After coming up just shy in 1976, 1977 and 1978, the Royals finally toppled the New York Yankees to to capture the 1980 American League Pennant. Kansas City closed out the Yankees with a three game sweep highlighted by George Brett's Game 3 home run off reliever Goose Gossage.
The 1980 season was one the most memorable in Kansas City baseball history. The Royals took first place in May and never looked back en route to a fourth American League West title in five seasons. Awaiting them for a fourth American League Championship Series battle were the New York Yankees.
After Three agonizing ALCS losses to New York, Kansas City relished the opportunity for another shot at the Yankees. This time the series lasted just three games. The Royals captured the first two at home, and then traveled to Yankee Stadium for Game 3, where ALCS MVP Frank White's fifth-inning home run got Kansas City started. The Yankees rallied to lead 2-1 entering the seventh inning, when George Brett blasted a Goose Gossage fastball into the upper deck for a three-run home run and a 4-2 lead. Dan Quisenberry thwarted an eighth-inning rally and closed the door on New York to complete the sweet. The Royals were American League Champions.
In Kansas City's first World Series, the Royals faced the Philadelphia Phillies. Despite holding leads in the first two games on the road, the Royals came home down two games to none. Kansas City tied it with two wins at Royals Stadium, which included Willie Aikens' second two-home run performance of the series in Game 4. But the Phillies staged a heartbreaking ninth-inning rally in Game 5, then returned home to take a decisive Game 6 in Philadelphia.
Though they did not win it all, the 1980 Royals finally delivered an American League Pennant to Kansas City.
The 1980 American League Batting Title race was no contest as MVP George Brett hit .390 besting Milwaukee's Cecil Cooper by 38 points. Brett captured the attention of the entire baseball world throughout the summer in his quest for the .400 mark last accomplished by Ted Williams in 1941 (.406). Brett missed the mark by just five hits, but won his second batting title in one of the best single season performances in baseball history.
Kansas City was well represented at the 1982 All-Star Game in Montreal leading the American League with five players: George Brett (starter), Dan Quisenberry, Frank White, Willie Wilson, and Hal McRae. They were joined by Manager Dick Howser (serving as a coach) and trainer Mickey Cobb for a Royals' magnificent seven.
Willie Wilson (.332) edged Robin Yount (.331) to become the first switch hitter since Mickey Mantle in 1956 to win an American League batting title. Known for his blazing speed, Wilson also led the league with 85 steals in 1979 and posted an amazing 13 career inside-the-park home runs. In 1980, he became the first major league player to record 700+ at-bats in a single season (705) and was only the second to have 100 hits from each side of the plate.
The Royals take part in one of the most 'infamous' games in baseball history. George Brett's 9th inning home run off Goose Gossage seemed to have given the Royals a late lead. But the umpires call Brett out for having pine tar too far up the barrel of the bat. American League President Lee MacPhail later reverses the ruling and reinstates the home run.
Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry had already become the first pitcher in major league history to post 40 or more saves in two consecutive seasons earlier in 1983. He upped the ante even more with his 45th save that year, which set a then major league record for the most ever recorded in a single season.
The Royals returned to the American League Championship Series as the surprise winners of their fifth AL West title with an 84-78 record. Manager Dick Howser led a group of familiar veterans and a corps of young pitchers, including Bret Saberhagen, against the juggernaut Detroit Tigers. The tough loss set the stage for a bigger triumph to come.
In an All-Missouri 'Show-Me' State battle the Royals take on the St. Louis Cardinals for baseball's biggest prize in what would become known as the I-70 Series. After losing the first two games at home and later trailing the series three games to one, the Royals rallied for three straight wins to capture Kansas City's first World Series Championship.
Dennis Leonard was one of baseball's most dominate pitchers winning 20 games three times between 1977-80. However, his most memorable moment may have been his first start three years after a devastating knee injury suffered on May 28, 1983. The complete game three-hit shutout (1-0) against Toronto at Royals Stadium in front of a national television audience was an emotional highlight in club history.
Frank White was already one of the greatest players in Royals history by 1987 when he won his 8th Gold Glove for defensive excellence. He was the first American League second baseman to win the award eight times. Frank's defensive skills made him one of the best second baseman to ever play the game.
As a child his family likened his rambunctious nature to a wild boar. The comparison inspired the nickname that put him on a first-name basis with the country - Bo.
The Bo Jackson story started and ended with football, but his 'legend' began when he signed with the Kansas City Royals. One of the greatest running backs in college football history, the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner and the #1 pick in the 1986 NFL Draft spurned the gridiron to play baseball. It was a stunning move, but would it work? The answer was a resounding yes.
The Royals took a chance on a great athlete and Kansas City came away with perhaps the most amazing highlight-reel player baseball was known. Perhaps the biggest stage in Bo's baseball career was the 1989 All-Star Game in Anaheim. Manager Tony La Russa put him in the leadoff spot and he didn't disappoint starting the bottom of the first with a monumental home run. He later added a single and stolen base and was named Most Valuable Player.
Unfortunately, a hip injury during a 1990 NFL playoff game with the Los Angeles Raiders effectively ended his amazing two-sport career. The injury gave the Bo Jackson story a Greek myth-like quality with his amazing athletic feats often overshadowed by questions of what might have been.
Four years after capturing his first Cy Young Award, Bret Saberhagen was even more dominant in 1989. He led the American League in wins (23), ERA (2.16), innings pitched (262.1), and all of baseball with 12 complete games. Saberhagen was rewarded with his second Cy Young, joining an elite club as only the ninth pitcher to win the honor more than once.
Bo Jackson hit lead-off for the 1989 American League All-Star team in Anaheim, CA and launched a long home run in the bottom of the first against Rick Reuschel of the Giants. Bo went on to collect another hit, a second RBI and stolen base in the 5-3 American League victory and was named the game's Most Valuable Player.