KC Royals: Club Hall of Famer remains close to the game

(Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images) /

As the KC Royals visit the Los Angeles Angels this week, a familiar face will be in LA’s television booth.

Former Royals righthander Mark Gubicza has been in broadcasting since 2000, and with the Angels primarily since 2007. He currently serves as color commentator alongside former ESPN and MLB Network play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian.

Gubicza was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

Watching and listening to an Angels game on TV, a sharp listener can pick up rock and roll references from Gubicza. During Saturday night’s contest against the Seattle Mariners, for example, Gubicza mentioned Angels first baseman-designated hitter Jared Walsh and referred to how good life has been to him, a nod to the 1978 classic “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh.

Pitcher Mark Gubicza worked his way quickly through the KC Royals system.

Taken by the Royals in the second round of the 1981 amateur draft, when he was just 18, the righthander from Philadelphia went 8-1 in Rookie ball that year to earn himself a promotion to Class A for 1982, then to Double-A in 1983. A 14-12 record and 3.08 ERA earned Gubicza a shot at the major league club in 1984 alongside fellow rookie Bret Saberhagen.

As the Royals battled to American League West Division titles in 1984 and 1985, Gubicza posted a 24-24 record and 4.05 ERA. He made three starts in April 1984 with good success, but didn’t have a win to show for his efforts until a four-hit shutout May 12 against Boston.

Although Gubicza didn’t appear in the 1984 American League Championship Series loss to Detroit, he played a key role in eating some innings in a Game 1 loss and won Game 6 of the Royals’ famous 1985 ALCS comeback against Toronto.

KC Royals hurler Mark Gubicza became an American League All-Star in 1988.

Despite tossing a career-high 10 complete games in 1987, Gubicza finished the season 13-18. He went 7-3 in those complete games, including scattering eight hits for a 10-1 victory in the club’s season finale against Minnesota.

Everything came together for Gubicza in 1988. He went 20-8 with a 2.70 ERA, eight complete games and four shutouts. He was 15-3 after starting 5-5 through a May 25 loss to the Twins.

Riding a seven-game winning streak, Gubicza was named to the AL All-Star team for the first time. Entering the All-Star Game in relief in the fourth inning with a 2-0 lead, Gubicza gave up a run on three hits over two innings but the AL held on for a 2-1 victory.

He finished third in Cy Young Award voting and third in the AL in wins.

Gubicza started slowly again in 1989, beginning the season 3-4 through May 21, but picked things up in June and made his second consecutive All-Star team. While the 5-3 AL victory was punctuated by a rocket home run by Royals outfielder Bo Jackson, Gubicza came on in relief in the fourth inning and retired Howard Johnson and Pedro Guerrero on ground balls and struck out Ryne Sandberg for a perfect inning.

Injuries eventually took a toll on KC Royals Hall of Famer Mark Gubicza.

After finishing 1989 at 15-11 with a 3.05 ERA and leading the league with 36 starts, injury woes set in for Gubicza. He missed parts of each of the next three seasons, logging just 20 wins over that stretch.

In six starts in 1993, Gubicza was faltering with a 7.03 ERA and no victories against four losses when the Royals sent him to the bullpen for the rest of the season. He posted a 5-4 mark out of the pen with a couple of saves and a 3.61 ERA.

Gubicza returned to form in 1995, leading the AL with 33 starts as he posted a 3.75 ERA and won 12 games, but he was just 4-12 through July 5 in 1996 when he suffered a broken tibia when struck by a ball off the bat of Minnesota’s Paul Molitor. That moment turned out to be the end of Gubicza’s Kansas City career—the Royals traded him and Mike Bovee to the Angels for Chili Davis after the season.

In his first start with the Angels, Gubicza surrendered seven runs and was knocked out in the fourth inning by Cleveland. His next start five days later was also horrific—Cleveland roughed him up for six runs without Gubicza getting a single out in the second inning. Shoulder surgery knocked him out for the rest of the season.

Despite signing a January 1998 free agent deal with the Dodgers, Gubicza retired the next month.

Over 13 seasons with the Royals, Gubicza put his name all over the club’s all-time leaderboards. His 132 wins ranks third in club history, trailing only Paul Splittorff and Dennis Leonard, another injury-plagued KC starter.  Gubicza is second to Splittorff with 2,218.2 innings pitched and to Kevin Appier with 1,366 strikeouts. His 16 shutouts rank third all-time and his 42 complete games are seventh.

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After making his mark in Kansas City pitching history, Mark Gubicza is now leaving an impression on Angels fans with his calls from the TV booth.