Top 5 moments in the history of The K

December 1st, 2021

As the sixth-oldest stadium in Major League Baseball, Kauffman Stadium has its host of memories, both games and moments throughout Royals history. It opened in 1973 as Royals Stadium and was renamed 20 years later for the Royals' founder and first owner, Ewing Kauffman.

“The K” has hosted the 1973 and 2012 All-Star Games, as well as Royals home games for four World Series. Between, there have been plenty of notable moments in the ballpark’s history:

1) Oct. 27, 1985: World Series Game 7
The Royals lost Game 7 of the 2014 World Series at Kauffman Stadium and won the deciding Game 5 of the '15 World Series on the road against the Mets, so this moment takes us back to 1985. The umpire controversy in Game 6 of the '85 World Series might have stolen the show, but because Game 7 delivered the first World Series title in Royals history, it gets the nod on this list.

Kansas City put an exclamation point on its first World Series title with an 11-0 blowout in Game 7. Cardinals starter John Tudor made it through just 2 1/3 innings as Royals starter Bret Saberhagen went the distance with a five-hit shutout, and the eventual American League Cy Young Award winner claimed the World Series MVP Award with two complete-game victories.

With the game firmly in hand by the ninth inning -- the Royals scored their final six runs in the fifth -- broadcaster Denny Matthews began counting down each out. With two outs, Cardinals outfielder Andy Van Slyke drove a ball toward right-center field where Darryl Motley caught it at the warning track, culminating with Matthews’ call:

“High fly ball ... Motley going back ... To the track ... No outs to go! The Royals have won the 1985 World Series!”

Kansas City converged on the field while the fans packed in what was then called Royals Stadium erupted in celebration.

2) Sept. 30, 2014: AL Wild Card Game
Twenty-nine years after Motley squeezed Van Slyke’s ball in his glove to clinch the 1985 World Series, the Royals made it back to the postseason. Kansas City was buzzing as the playoffs returned to Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals would host the A’s in the win-or-go-home Wild Card Game.

A sellout crowd of 40,502, which jammed Kauffman Stadium, was about to witness 12 wild innings.

The Royals overcame an early deficit and a 12th-inning deficit to triumph. In the 12th inning, Eric Hosmer launched a one-out triple that revived the crowd, which was still reeling from Alberto Callaspo’s go-ahead hit for Oakland in the top of the frame. Christian Colón scored Hosmer with a chopper to third, and with Colón on second, Salvador Perez delivered his first hit of the night, a screamer past a diving third baseman Josh Donaldson to end the game.

There had been so much before that inning, too. The Royals came back to life after trailing 7-3 in the eighth, scoring three more runs off A’s starter Jon Lester to cut the deficit to one. In the bottom of the ninth, Josh Willingham dropped a pinch-hit single into right. Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran for him, reached second on a bunt and stole third, so he was in perfect position to tie the game on Nori Aoki’s sacrifice fly to deep right field.

“You can’t put that into words,” closer Greg Holland said after the game.

3) Oct. 23, 2015: AL Championship Series Game 6
This game packed about a season’s worth of drama into one night, complete with slim leads, big outs, a 270-foot dash and a rain delay. The Royals held onto the lead until the top of the eighth inning, when José Bautista hit a two-run homer to pull the Blue Jays even, forcing Royals manager Ned Yost to send in reliever Wade Davis earlier than planned.

After a 45-minute rain delay, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons went to closer Roberto Osuna for the bottom of the eighth inning. Lorenzo Cain walked -- with a fantastic take for ball four -- to open the frame, and Eric Hosmer followed with a single down the right-field line. With Cain rounding second and heading for third, Royals third-base coach Mike Jirschele recognized Bautista’s throw wasn’t going to the cutoff man, so he waved Cain home. Cain never broke stride, sliding safely at home, and the Royals took the lead.

Davis then returned after an hour-long wait between pitches. He allowed a single to Russell Martin to open the top of the ninth, and pinch-runner Dalton Pompey stole second and third. Kevin Pillar walked and stole second. Davis struck out Dioner Navarro and Ben Revere. One out away from the pennant, Davis had to get through Josh Donaldson.

Davis got Donaldson out front and Donaldson pulled the ball to third baseman Mike Moustakas, who fielded it cleanly. The thriller ended, and the Royals headed to the World Series for the second consecutive year.

4) Aug. 17, 1980: Brett reaches .400
Royals Stadium was rocking as Kansas City closed out a homestand against the Blue Jays on this mid-August day. The 27-year-old George Brett entered the game with a .394 batting average and was riding a 28-game hitting streak. He was 3-for-3 with a walk as he stepped to the plate for the fifth time that game, in the eighth inning. Brett's average was .399, on the cusp of reaching a level generally considered unattainable this late in the season. And the Hall of Famer was about to reach it -- in his home stadium, in front of Royals fans.

Brett came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning against Mike Barlow, whose two quick strikes on Brett put the latter into a “survival stance.”

“It was a sinker, away, and I just slapped it to left,” Brett said afterward. “I didn’t want to let myself down, and I didn’t want to let the fans down after the support they gave me.”

The double boosted Brett’s average to .401, and he stood on second base and tipped his helmet to a standing ovation. He reached a peak of .407 on Aug. 26 and was at .400 as late as Sept.19. While he ended the season at .390, the Royals icon won the 1980 AL batting title and MVP Award.

5) Sept. 29, 1993: Brett’s final game at Kauffman
Brett’s 10th-inning walk-off home run against the Angels during the weekend he announced his retirement was still the talk of Kansas City by the time the Royals’ final home game of the 1993 season -- and Brett’s final game at The K -- came about on Sept. 29. The Royals were hosting Cleveland, and knowing the significance of the game, Kauffman was a packed house that night.

With Kansas City down, 2-1, with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Brett came through, drilling a first-pitch, game-tying single to center field. He came off the field a batter later to a thundering ovation when Phil Hiatt came in to pinch-run. Kansas City won it the next inning, but the real memory comes from what happened postgame.

Brett took a final Kauffman Stadium curtain call against the backdrop of fireworks. He circled the field on a golf cart and thanked fans, and when he came back around, he jumped off the cart, ran over to home, knelt and kissed the plate.

Honorable mention
• On May 14, 1977, Jim Colborn threw the Royals' first no-hitter in Kansas City. The right-hander struck out six and walked one in a 6-0 victory over the Rangers.