KC Royals legend U.L. Washington reportedly passes away at 70

Sports Contributor Archive 2020
Sports Contributor Archive 2020 / Ron Vesely/GettyImages

Washington played 757 games in his Royals career spanning from 1977 to 1984. It all began in 1972 when Washington signed with the Royals and entered the Royals Baseball Academy in Sarasota, Florida. The franchise's shot on a kid from Stringtown paid off, as he was one of three academy participants to reach the majors.

U.L. Washington was a glue player for the competitive KC Royals.

Washington was the successor to shortstop Freddie Patek in the 1980 season. His best offensive season came in 1982 when he achieved career highs with a .286 batting average, 10 home runs, and 60 RBIs. He swiped an absurd 40 bags in 1983, totaling 120 in his Kansas City career. Over his eight seasons with the Royals, he compiled a .254 batting average, hit 26 home runs, and drove in 228 RBIs. Washington just missed out on Kansas City's first World Series win, as the team traded him to Montreal in 1985.

Washington has two places in baseball history. First, he was the runner on base when Hall of Famer George Brett homered against the New York Yankees in the infamous Pine Tar Game. Secondly, wherever Washington went, fans usually saw him with a toothpick in his mouth. Playing with such a unique look overshadowed his lengthy career, to an extent.

"I'd much rather be remembered as a pretty good player, but I realize most people will remember me as the guy with the toothpick," Washington said in a 1988 interview. "I feel I've had a pretty good career, especially looking back at how I got into professional baseball."

Washington had a lengthy coaching career after retiring in 1988, spending time with the Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, and Boston Red Sox. Washington's last big baseball impact was in the Red Sox system, where his coaching turned things around for future MVP and All-Star Mookie Betts. The two "had an unbelievable relationship,” according to former Greenville Drive manager and Royals infielder Carlos Febles.

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