Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The 1967 Kansas City A's

The Kansas City Royals started Spring Training this past February with what most baseball analysts referred as the most talented minor league players in baseball.  But the dilemma the Royals face is how much longer to keep them in the minors for development considering the team’s last place finish six out of the last ten years. 
The team’s struggles for victories the first part of the season prompted the Royal management into action.  The team added some of its minor league talent (Moustakus, Hosmer, Perez, Giavotella) to its established young nucleus (Gordon, Butler, Cabrera, Esober, and Francoeur) and got improved results; especially with its offense.  The Royals finished 71 – 91, fifth place in the division.  In September they were 15 – 10 with the highest September team batting average in Royals history, .306.

The Royals strong finish has raised the 2012 expectations for some fans who now believe the team can compete for the division crown next year.  However, other fans are not impressed with the Royals’ September record seeing most of the wins were against teams with below .500 records.  Is the team for real or was September just “fool’s gold”?  That is what Royals fans will ponder this winter.

It reminds me of fan expectation for another Kansas City baseball team at the end of the 1966 season:  the Kansas City A’s.  After being 59 -103 in 1965, the A’s were 74 – 86 in 1966.  They had a strong September/October, 15 – 9 and their seventh place finish (10 team league) their best since moving to Kansas City in 1955.  The A’s had developed the most talented young pitching staff in baseball.  Twenty year old Jim “Catfish” Hunter, 23 year old Lew Krausse, 21 year old “Jumbo” Jim Nash, 21 year old John “Blue Moon” Odom, and 22 year old Chuck Dobson all had some measure of success in 1966.  Krausse was 14 – 6 and Nash 12 – 1.  The A’s position players included a young nucleus of Sal Bando and Rick Monday, both 20 years old, Bert Campaneris and Danny Cater.  In addition, future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson (21 years old) and Joe Rudi (20 years old) were ready to make the jump from the minor leagues.  The prospects for the A’s in 1967 were bright and fan expectations were higher than ever before.
But despite the high hopes, the 1967 season was a disaster for the A’s.  They were 62-99, finishing in last place.  There was internal conflict between some players and management.  And at the end of the season, owner Charlie Finley moved the team to Oakland.

Was the bright future for the team after the 1966 season a mirage?  No!  Their first season in Oakland, 1968, the A’s were 82-80.  They won 88 games in 1969, 89 in 1970.  In 1971 they won the American League Western Division Championship and were World Series Champion the next 3 years.  The heart of those championship teams were the players from the 1967 A’s; Hunter, Odom, Bando, Jackson, Rudi, and Campenaris.

It is fine for Royals fans to enjoy the winter being enthusiastically optimistic about next season.  But remember, if the team takes a step back; do not get discouraged.  The team’s future is still bright.  It may just take longer for it to develop as it did the 1967 Kansas City A’s.

What are your memories of the old Kansas City Athletics?

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