Ten years ago today, it finally happened. A trend the Kansas City Royals franchise had been hurtling toward for the last several years finally came to an unwanted fruition.
On Aug. 1, 2002, the Kansas City Royals fell to the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-2. In and of itself, the game was not terribly important or surprising. Heck, it was their ninth loss in their last 10 games. This particular loss, however, had a wider significance for the team. It put the franchise’s all-time cumulative record below .500. It was Kansas Royals loss No. 2,658 versus just 2,657 wins.
The Royals have been under .500 ever since.
Though it might seem hard to believe these days, in the 1970s and 1980s the Royals were a model franchise. They debuted in 1969 and soon developed a quality team. From 1971-1989, they posted 14 winning seasons, and their bad years were never that bad. A 76-86 mark in 1986 was KC’s worst point.
Though the club, like all expansion franchises, had a rocky first year or two, the Royals’ quick rise to quality allowed them to move over .500 as a franchise. They hit .500 a total of 13 times from mid-1976 to mid-1977, finally pulling over it for good with a win on July 5, 1977, for a cumulative record of 683-682.
To date, very few of the expansion franchises have ever had their overall record top .500. The Blue Jays have done it, the Astros have done it, and so have the Diamondbacks. None of the others have (excluding the first few games—a few others started out 1-0, but that’s not very meaningful).
However, the Royals did far better than the Astros, D-backs, or Jays. On Sept. 13, 1989, a Royals win gave them a record 162 games over .500 (1,739-1,577), by far the best of any expansion franchise.
But since reaching that high-water mark, the Royals have since gone down the drain. They stumbled through the last few weeks of the season and finished in the second division in 1990. Since then, they’ve enjoyed just three winning seasons, the best being an 84-win season in 1993.
A rough time in the 1990s gradually eroded their once-impressive franchise winning record. By the early 21st century, they finally fell under—and then kept falling. In 2004-06, Kansas City posted three consecutive 100-loss seasons. No team had done that since the 1977-79 Blue Jays, and at least Toronto had an excuse of being a brand-new franchise. Kansas City was the first veteran franchise to have three straight triple-digit loss seasons since the 1952-54 Pirates.
Since then, KC has avoided 100 losses, but it’s also avoided winning records, averaging 93 losses a year from 2007-11. Currently, they are over 280 games under .500 as a franchise. Half the other expansion franchises are closer to .500 than the Royals are. From 1990 onward, the Royals have been the worst franchise in all baseball. Even the Pirates have won over 60 games more than the Royals in that span.
The good old days of being a model franchise are now a distant, fading memory. So it isn’t surprising that the Royals are now below .500—and have been under .500 since Aug. 1, 2002, exactly 10 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better items in bold to make it easier to skim through things.
2,000 days since Hank Bauer dies.
3,000 days since Greek God of Walks Kevin Youkilis makes his big league debut.
4,000 days since Tony Armas lasts 8.2 innings in his start, the closest he ever comes to a complete game. In his 167 starts, he’ll never complete one, the most games started ever for someone with no complete games.
7,000 days since Johnny Mize dies.
9,000 days since the Dodgers, A’s, and Mets pull off a three-way trade. The A’s get Bob Welch and Matt Young. The Mets receive Kevin Tapani. The Dodgers land Jesse Orosco, Alfredo Griffin, and Jay Howell.
1890 Oyster Burns hits for the cycle.
1896 300-game winner Kid Nichols surrenders the only leadoff home run of his career.
1899 Kid Nichols allow the only walk-off home run of his career. It’s hit in the 14th inning by opposing pitcher Jack Powell for an 8-7 Cardinals win over Boston.
1899 The Giants release veteran hitter Mike Tiernan.
1903 Iron Man Joe McGinnity of the Giants pitches both ends of a doubleheader, winning 4-1 and 5-2 for the Giants over the Braves. He allows a total of 12 hits, six in each contest.
1905 The Reds release one-time ace Noodles Hahn, who is a great example of a guy with Hall of Fame talent but not enough durability.
1905 Cubs manager Frank Selee resigns, as he’s dying of tuberculosis. The team tabs Frank Chance to replace him.
1906 Brooklyn pitcher Harry McIntire throws nine innings of no-hit ball, but the game marches into extra frames tied 0-0. The no-hitter ends in the 11th, and he loses the game in the 13th, 1-0.
1910 Rube Waddell appears in his final game.
1911 The Braves purchase one-time star Mike Donlin from the Giants.
1912 Shoeless Joe Jackson steals home twice in one game.
1914 The Miracle Braves win, finally pushing their record to .500: 45-45. They’ll win the world championship this season. Less than a month earlier, they were in last place.
