The Kansas City Royals Baseball Rushmore is the eleventh in a series revealing the top four players for each franchise as selected by writers and fans.
From its early days as the western-most stop of the big leagues to its Negro Leagues heyday to the Royals present, Kansas City boasts one of the longest and most influential histories in baseball. As this series winds itself back in time to older franchises, the difficulty increases to identify just four individuals to grace a team’s Baseball Rushmore. Please enjoy this attempt by both baseball writers and fans to create a Kansas City Royals (and Monarchs) Baseball Rushmore.
What defines a franchise?
Before the Royals returned major league baseball to KCMO, the City of Fountains was represented by the Athletics, Monarchs, Cowboys, and Unions in big-league play. From 1890 through 1954, the Blues held down the fort in minor league play.
Most historians and fans count these as distinct entities.
For the purposes of this series, however, OTH is embracing the idea that these iterations are one club telling a shared story. These teams represented Kansas City in professional baseball. They played with Kansas City written proudly on their uniforms. They share a common fanbase that enjoyed successes and lamented failures.
This series of articles serves, in part, as an attempt to recapture the legacy of those earlier teams. OTH recognizes that while an owner may move the corporate structure, the legacy belongs to the fans and the city for which the team played.
For cities that fielded two teams in the shameful era of segregated ball, this series will consider both sides as part of the same club. Today, to a degree, major league clubs take a similar approach. The Washington Nationals, for instance, include Washington Homestead Grays players in their Ring of Honor, and most teams tip their caps to their city’s Negro League predecessors by donning their uniforms for Negro Leagues heritage games.
The NBA and NFL have recognized the validity behind this line of thinking. The modern Charlotte Hornets inherited the legacy of the Hornets that moved to New Orleans. The modern Cleveland Browns inherited the legacy of the Browns that moved to Baltimore. Now Rob Manfred and MLB need to do the same.
1884 in the majors; 1885 in the minors
- Royals (1969-present)
- Athletics (1955-1967)
- Monarchs (1920-1955)
- Blues (1890-1954)
- Cowboys (1885-1889)
- Unions (1884)
World Series titles (4)
American League pennants (4)
Negro American League pennants (9)
Negro National League pennants (4)
Junior World Series titles (3)
American Association pennants (4)
Western League pennants (4)
Kansas City Royals Baseball Rushmore
After counting votes from OTH writers and baseball fans, here are the top four players in Kansas City Royals (and Monarchs) history.
- Kansas City Years: 1973-1993
- Kansas City Stats: 88.6 WAR, .305/.369/.487, 317 HR, 665 2B, 3,154 H, 5,044 TB, 47 rfield
What’s in a name? The first known name in human history is Kushim, a Sumerian merchant whose moniker was recorded on a grocery list while ordering supplies to make beer. Typically, people are named in honor of something. Sometimes a relative, other times a friend, a city, or an item. Occasionally, a child is named after a hero, even if the parents never met the namesake. We do not know about Kushim, but I once had a roommate named in honor of a certain Royals third baseman who is deservedly on the Kansas City Royals Baseball Rushmore.
The Californian played 21 seasons of Kansas City baseball, excelling at the plate for the vast majority of them. After some initial struggles, Brett tweaked his approach. The changes paid off, as Brett earned an MVP award and votes in another ten campaigns. He led the American League three times in hits, triples, batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS+. Brett’s career regular-season slash line of .305/.369/.487 is outdone by his postseason performance of .337/.397/.627.
- Kansas City Years: 1935, 1941-1947, 1965
- Kansas City Stats: 14.9 WAR, 2.17 ERA, 0.982 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 42.0 K%
At 59 years old, Leroy Satchel Paige pitched three scoreless innings of major league baseball. Perhaps it was fitting that his final big league appearance came against the last major league team to integrate. Paige was one of the greatest characters ever to take the mound, and his exploits and feats earned him renown across 44 years of playing organized and unorganized professional baseball.
Reviewing Paige’s statistics from the integrated and segregated major leagues, he ranks second all-time in career-adjusted ERA. He led the Monarchs to claim the 1942 World Series. Paige placed in the top ten in the majors in earned run average and wins above replacement in 11 different seasons. He did the same in walks-plus-hits per inning pitched, strikeouts per nine innings, and ERA+ on ten occasions. Paige easily belongs on the KC Baseball Rushmore.
- Kansas City Years: 1938-1955, 1988-2006
- Kansas City Stats: 4.6 WAR, .266/.327/.371, 3 pennants as manager, founded Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
A definitive account of the extraordinary baseball life of Buck O’Neil cannot be created. The closest yet to be made is The Soul of Baseball by Joe Posnanski. This top ten baseball book describes in poetic detail the man lived and breathed baseball. The Floridian had a profound impact on the national pastime, from his first baseman days on the 1942 World Series-winning Monarchs to managing the club to three pennants to scouting and signing Hall of Famers to being named the first Black coach in National League history to founding the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Long overdue, O’Neil will be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this year, and voters wisely chose to place him on the Kansas City Royals (and Monarchs) Baseball Rushmore.
- Kansas City Years: 2011-2021
- Kansas City Stats: 29.6 WAR, .270/.302/.463, 1,161 H, 213 2B, 200 HR, 1,994 TB, 72 Rfield, 59 Rpos
Offensively-powerful catchers are relatively rare in baseball. When they do come along, these backstops tend to have monumental impacts on their clubs. Josh Gibson, Mike Piazza, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, and Johnny Bench come to mind. The latter set the single-season record for home runs by a catcher; a record which was just broken by the Kansas City great, Salvy Perez. After five Gold Glove seasons, two pennants, and a World Series title, the Venezuelan returned in 2021 with an astonishing 48 home runs (tied for the major league lead). Perhaps more importantly, Perez has become a clubhouse leader and fan favorite. His winning smile and clubhouse antics play well in the social media age, and his sense of team spirit and pride in Kansas City is deserving of praise and a prominent place in Kansas City baseball history.
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