MLB History: Royals First Game

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MLB History
FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH, 1969: Manager Joe Gordon #6 of the Kansas City Royals watches the action from the dugout steps during Spring Training in March, 1969 at Casey Park in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by: John Vawter Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

The Kansas City Royals have been around for over 50 years and have made MLB history by bringing home two World Series titles, however, the Royals’ first game in franchise history happened in 1969 when the club hosted the Minnesota Twins at Municipal Stadium.

As the Kansas City Athletics left for Oakland, the city of Kansas City was awarded an expansion franchise that would debut during the 1969 season. With an expansion draft, the Royals did not have the best team in the league, after all, they finished fourth in the AL West that season with a 69-93 record. Despite the struggles in year one, this was a monumental season and memorable first game for the franchise that made MLB history.

MLB History: Royals First Game – New Owner

In January of 1968, the franchise was awarded to Ewing Kauffman, who became the first owner in Royals history. As the owner, his first move was to hire a general manager, coaching staff, and to start putting a roster together during the expansion draft.

The first manager hired by Kansas City was Joe Gordon. Gordon played over 12 MLB seasons with the Indians and the Yankees. During his playing career, he hit over 250 homers, along with 975 RBIs. As a manager, he was the Kansas City Athletics manager during the 1961 season. He also spent time with the Indians and Tigers as a manager before the Royals’ first game.

The expansion draft was held for the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots who were also making their debut during the 1969 season. The Royals selected Roger Nelson with the first pick. Nelson was from the Baltimore Orioles organization and was coming off a solid 1968 season. With Baltimore, Nelson went 4-3 with a 2.41 ERA in 19 games. As the season approached, the Royals’ first game was set.

Royals First Game: The Lineup

As the Kansas City Royals’ first game in 1969 approached, with an expansion team, Kansas City was not supposed to perform well taking on an established Minnesota squad. The lineup for this game consisted of some familiar names to baseball fans despite this being an expansion team. The team was bound to make MLB history during their first game. Here was the starting lineup for the club’s first game in franchise history:

The Royals First Game: Play Ball

The top of the first began with Wally Bunker setting down the Twins to start the game. The Royals started hot at the plate against the Twins in the bottom half of the inning. The first hit in franchise history did not take long, as Lou Piniella smacked a double to open up the bottom of the first. Shortly after, the first run came in that very inning as the next hitter Jerry Adair hit a single that scored Piniella that gave Kansas City a 1-0 lead early.

This lead quickly went away, as the Twins hit a home run in the top of the second to tie the ball game. Wally Bunker exited during the sixth inning after giving up a run on a Harmon Killebrew groundout. Bunker ended the day with five innings pitched, two earned runs, five hits, and one walk.

Entering the bottom of the sixth, the Royals were trailing 3-1, however, pinch-hitter Jim Campanis cut the lead to one with a single. As the lineup card turned over, Lou Piniella got another hit with a single into center that tied the game. The game would then stay tied and would head into extra innings.

Royals First Game Heads to Extras

As the game entered extra innings, neither team could get on the board, both teams bullpens dominated to start extra frames and not much action happened until the 12th. Royals pitcher Moe Drabowsky got a 1-2-3 inning as the game headed to the bottom of the 12th.

With one out in the 12th, Joe Foy for the Royals got on base with a single. During the next at-bat, Foy advanced to second on a passed ball, however, this allowed Minnesota to walk Chuck Harrison and set up a double-play to get out of this jam, despite this, both runners advanced on a wild pitch which led to another intentional walk to Bob Oliver.

MLB History : Joe Keough Plays Hero

With one out and the bases loaded, Joe Keough came up to pinch-hit. Keough singled into right-field and that scored the game-winning run and gave the Kansas City Royals their first win in franchise history with a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins. With over 17,000 fans in attendance at Municipal Stadium, the Royals’ first game came down to the wire and made MLB history.

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main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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