There’s been plenty of discussion recently about the KC Royals’ willingness to explore a new downtown ballpark despite their existing long-term Kauffman Stadium lease at the Truman Sports Complex. Talk has increased since principal owner John Sherman took over the team in 2019—he told mlb.com’s Anne Rogers in September that his club must “start thinking about our plans for a stadium over the next five to 10 years.”
Although it could be a decade until the franchise makes any sort of downtown move, it seems appropriate to put the spotlight on the team’s inaugural game at its present venue.
Kauffman Stadium, widely known as “The K” but originally named Royals Stadium, had its beginnings in 1967 when Jackson County voters approved a $102 million bond issue for construction. The site at the junction of Interstates 70 and 435 was eventually selected for the Truman Sports Complex and separate stadiums were built for the expansion Royals and the American Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs.
Arrowhead Stadium opened first in 1972, then Royals Stadium followed when it hosted Kansas City and the Texas Rangers for its April 10, 1973, evening debut.
KC Royals pitcher Paul Splittorff tossed a gem in the ballpark’s first game.
Kansas City starter Paul Splittorff pitched a spectacular game that evening, and wasn’t without considerable help from his offense.
The Royals were the first to score in the new ballpark. After Freddie Patek walked to lead off the first inning against Texas’ Pete Broberg, he stole second base before Cookie Rojas walked. Amos Otis singled and big John Mayberry followed with a two-run single. Ed Kirkpatrick drove in Otis with a sacrifice fly and Mayberry scored on an error two batters later to put Kansas City up 4-0.
Things became quiet for a time until Kansas City jumped on Broberg again in the bottom of the inning. Patek doubled, Rojas drove him in with his own double, and Hal McRae gave Broberg the final blow when he singled to score Mayberry. Bill Gogolewski didn’t fare much better in relief of Broberg, surrendering two more runs to give the Royals an 8-0 lead.
Mayberry hit the park’s first homer, a two-run shot that extended the lead to 10-0 in the fifth.
Kansas City then went quiet until the eighth when Keith Marshall and Kurt Bevacqua both drove in runs to put the Royals up 12-0.
Splittorff was close to getting a shutout when the Rangers’ Jeff Burroughs homered with one out in the top of the ninth. Still, Splittorff retired the next two batters to close out a complete game. Kansas City won 12-1.
That inaugural game was telling of how the KC Royals’ 1973 season would go.
That inaugural Royals Stadium contest was reflective of the fantastic season the Splittorff would have. He became the franchise’s first 20-game winner and the team’s 1973 Pitcher of the Year when he notched a record of 20-11 with a 3.98 ERA, 12 complete games, and three shutouts.
And Otis, one of Kansas City’s best-ever outfielders, went on to win the 1973 Royals Player of the Year award—his three-hits in the Stadium’s first game foretold a season slash of .300/.368/.484 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs.
The Royals ended up finishing second in the American League West to the A’s, who went on to win the World Series for the second straight season. Kansas City’s record of 88-74 was its best since the club entered the league in 1969.
Kansas City had a monster game when Royals Stadium first opened in 1973.