The ’95 KC Royals: The last short season revisited

(Photo by Stephen Dunn /Allsport)
(Photo by Stephen Dunn /Allsport) /
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KC Royals,
KC Royals, /

A trio of veteran position players neared the end of their time with the 1995 KC Royals, a fan favorite slumped and a future superstar made his debut.

Gary Gaetti36-years old on Opening Day, hit almost a third of the 1995 KC Royals’ 119 home runs. The third baseman’s 35 blasts led the club, as did his 96 RBIs. He played all but seven games and hit .261 with an .846 OPS in what proved to be his last season with the team. Gaetti signed a free agent deal with St. Louis after the season, later played for the Cubs, then finished with the Red Sox in 2000. For his career, he had 360 home runs and 1,341 RBIs.

Bob Hamelin endeared himself to Royals fans in the strike-shortened 1994 season–playing first base for 24 games and DH for 69 more, “The Hammer” hit 24 home runs with 65 RBIs, slashed .282/.388/.599, posted a 147 OPS+ and was named AL Rookie of the Year.

But Hamelin slumped, and slumped badly, in ’95. His homers dropped by over a third to seven, he drove in only 25 runs and hit just .168, numbers which explain his 36-game demotion to the minors. Although his decline remains a mystery, some attribute at least part of its genesis to new manager Bob Boone and his bench coach, Gene Mauch, with whom Hamelin may have fallen out of favor.

Unfortunately, Hamelin was never the same. He hit nine homers for KC in 1996, a career-high 18 for the Tigers in ’97, and only seven for Milwaukee in ’98. He left a minor league game in ’99 and never played again. He’s now a scout for the Red Sox.

Vince Coleman is probably best remembered by KC Royals fans as the rookie Cardinal speedster who, while warming up before a 1985 Cards’ National League Championship Series game, suffered an injury when a tarp rolled over his leg. The mishap knocked Coleman out of the NLCS and prevented him from playing against the Royals in that season’s World Series .

Coleman joined the Royals in 1994; another in the long line of speedy KC outfielders, he stole 50 bases in 58 attempts. He stole 26 more for KC in ’95 and was hitting .287 in August when the club traded him to Seattle for Jim Converse. He played his last big league game for the Tigers in 1997, then finished his career the next season in the Cardinals’ minor league system.

Johnny Damon made his major league debut Aug. 12 against Seattle. In just a glimpse of things to come from the 21-year old, who made the jump from Class AA to the majors, Damon opened his 18-year big league career hitting leadoff and collected three hits, including  a triple, and drove in a run and scored another.

In his six years in Kansas City, Damon had 156 doubles, 47 triples, 65 home runs, 352 RBIs, 156 stolen bases, and hit .292. The Royals traded him in the winter of 2001–in a complicated three-team trade between KC, Oakland and Tampa Bay, Damon ended up with the A’s while the Royals received AJ Hinch and Angel Berroa from Oakland and Roberto Hernandez from the Rays. For good reason, the deal was wildly unpopular with KC Royals fans.

Damon last played in 2012 for Cleveland and finished his stellar career with 522 doubles, 109 triples, 235 homers, 1,139 RBIs, 408 steals and a .284 average.

Next. Unforgettable mistakes of 2017. dark

Uncertainty now surrounds the 2020 major league season. A full 162-game season is unlikely, but 1995 demonstrated that even a short campaign means a lot of baseball.