At last, we’re at the apex of our list of the greatest moments in Royals history. These are the crown jewels, so to speak; these are not just great but probably the most important moments in franchise history, at least on the field. I think rather than recapping these, as I’ve done up to now, I might just explain why I ranked them where I did. I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you know the details of these.
Here are the top five…
5. October 26, 1985: Iorg’s pinch-hit single gives Royals walkoff win
Well, you can’t force a Game Seven without winning Game Six, and then you can’t win a World Series without winning Game Seven. The stage was set for the Royals’ first World Series title in this game, and you might argue they really won the title on this night, even though they needed one more win to make it official. A ninth-inning comeback against a team that had not blown a ninth-inning lead all year was probably enough to capture momentum and cause the Cardinals to doubt themselves a little. But Don Denkinger’s blown call at the start of the ninth inning (even if Jorge Orta later was forced out at third) triggered a Cardinal meltdown that lasted the rest of the inning and carried into Game Seven. St. Louis was still fighting over this game the next night instead of focusing on the task at hand.
4. September 30, 1992: Brett Joins 3,000 Hit Club
Apologies to Gaylord Perry, Harmon Killebrew, and Orlando Cepeda, but let’s be honest: George Brett is the one true Hall of Fame player the Royals have had. This may change when Carlos Beltran makes the Hall, depending on how you feel about someone who only spent a third of his career here, but I do feel fairly certain that Brett will be the only Hall of Fame player who plays his entire career here. Of course, Brett was already going to the Hall, but on this pleasant southern California night, he cemented that fact with four base hits. The last one was the magic number 3,000, and it meant the Royals—and Kansas City—finally had their baseball immortal.
3. September 30, 2014: The Wild-Card Game
Given the setting, this is probably the best game in Royals history. It is certainly the best game in the short history of the wild-card setup, and it should be considered one of the best games in all of postseason history. Twelve innings and almost five hours of tension and elation and…well, every emotion imaginable. After a 29-year wait, Royals fans definitely wanted their return to the playoffs to last more than one game. And it did, thanks to the “keep the line moving” mantra, aggressive base running, and some sterling relief pitching. The Royals would use all those ingredients to make it to the seventh game of the World Series, an outcome that seemed improbable when they came to bat in the eighth inning of this game, trailing 7-3. From that inning on, this team was the toughest one I’ve ever seen, all the way through the 2015 season. The only reason this game is not in the top spot is that it was not for a title.
2. 1985 WS Game 7
1. 2015 WS Game 5
OK, now we get to the nitty-gritty. Why rank 2015’s crowning moment over 1985’s? Really, you could make an argument for either one to claim the top spot. There are some similarities; one was the defining moment of Royals fandom for thousands of Royals fans who had waited since 1969 (or even before that, if they had been A’s fans when they were in Kansas City) for a title, and one was the defining moment for thousands of Royals fans who didn’t remember 1985 but did remember a lot of terrible baseball. But for me the deciding factor was that 1985’s deciding game, even though it was a winner-take-all affair, was almost anti-climactic after the events of Game Six. Much of Game Seven, after the Royals blew the game open in the fifth, was just waiting around for the final out so the celebration could begin. Awesome, yes, but not as entertaining as 2015’s clincher. It is true that the stakes weren’t as high in 2015 Game Five; had the Royals lost, they still had two chances at home to clinch the title. But 2015 Game Five had more memorable moments than 1985 Game Seven, especially if you ignore the Cardinals’ meltdown in the latter game. That 2015 game featured a ninth-inning comeback highlighted by Eric Hosmer’s daring dash for home plate on a grounder to third, and then a five-run explosion in the 12th to take control of the game. To me, Hosmer’s play alone tips the scales in 2015’s favor.
So there you have it. It was a pleasure compiling and researching this list, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And I also hope you enjoyed a memory or two you might have forgotten, or even learned a little something. I would also point out that a lot of these games, especially the postseason ones, are available on YouTube if you want to check them out, although I always wonder how long MLB will let them stay up (I didn’t post them). They can be quite interesting, even if you know ahead of time what’s going to happen.