberry. What did that honor mean to you, knowing that Royals fans considered you to be one of the best players ever to put on the uniform?
BS: It is a great honor. I appreciate the fans that voted for me. To be in with Brett, White and Quiz, and to even be mentioned with them, is such a great honor. It’s a great feeling, and tough to put into words.
KoK: Finally, this interview was made possible by Maytag, the official washer and dryer of Major League Baseball. They have set up a washing machine in the Royals bullpen, where if a home run lands in it, Maytag will donate $1 Million to the Boys & Girls Clubs in Kansas City. Tell us about your involvement in the program, and how our readers can get involved.
BS: Maytag approached me about being the Kansas City spokesman, and getting on board was very exciting. Giving back, especially with the youth, is something that is a part of who I am, and this was a great honor.
We have two washing machines set up in the bullpens for the White Sox, Braves, Rangers and Royals, and if either team hits a home run in to the washing machines there, maytag will donate $1 Million to the local chapter of the Boys & Girls Club.
Fans can help by going online at MLB.com and voting to the ‘filthiest play’ of the night. By voting, you get a chance to go to the World Series, so make sure you’re going online and voting!
Our thanks once again to Bret Saberhagen and Maytag for giving us this opportunity to chat with one of the greats of the Kansas City Royals.