An original member of the KC Royals died Sunday. He shared a record of perfection with another former Kansas City player.
Bob Oliver, an original Royal, died Sunday. A relatively unknown player when he came to the KC Royals via the 1968 expansion draft, he quickly became a regular and split time primarily between the outfield and first base in three full seasons and part of a fourth with KC.
Oliver was the first Royal to get six hits in a single game, a fact made much of in the media since his death. Kevin Seitzer and Joe Randa later duplicated the six-hit feat, but what seems to go unnoticed and unmentioned is that Oliver and Seitzer did more than collect six safeties in one game–they both went 6-for-6 to achieve plate perfection.
How did Oliver and Seitzer do it?
Bob Oliver: May 4, 1969. Oliver, the 10th player selected by the Royals in the 1968 expansion draft, collected his six hits in the 24th game in club history and the first full season of his big league career. The brand new Royals were a game over .500 when they squared off in a Sunday afternoon road game against the Angels; Oliver, batting sixth and playing center field, entered the contest with a .220 average.
The seventh inning was big for Oliver and the Royals. Oliver led off with a single to center off Phil Ortega, then tagged George Brunet for an RBI infield single. KC batted around in the inning and scored six runs to take a 15-1 lead.
Oliver picked up his sixth and final hit of the afternoon with another single in the ninth. He finished 6-for-6 with a double, homer, three RBI’s, two runs scored and 10 total bases in KC’s 15-1 win. The six hits booster his early-season average to .304; he became the first Royal to get six hits in a single game. Later in the season, Oliver achieved another KC Royals first when he hit an Independence Day grand slam off Seattle’s Jim Bouton; no Royal had a grand slam before his.
Oliver hit .256 in eight big league seasons; he had 49 homers, drove in 200 runs and batted .255 for the Royals, who traded him to California for Tom Murphy in May 1972. The Angels later traded him to Baltimore and he retired as a Yankee after the 1975 season. He later managed an independent minor league team for a year and also worked with baseball instructional schools (and owned one). His son Darren pitched in the majors for 20 years. Bob Oliver was 77 when he died.
Kevin Seitzer: August 2, 1987. Like Bob Oliver, Seitzer picked up six hits in a game during the first full season of his major league career. He’d hit .323 in 28 games in 1986; then, in his official rookie season in ’87, he became the Royals’ regular third baseman when George Brett transitioned to first base.
Experiencing a then-atypical poor season, the Royals were 50-53 when they hosted the finale of a three-game series against the Red Sox on August 2, 1987. Seitzer batted second, between Lonnie Smith and Brett, and was hitting .313 when he faced Boston starter Bob Stanley in the first inning. He beat out an infield single for his first hit of the afternoon.
Seitzer victimized Stanley again when he led off the third inning with his eighth home run of the season. He collected his third hit off the Boston starter the very next frame when he shot a one-out RBI single to right.
Reliever Steve Crawford became the next Red Sox hurler to fall to Seitzer when the Royal rookie tagged him for a two-out, three-run homer in the fifth. Seitzer rapped a single up the middle for his next hit in the seventh.
The finish to his perfect 6-for-6 day came in the eighth inning off Calvin Schiraldi. Seitzer hit a long fly to right–right fielder Mike Greenwell tracked it, then appeared to lose it; it dropped safely and bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double:
Seitzer ended with his six hits, including the double and two home runs, had seven RBIs and scored four times. He raised his average 11 points to .324 and the Royals won 13-5.
Seitzer earned the first of his two All-Star game berths that season and finished second to Mark McGwire in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He played in all but one game, hit .323 (the third-best of his career), and posted career bests in home runs (15) and RBIs (87). Seitzer later ended his 12-season major league career with a .295 average (.294 in his six years with the Royals) and retired after the 1997 campaign after playing with KC, Milwaukee, Oakland and Cleveland.
Now, Seitzer is the Braves’ hitting coach after serving in the same position with the Royals, Diamondbacks and Blue Jays.
The late Bob Oliver and Kevin Seitzer played in different KC Royals eras. But they shared perfection.