Gordon bids fond farewell in Royals' win

September 27th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- The end came as Royals legend likely preferred: Without any fanfare.

Gordon, who announced his retirement after 14 years with Kansas City on Thursday, came out of Sunday’s game, his final one in the big leagues, in the top of the second inning against Detroit at Kauffman Stadium. Gordon was replaced in left field by Whit Merrifield, who viewed Gordon as his mentor and close friend.

There were hugs from Gordon’s teammates and coaches, and one from manager Mike Matheny. But obviously there were no fans cheering, no sentimental salutes. Gordon’s mother, Leslie, cried as she looked from on of the team’s suites.

The Royals won 3-1 and finished 26-34.

Gordon, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2005 Draft, never sought attention or publicity. He simply did his job, outworked those around him and transformed himself from a third baseman on the brink of being a bust into the industry standard for defensive left fielders -- he won seven Gold Gloves.

Gordon did enjoy some of the special attention surrounding his finale. Matheny allowed him to “contribute’” to making out the lineup card. Gordon wound up hitting leadoff, a spot where he once wound up resurrecting his career: He holds the franchise record for leadoff home runs with 14.

If Gordon could have scripted it, he would have hit yet another leadoff homer as he walked off into the sunset. Instead, he struck out.

“I know. I tried,” Gordon said. “I told everyone I was going to swing at the first pitch no matter where it was to try to add to the leadoff home run record. It didn’t work out … but it’s fitting that I came into this league with a strikeout and ended with a strikeout.”

Asked if the normally stoic Gordon got emotional at all Sunday, Matheny said, “Yeah, he was mad at me for pulling him out. He wanted nine today.”

Matheny said he had planned on taking Gordon out in the second inning.

“Only out of as much fear of the weather as much as anything else,” said Matheny. “I was afraid of a couple things. I was afraid he might swing so hard that first at-bat that he might hurt himself and that would be anticlimactic. Or the weather would take away the opportunity to honor him the best we could.”

Gordon took out the lineup card to the umpires before the start of the game, which was delayed one hour and 35 minutes because of rain.

There also was a touching video tribute on the giant scoreboard behind center field with farewells from Mike Sweeney to Eric Hosmer to Mike Moustakas to Ned Yost and many others.

“The video tribute got to me a little bit,” Gordon said. “Hearing Salvy and Moose and Hoz and Whit and Ned. All those guys saying nice things to me. I just think about everything that’s happened over my career and what all these people meant to me.

“One thing that got me pretty good was when I went into the dugout and our strength coach Ryan Stoneberg, who I’ve had a great relationship with over the years, and he’s just crying. That just hits you.”

Gordon wasn’t sure when it would hit him that his career actually was over.

“It was today,” he said. “I’ve known this whole year [about retiring], but it really didn’t sink in until today. I’ve always tried to approach this game one day at a time and play the best way I could. But even though everyone knew and I knew … today was the day I kind of sat back and took it all in.”

But pulling off that Royals jersey one last time did make Gordon emotional.

“Yes, anyone that has ever played the game will say that,” he said. “I grew up as a kid just wanting to play this game. And this is all I have known. I have been fortunate to play my whole career with the organization I grew up loving. I was sad today, but also happy that my career went the way it did.”

Other highlights from Sunday’s game:

• Royals rookie right-hander finished with a solid outing, going seven innings and giving up three hits and one run. He struck out five and lowered his ERA to 4.06.

“Brady showed up and did his part,” Matheny said. “It was one of my favorite starts of his. He didn’t have his location at the start, and he had to use his slider to get there. He went off script, he and Salvy did, and improvised until he got his sinker back.”

• Shortstop continued his sizzling end to 2020, collecting three more hits, including his sixth home run and an RBI double. From Sept. 4 on, Mondesi hit .376.

“Everybody understands how happy we are that he continues to reinforce to himself all the things we already believe about him,” Matheny said. “I don’t think there’s anyone as dangerous as him at the plate right now. It couldn’t have ended any better.”

• First baseman/DH snapped a 0-for-16 skid with a home run.