Assuming recent reporting holds, Major League Baseball will make new economic proposals to the Major League Baseball Players Association today. The two sides—clubs (including the KC Royals) and players—will presumably chat a few minutes, then withdraw into the cloak of secrecy that’s enveloped their mutual combat for months.
How the union reacts remains to be seen, but even cautious optimism is difficult to muster at this point of the MLB lockout. Before all is said and done and baseball resumes, however, the parties seem destined to finally reach agreement on the designated hitter—look for its extension to the National League.
With limited exceptions, the DH has been an American League hitters-only fixture since 1973, the first year the Royals played in Kauffman (then Royals) Stadium, so its pitchers batting regularly lasted only the four seasons the club played at old Municipal Stadium. The sample size is small, but who were the club’s top hitting pitchers before the DH?
An obscure KC Royals hurler made a bit of a splash at the plate in 1971.
Easily lost in the excitement of the Royals achieving their first winning record in 1971 were the efforts of a little-known lefthanded pitcher who hit about as well as he pitched. Lance Clemons made his big league debut against the old Washington Senators in mid-August, starting and throwing two scoreless innings and striking out famed Washington slugger Frank Howard before giving way to Roger Nelson. Clemons appeared in nine more games and finished 1-0.
Looking back, his biggest Royal moment, other than beating Boston for his first and only big league win, came when he slammed a solo home run against Milwaukee’s Ken Sanders to give the Royals their sixth run in a 6-4 win.
Clemons ended his blink of a KC career with a .286 average (2-for-7), but it and the important homer merit declaring him one of the club’s best pre-1973 hitting pitchers.
Kansas City traded Clemons and pitcher Jim York to Houston that December in the deal that brought John Mayberry to the Royals. Clemons pitched only nine more times in the majors. (York hit one of the KC pitchers’ seven pre-DH homers).