Like Jackson Kowar, Paul Splittorff lost his first game with the KC Royals.
Kansas City gave Paul Splittorff, a young lefty who’d won eight and lost 12 for Triple-A Omaha that season, a late-September 1970 chance. Seven games remained when he started against the White Sox that day; it was a battle of two bad teams—the Royals were 62-92, good for fourth place in the six-team AL West and, at 54-99, the White Sox were in the division cellar.
Splittorff handed the Sox a run in the first, then gave them nothing to speak of until the sixth when two doubles, a walk, and an infield error led to a pair of unearned runs and a 3-0 Chicago lead. Splittorff surrendered a solo homer in the seventh before giving way to Ken Wright to begin the eighth.
Although Splittorff gave up 10 hits in his seven innings, he struck out eight. The loss he took was his only 1970 decision, but he won his first major league game the following season with an excellent one-run, 7.2 inning performance against Washington. He won 12 in 1972, 20 in ’73, 19 in ’78, and reached double figures in victories seven other times in a 15-year KC career.
Splittorff pitched for the last time June 26, 1984, a game this writer attended and remembers like it was yesterday. He spent his entire career with the Royals and his 166 wins remain the best in franchise history.
So there it is, a comparison of Jackson Kowar’s big league debut to those of the six pitchers who’ve won at least 100 games for the KC Royals, all of whom are in the club’s Hall of Fame. Of that half-dozen, only the first games of Brett Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza and Dennis Leonard were particularly good from start to finish. From that, Kowar can take heart.