All fairy tales have a beginning. For the KC Royals that was on April 8, 1985, in the season opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Royals Stadium.
While the 2020 season had been scheduled to begin on March 26th, it seems like a distant memory major league games did not start until the first week or two in April. Looking back it was fitting as both the KC Royals and Blue Jays would also see each in the American League Championship Series later that fall.
The Royals had made the playoffs the year prior but were swept out of the ALCS by the Detroit Tigers three games to none. In 1985, the league championship series’ would be extended to a best-of-seven-game format which would be crucial to the Kansas City franchise.
Earning the Opening Day nod was left-hander Bud Black who had went 17-12 the season before, had a nifty 3.12 ERA and led the league with a 1.128 WHIP. His battery mate for that day was Jim Sundberg who was entering his twelfth season as a big leaguer, but first with the Royals.
Sundberg had won six Gold Gloves by this point in his career and been nominated to three All-Star games. He would go on to start 112 games behind the dish for Kansas City while John Wathan would take up the bulk of the remaining games.
At first base was the infamous Steve Balboni, nickname “Bye Bye Balboni”, who would go on to set the single-season home run record at 36. That would stand for over 30 years until broken by Mike Moustakas.
Frank White was at second and he had also amassed six Gold Gloves by this point and been selected to four All-Star games. Onix Concepcion received the nod at shortstop and although he batted a career-high .284 in 1984, he would struggle to keep his average above the Mendoza line in 1985.
Of course, George Brett was plugged in at the hot corner and batting third in the lineup. He played in 155 games that season, his most in a decade and third highest for his career. What a year it was leading the majors in slugging, batting .335, belting 30 homers and it finished with a second-place MVP showing, Gold Glove, All-Star game appearance, and Silver Slugger award.
From left to right field there was Darryl Motley, Willie Wilson, and Pat Sheridan. Motley did club 17 round-trippers but only batted .222 for the year while Sheridan played a total of 78 games and carried an OPS+ of 77. Wilson, as usual, shined in the leadoff spot hitting 31 triples and swiping 43 bases.
The game was a victory for the KC Royals as Black pitched 7 2/3 strong innings only allowing one run and four hits. The offensive hero was Wilson who doubled in two runs in the seventh inning and closing out the door was everyone’s favorite submarine pitcher Dan Quisenberry. “Quiz” recorded the save retiring the last four batters while surrendering one hit.
Every journey begins with a first step, and the KC Royals would begin by winning the first game of the season against Toronto. Thankfully, the last victory between two American League teams in 1985 also ended the same way.