KC Royals Rewind: Looking back at franchise firsts

(Photo by: John Vawter Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
(Photo by: John Vawter Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

This installment of “KC Royals Rewind” takes you back to 1969, the team’s inaugural season, for a look at a plethora of Royal “firsts.”

Welcome back to “KC Royals Rewind,” our Kings of Kauffman series highlighting interesting moments in team history and players fans may not remember or realize played for the Royals. Today’s “Rewind” examines a collection of Royal “firsts.”

By the time April 1969 rolled around, Kansas City had been without baseball since October 1967, when the regular season ended and the American League granted KC Athletics’ owner Charlie Finley’s long-held wish to move the club. Fans were stunned; after Missouri Senator Stewart Symington suggested stripping the game of its antitrust exemption, Major League Baseball suddenly decided to expand and Kansas City won a new franchise. The KC Royals were born.

The first Royals were an eclectic assortment of players acquired primarily through a special expansion draft, a pool of players other clubs deemed dispensable. Some names were familiar; some weren’t. Relatively unknown were Jon Warden, Don O’Riley, Jerry Cram, Scott Northey and Ike Brookens.

Two old friends, former A’s pitchers Moe Drabowsky and Dave Wickersham, came aboard via the draft; three draftees, Hoyt Wilhelm, Jerry Adair and Paul Schaal, were established players and four more, Bob Oliver, Al Fitzmorris, Dick Drago and Tom Burgmeier, would become KC fixtures.

And Lou Piniella, destined to become the most accomplished major leaguer of the all the ’69 Royals, joined the club a week before Opening Day when the Seattle Pilots, another expansion team, traded him to KC.

Naturally, the 1969 team achieved every club and individual “first.” The first lineup: catcher Ellie Rodriguez, first baseman, Chuck Harrison, second baseman Adair, shortstop Jackie Hernandez, third baseman Joe Foy, left fielder Ed Kirkpatrick, center fielder Piniella, right fielder Oliver, and starting pitcher Wally Bunker, who became the first Royals pitcher to get a hit. Burgmeier was the first Royal reliever.

It was this lineup that started the KC Royals’ first home game, a contest that yielded the team’s first win, a 4-3 victory over Minnesota; because it came in 12 innings, it was also the club’s first extra-inning contest and first walk-off win.

Let’s take a look at some more Royals’ “firsts.”