KC Royals: The interesting history of the Number 4

(Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports) /

When you think of the KC Royals and the Number 4, who comes to mind first?

Likely, at least for more recent fans, it’s Alex Gordon. But did you know that the history of the Number 4 for the Royals includes a Rookie of the Year, two of the club’s all-time leading hitters and a player who is in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame?

Let’s start with the obvious. Gordon is fifth in Royals history among position players with a 34.5 WAR. He ranks in the all-time Top 10 in games played, at-bats, runs, hits, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBIs and walks, and is the club’s all-time leader in being hit by pitches with 121.

Gordo gathered eight Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves in his 14-year career. His ninth-inning home run in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series is one of the most clutch hits in club history. He spent his entire career with the Royals, although in his rookie year of 2007, he wore No. 7.

Generally considered along with Gordon as a “Top 4” is Danny Tartabull, an All-Star in 1991, the last of his five seasons with the Royals. Tartabull still ranks as the club’s all-time leader in slugging percentage and OPS+, having slashed at .290/.376/.518 in his five years with 124 home runs and 425 RBIs. He hit more than 30 home runs twice and drove in more than 100 three times with the Royals.

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The 2003 American League Rookie of the Year wore No. 4 with the KC Royals.

Ángel Berroa slashed .287/.338/.451 with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs to claim the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2003. Unfortunately, that was a career season for Berroa, who was gone from Kansas City by the end of 2007 and played his final major league game in 2009 after brief stints with the Dodgers, Yankees and Mets.

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Several other KC Royals also wore No. 4 during their Kansas City tenures.

Greg Pryor was effective as a super utility player after coming over from the White Sox in 1982. Pryor wore No. 4 as he played all of the infield positions and served as pinch-hitter for the next five seasons, including earning a World Series ring in 1985. As the Royals drove to the AL West Division title in 1984 despite George Brett missing significant time with injuries, Pryor had his best season as a Royal with a .263 average, four homers and 25 RBIs while starting 55 games at the hot corner (and another 50 in relief at third base) and fielding a solid .970 with just six errors.

Others who have worn the No. 4 include Darryl Motley (in 1981 before changing to No. 24 when Pryor arrived the next season), Gary Gaetti in the first of his three seasons in Kansas City, Terry Shumpert, Keith Lockhart, Shane Halter, Ray Holbert and Wilson Delgado.

From the team’s first season in 1969 through 1975, coach Harry Dunlop was No. 4. Coach Chuck Hiller followed that with four more seasons wearing the number through 1979.

What is former KC Royals player Bobby Detherage’s connection to No. 4?

That brings us to the very first player to don No.4 for the Royals. Thought we forgot about that Missouri Sports Hall of Famer? Nope.

With Amos Otis on the shelf to begin the 1980 season, the Royals played the corner outfield spots by committee for the first couple of months of the season. The likes of Jose Cardenal, Rusty Torres, Clint Hurdle and even catcher John Wathan played alongside center field constant Willie Wilson.

Then there was Bobby Detherage, who on April 11, 1980, against the Detroit Tigers became the first Royal player to appear in a game wearing No. 4. Detherage went 1-for-3 that day with his first career RBI. He went on to play in 19 more games with seven more hits through his final big league game that season May 14 at Yankee Stadium. Detherage had his best game at Chicago May 7 in a 12-5 Royals win as he hammered out three hits, including his first and only career home run, and drove in three runs against the White Sox.

The problem for Bobby Detherage is that he had already bounced around for seven minor league seasons in the Dodgers, Cardinals and Astros organizations, and was already nearly 26 by his major league debut. A native of Springfield, Missouri, Detherage finished up 1980 in Omaha, then played 89 games with a .230 average there in 1981, and decided to call it a career.

He finished with a major league average of .308 with one home run and one stolen base; you can read more about the legend of Bob Detherage in this article from the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

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Will Alex Gordon be the final No. 4 for the Royals? Maybe, but no matter what its future, the number has a Kansas City history.