SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Flash back to the bottom of the 12th inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.The Royals have taken a 7-2 lead over the Mets and, with Wade Davis coming in to pitch the last three outs, a World Series championship is all but sealed.Who would
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Flash back to the bottom of the 12th inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.
The Royals have taken a 7-2 lead over the Mets and, with Wade Davis coming in to pitch the last three outs, a World Series championship is all but sealed.
Who would call those final three outs on the Royals' radio network? Would it be Hall of Famer Denny Matthews, who has been with the team since its inception in 1969? Or would it be Ryan Lefebvre, the relative upstart who replaced the beloved Fred White 17 years earlier?
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It was Lefebvre's inning to call, as the two alternated once the game went to extra innings.
But deep down, Lefebvre knew controversy could arise if he didn't even ask permission to take the call for those final three outs and proclaim the Royals "World Champions." Matthews, after all, had made the famous "two outs to go ... one out to go ... no outs to go!" call to finish off the Royals' last World Series title in 1985.
Fans might expect a nice, sentimental broadcasting bookend to the two championships.
"It actually haunted me a little bit leading up to it after Game 4," Lefebvre said. "I knew there was a chance in Game 5 that the Royals could be up and it could go to extra innings with the World Series at stake. I actually asked quite a few people about what to do.
"The consensus was that if it came down to my inning, I should at least ask Denny if he wanted to call the final out."
As the broadcast went to commercial after the top of the 12th, Lefebvre looked over to Matthews for some kind of sign that he wanted to call the final outs. He didn't see any.
"He's just writing away on his scorecard and I didn't notice anything different about him," Lefebvre said. "So I just leaned over and quietly said -- and I didn't want anyone else to hear, depending on what he said -- 'Denny, are you OK with me doing the bottom of the 12th?'"
Matthews, a bit puzzled by the query, said simply, "No, it's your inning. That's the way we've always done it."
And just like that, Matthews returned to writing more notes on his scorecard.
"His reaction was that he hadn't even considered another option," Lefebvre said. "That just meant a lot to me. Maybe to some, it doesn't seem like a big deal. But to me, it did. I wasn't going to do that final inning like it belonged to me."
Matthews said his decision wasn't necessarily a sentimental and ceremonial "passing of the torch" to the younger announcer.
"It was his just inning," Matthews said. "That's just how it is done. He has a chance to say 'The Royals win the World Series.' There's no guarantee that it will ever happen again, so good for him.
"Maybe the next time, if the Royals are lucky enough to do this again, I might be doing the ninth inning of a final win. But I've already had my chance. It was the right thing to do.
"I've always told the guys, 'There's plenty of innings for everyone.'"
And Matthews never has forgotten to stick to the rules of alternating innings.
"First game in Royals history went extra innings," Matthews recalled. "I'm doing my first game with Buddy Blattner, the veteran and well-established broadcaster. I did the 10th, he did the 11th, I did the 12th. We would do it every other inning.
"Because of that, I was the first broadcaster to ever say 'Royals win.' He could have stepped in and taken them all so he could be the first. He didn't. I'm not going to let ego get in the way now."
Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.