The trade of one of their original players gave the Kansas City Royals one of their first major stars.
The years 1966-1968 were good to Joe Foy–after four excellent seasons in the Boston Red Sox system, he established himself as the regular third baseman at Fenway Park where he played alongside Boston greats Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Conigliaro, Rico Petrocelli and Jim Lonborg. His Boston future seemed bright.
But baseball had unique needs after the 1968 season — the rosters of four expansion teams slated to begin play in 1969 needed to be filled and an October expansion draft was scheduled to fill them. Left unprotected by the Red Sox after a sub-par season marred by off-field trouble, Foy was drafted by the Royals with the fourth overall pick.
Foy was solid for the Royals in their inaugural season, hitting 11 homers with 71 RBI’s and batting .271. But the New York Mets were searching for a third baseman: former Kansas City Athletics third baseman Ed Charles was winding down his career and heir apparent Wayne Garrett‘s bat was light. The Mets came calling and KC agreed to trade Foy for rookie pitcher Bob Johnson and Amos Otis, a speedy outfielder who in the season just completed hit an unsightly .151 in 48 games.
Fortunately for the Royals, that .151 average wasn’t a harbinger of things to come. Otis’ impact in Kansas City was immediate–awarded the center field job from the start of 1970, he played in 159 games, led the league in doubles with 36, hit 11 homers, drove in 58, batted .301, and stole 33 bases. He walked 68 times, had a .353 OBP and slugged .424. And he made the All-Star team, the first of his five Mid-Summer Classic selections.
He led the league in steals with 52 the following season and .300 for the first time, posting a .301 average to go with 15 homers and 79 RBI’s.
Otis was exciting and became a fan favorite. Defensively gifted, he patrolled center field with speed and grace; some mistook his smooth form and ability to make tough plays look easy for laziness, but most knew better. His three Gold Gloves proved his defensive excellence.
Otis was a critical mainstay as the Royals established themselves as consistent contenders and reeled off three straight division titles from 1976-78, then reached their first World Series in 1980. But the Royals didn’t pick up his option after the ’83 season; he caught on with Pittsburgh and played 40 games for the Pirates before retiring after the ’84 campaign.
Fans need to look no further than the Royals’ all-time records to understand the Foy-Otis trade’s remarkable long-term impact on the club. Otis ranks second in stolen bases, total bases, runs scored, walks and sacrifice flies; third in hits, triples, home runs, RBI’s, at-bats, and total plate appearances; and fourth in games played, doubles and extra-base hits. He earned more Royals Player of the Year awards than any other player.
Joe Foy never recaptured the form that landed him the third base job in Boston and was out of baseball after 1971. Otis, on the other hand, flourished and became a star in Kansas City, making the Foy-Otis deal one of the best trades the Royals ever made.