KC Royals: Saturday jersey giveaway sparks memories

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals have a special treat for the first 10,000 fans who enter Kauffman Stadium Saturday afternoon (June 19) for the club’s scheduled 3:10 p.m. CT game with Boston.

It’s a taste of club history—a replica of the “away” (road) jersey the Royals wore in 1970, their second season ever.

While Kansas City’s primary home jerseys have remained remarkably consistent in design and appearance through team history, some alternatives have been and are in use, including the lighter “blues” worn on afternoons and weekends. That isn’t entirely the case, though, with primary road jerseys, which have included gray and blue versions, and the original chest script “Kansas City” the club later changed to block style, only to return to script.

How the 1970 road version ultimately stack up against past jerseys is, of course, a matter of personal preference.

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And for anyone who can’t wait until Saturday to see the promo jersey, it’s depicted by the Royals here.

But what of the team that wore the jersey? Let’s find out.

The 1970 KC Royals weren’t quite as good as the franchise’s original team.

The Royals brought big league baseball back to Kansas City in 1969 after the KC A’s left for Oakland following the ’67 season. Ewing Kauffman’s first team surprised everyone by winning 69 games and finishing fourth in the six-team American League West.

The second season was more like what fans expected from the first Royals. Kansas City finished fourth again, but went 65-97.

There were no wild swings in the second campaign, no lengthy winning streaks and no agonizingly long losing skids. The Royals won four in a row twice and lost a modest seven straight once.

Although expected of a second-year expansion team, the losing took its toll. First-year manager Charlie Metro, Kauffman’s replacement for original skipper Joe Gordon, who resigned after his and the club’s first season, lasted only until the Royals, apparently displeased with his 19-33 record, turned the job over to future Hall of Famer Bob Lemon. KC was 46-64 under Lemon; he guided the Royals to their first winning record the following year and later won a World Series with the Yankees.

Kansas City managed winning records against only two teams in 1970—12-6 against sister 1969 expansion franchise Milwaukee, which played the previous season as the Seattle Pilots, and 11-7 against the White Sox.

The team wasn’t very good, but some of the KC Royals had decent seasons.

The 1970 Kansas City club featured regulars Ed Kirkpatrick behind the plate, Bob Oliver at first base, Cookie Rojas at second, Jackie Hernandez at shortstop, Paul Schaal at third, Lou Piniella in left field, Amos Otis in center, and Pat Kelly in right.

It was Piniella, of course, who led the club after winning the American League Rookie of the Year award the season before. “Sweet Lou” equaled his 1969 home run total with 11, but drove in 20 more runs (88) and improved his slash from .282/.325/.416 to .301/.342/.424.

Otis played his first year in KC; he led the league in doubles with 36, added nine triples, 11 homers, and 33 stolen bases, and hit .284 to earn the first of his five All-Star team berths.

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Cookie Rojas came over from St. Louis in a mid-June trade and immediately took over second base, where he’d spend several more seasons as one of the best to play the position for the Royals. He hit .260 in 1970, then made the All-Star team every year from 1971-74.

Oliver’s 27 home runs led the KC Royals, and he just missed the century mark in RBIs with 99.

Not surprisingly for a 97-loss team, Kansas City suffered from a lack of quality pitching. Jim Rooker’s 10 wins were the best on staff (he also hit a home run, drove in 13 runs, and hit .200 in the pre-designated hitter campaign). Dick Drago won nine but, like Rooker, lost 15.

Paul Splittorff, the all-time winningest Royal pitcher, went 0-1 with a two-game 7.27 ERA in his first exposure to the majors. Moe Drabowsky and Aurelio Monteagudo, both of whom Kansas City fans knew well from their days with the KC A’s, pitched their last games for the Royals before moving on.

Things improved the next season—Drago went 17-11, Mike Hedlund was 15-8, and Splittorff went 8-9 with a 2.68 ERA. And Lemon led the KC Royals to that first winning campaign.

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The Royals will give 1970 replica road jerseys to the first 10,000 fans to enter The K Saturday (June 19).