The Kansas City Royals won their fist AL pennant in 1980. Exactly 37 years ago, the team played in the franchise’s first World Series game. Relive the opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.
(Editor’s note: This is one of several on-this-date posts that KoK will publish throughout the 2017 postseason. They will highlight the postseason success of the Kansas City Royals over the years with particular emphasis given to 2014 and 2015—given the strong ties to the current squad.)
After finally getting over the hurdle that was the New York Yankees, the Kansas City Royals reached their first World Series in 1980. Facing the Philadelphia Phillies, George Brett and Co. opened the Fall Classic on this date.
With Dennis Leonard on the mound, the Royals jumped out to a big lead against Philadelphia starter Bob Walk. Kansas City scored two runs apiece in the second and third innings to build a 4-0 lead. Amos Otis smacked a two-run homer to open the scoring. Willie Aikens doubled the advantage with his own two-run shot in the third.
Philadelphia exploded for five runs in the bottom half of the third to grab the lead. The Phillies tacked on single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to extend their lead to 7-4.
Staring a series-opening loss in the face, Kansas City mounted a comeback in the eighth inning. Aikens cranked his second—and the team’s third—two-run blast of the game. It pulled the Royals within 7-6, but that was as close as Kansas City would get.
Aikens’ performance, which came on his 26th birthday, will go down as one of the best in Kansas City Royals history. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough on this night 37 years ago.
It seems like a million years ago, but this World Series occurred during the time when the National League and American League traded off home-field advantage. That, of course, ended when former MLB commissioner Bud Selig made the All-Star Game “count.”
It allowed the Kansas City Royals to have home field advantage in 2014 and 2015. But now it’s based on having the best regular season record. Had that been the case in 1980, the World Series would have opened in Kansas City instead of Philadelphia. The Royals finished the season with 97 wins to the Phillies’ 91.
Philadelphia took full advantage of home field, winning Game 2 before heading to Kansas City. The Royals took care of business in their first two games, but the Phillies stole Game 5 and closed things out at home in Game 6.
The franchise’s first World Series appearance didn’t go as planned, but the 1980 season proved successful with the Kansas City Royals finally getting over the ALCS hump.