Darryl Motley's claim to KC Royals fame

All it takes is one moment to achieve immortality.
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The KC Royals history beat tends to focus on legends or underrated players who deserve more attention. The former group includes franchise legends like George Brett and Frank White, while the latter covers a wide range of players like Joe Randa and the speedy Lonnie Smith. However, most of the players who've suited up for the Royals tend to fall outside those circles.

Sure, they were talented enough to make it to the major leagues, a phenomenal accomplishment in its own right, but are largely forgettable in the grand scheme of things, and most played only a few seasons before moving into obscurity.

But even bit players, through their talent, nerve, and good timing, occasionally leave unforgettable marks. Christian Colón is an excellent example: some consider the fourth pick in the 2010 amateur draft a bust because he was a utility player for the Royals. But while he never became a star, Colón came through when it mattered most, tying the 2014 American League Wild Card Game with an infield single and eventually scoring the winning run. And he knocked in the winning run of the 2015 World Series. (He now manages Seattle's Double-A farm club).

Colón, though, wasn't the first non-star Royal to make his name on baseball's biggest stage. To find another example, one need look no further than how the Royals won their first World Series title in 1985.

The Darryl Motley game and a KC Royals championship

If you weren't watching baseball in 1985, there's a good chance Darryl Motley's name doesn't ring a bell. He's not exactly a franchise icon, and there's not much media memorialization of his Kansas City career. In fact, I couldn't find a single photo of him in the vast image bases available to Kings of Kauffman writers, so I settled on the ageless image of Bret Saberhagen and George Brett embracing after the last out in Game 7.

What you may not realize is that Motley caught that last out, a fly ball from St. Louis' Andy Van Slyke. It's a play I'll always remember — Motley squeezed the ball in his glove, did a little two-foot hop, and joined the Royal celebration. Even at the tender age of six, I did the same thing while my parents told me to settle down. They might as well have been talking to the wall.

That play alone may have been enough to secure Motley's spot in Royals history. At the very least, it made him the answer to a good trivia question. But it wasn't even Motley's best play of the night. Not bad for a guy who looked like he might not stick with the team early in the season.

Motley began the '85 season as the Royals' starting left fielder, but he struggled, and the team made the move to acquire Lonnie Smith from the Cardinals and shifted Motley to right field, where he platooned with Pat Sheridan but eventually found his footing. He hit 17 home runs in the regular season, but his biggest dinger came in October.

After the Royals came back to win Game Six of the '85 Series in controversial fashion, they sent Saberhagen to the mound for Game 7. The Cy Young winner was dealing, but so was Cardinals' ace John Tudor, who had completely stymied Kansas City in his first two starts and looked to seal the deal with a World Series hat trick.

The Cardinals' psyche was fragile after the Game 6 controversy, however, and the Royals were poised to knock them out if they could only land an early blow. They got it in the bottom of the second.

After Steve Balboni walked, Motley worked to a full count against Tudor. He then launched a rocket toward the left field seats but it hooked foul. Frustrated, Motley slammed his bat down on home plate and broke it. Armed with a new bat, Motley hammered the next pitch to the same part of the ballpark; this time, it stayed true, and the home run gave the Royals a 2-0 lead. Just as I would later, I jumped up and down like a maniac — I knew at that moment the Royals were going to win the Series.

Perhaps my six-year-old optimism was naive, but I was right. The Royals broke Tudor in the next inning, chasing him from the game with three more runs. They busted it wide open with five more in the fifth, and won 11-0. And Motley got it all started.

Kansas City traded Motley late the next season after he platooned most of the year with Rudy Law. I vividly remember his 1987 Topps card with the wood-grained border that still featured him in a Royals uniform, but with the caption, Now with Braves, in the corner. A year later, he was out of major league baseball. He kicked around Japan and the minors for a few more years, but never made it back to The Show.

But he left a lasting impression on Kansas City.

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