Whether you're looking to improve your Immaculate Grid scores or you're just the kind of person who enjoys reading about semi-obscure baseball players from the eighties and nineties — guessing there is quite a bit of crossover there — this is the series that delivers the goods for KC Royals fans.
Before we get to his KC Royals tenure, let's start with Gary Gaetti's prime
Most people don't immediately identify Gary Gaetti as a Royal. His prime (1981-90) was spent in Minnesota, and he was the perfect poster boy for those blue-collar, overachieving teams with his grizzled look and old-school batting helmet without ear flaps. Kirby Puckett was the most talented Twin of that era, but guys like Gaetti and Kent Hrbek were at the core of the franchise's identity.
Gaetti made an instant splash when he reached the big leagues as a September call-up in 1981, homering off knuckleballer Charlie Hough in his first plate appearance. In fact, Gaetti had a knack for coming up big in those kinds of moments. He's the first player in MLB history to homer in his first two postseason plate appearances (1987), and he later homered in his first at-bat with St. Louis in 1996.
The man knew how to make a first impression, but he also had a knack for producing in the clutch, hitting big home runs for St. Louis in the 1996 postseason, including a grand slam off of Greg Maddux in the NLCS. A year later, he also recorded his 2,000th hit against Maddux, lining a shot off the pitcher's ankle. As quoted in his SABR biography by Bryan Lake, Gaetti said it was "fitting that he wouldn't get it as a clean hit and had to dig it out."
That is a great way to look at Gaetti's career as a whole. It wasn't that he was incapable of flashiness. He hit over 30 home runs and recorded 100+ RBI in back-to-back seasons (1986-87), and he was part of the only team in MLB history to execute two triple plays in the same season in 1990, but that's not what Gaetti was all about. Gaetti was a grinder, best exemplified by his 1987 Twins team, which finished 85-77, but still found a way to win the AL West and the World Series.
Despite being one of the faces of the champion Twins, Gaetti was not around when Minnesota won their second title in five years in 1991. His numbers declined significantly in 1989 and 1990, partially due to injuries, and the Twins let him walk in free agency. A roundabout path then led him to Kansas City.