This Royal suffered a gruesome injury but still owns unbreakable records.
Dennis Leonard won 144 games (second only to Paul Splittorff’s 166) in the dozen years he pitched for Kansas City, but his 137th remains unforgettable. And remarkable.
He earned the victory in his first start of the season and first since May 28, 1983, the day he crumpled to the Kauffman Stadium ground with the terrible knee injury that kept him out of action until he made two September relief appearances in 1985.
Some, like this writer, remember Leonard’s first ’86 start like it happened only minutes ago. Facing Toronto April 12, he retired the side in order six times and allowed only two base runners through eight innings. He didn’t walk anyone, gave up just three hits, and finished with a 1-0 shutout.
Pitching complete games and shutouts were nothing new to Leonard, but achieving both under such unlikely circumstances reflects the grit and determination that enabled him to set untouchable club records in both categories. His 103 complete games include 21 in 1977 and 20 in ’78; his 23 shutouts are six more than Splittorff’s 17.
In comparison, current Royal Brad Keller has two complete games and one shutout.
Leonard’s marks won’t be broken for the same reasons Splittorff’s will survive. Pitch counts, durability, five and six-man rotations, openers and longevity won’t allow serious challenges.