1915 Chief Bender hits his only over-the-fence home run. The Hall of Fame pitcher has six homers in all: three inside-the-park jobs, two bounced homers, and this one.
1917 The Reds select Sherry Magee off waivers from Boston.
1924 Dazzy Vance sets a record by fanning seven consecutive batters. On the day, he fans 14 in all in a complete-game shutout with three hits and one walk for a personal-best Game Score of 94.
1925 The Yankees send $50,000 and a player to be named later for Salt Lake City in the Pacific Coast League for Tony Lazzeri and a player to be named later.
1927 Stuffy McInnis plays in his final contest.
1929 Long-lasting outfielder Sam Rice plays in his 70th consecutive game without striking out. He’s 96-for-295 with 17 doubles, six triples, and one homer.
1930 Freddie Lindstrom joins the 1,000-hit club in style with his second straight four-hit game. This might be the greatest game of his career, as he belts two homers, doubles, steals a base, and drives in a personal-best six runs.
1934 Cleveland signs free agent catcher/scholar/spy Moe Berg.
1935 Braves owner Judge Emil Fuchs sells the team to Charles F. Adams.
1937 Joe DiMaggio hits his 31st homer of the year, putting him ahead of Babe Ruth’s 1927 pace. DiMaggio is in just his second season. In the same game, teammates Lou Gehrig hits for the cycle for the second time in his life.
1938 Al Munro Elias, founder of the Elias Sports Bureau, dies at age 67.
1941 It’s a frustrating game for the Browns. They leave 15 runners on base against Yankee starter Lefty Gomez, who walks 11. The Browns never score, losing 9-0.
1947 Hall of Fame second baseman William Jennings Bryan Herman appears in his last game.
1948 Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon, one of the best hitting pitchers of his generation, has arguably his top game at the plate. He goes 3-for-4 with two runs, a home run, and three RBIs.
1948 A’s pitcher Phil Marchildon tosses an incredibly wild pitch—into the 10th row of the stands, where his offering hits a fan on the head.
1948 Lou Boudreau steals home against the Red Sox.
1949 It’s the last time any Pittsburgh reliever has ever gone nine innings in one bullpen stint. Swingman Murry Dickson does it.
1950 Phillies pitcher Curt Simmons becomes the first big leaguer drafted for the Korean War.
1953 Boston reliever Ben Flowers pitcher in his eighth consecutive contest.
1953 Ralph Kiner lays down his first sacrifice bunt since May 31, 1947.
1954 Eddie Mathews smashes his 100th home run.
1954 In the Big State League, Roman Mejias’ 55-game hitting streak ends for Waco.
1956 For the only time in his career, Lew Burdette reaches double digits in whiffs as he fans 10 in a complete-game, 2-1 loss.
1957 Gil Hodges ties an NL record with his 13th career grand slam.
1958 Robin Roberts wins his 200th game. His record is 200-151.
1959 Orlando Cepeda steals three bases in one game, a personal best.
1959 Reds pitcher Bob Purkey hits a grand slam in a 12-3 win over the Cubs.
1961 The Tigers and A’s combine to issue 32 walks in a doubleheader.
1964 Don Drysdale loses his 100th career decision for a 136-100 record. He suffers his worst ever Game Score in the contest: 17. His line: 3 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.
1964 Hall of Fame reliever Hoyt Wilhelm notches his 100th career victory. His record is 100-89.
1964 Eddie Mathews belts his only leadoff home run. I have no idea why he’s batting leadoff.
1966 Dick Allen hits the rare walk-off, inside-the-park home run. As if that wasn’t enough, it comes in the 10th inning for a 6-5 Phillies win over Houston. In the game, Astros outfielder Jimmy Wynn breaks his wrist, ending his season.
1968 Juan Marichal completes his 16th consecutive start, his longest ever streak. His line in that time: 14-2 W-L, 149 IP, 113 H, 28 R, 23 ER, 19 BB, 95 K, 1.39 ERA.
1968 Cecil Upshaw becomes the last Braves pitcher ever to throw nine innings in one relief outing.
1970 Willie Stargell has one of the greatest days of his life, scoring five runs in a 5-for-6 outing with three doubles, two homers, and six RBIs. It’s his only game with five extra-base hits, and his five runs tie a personal best.
1971 The Dodgers top the Reds, 5-4 in 11 innings. It’s the only game in the last half-century to end on a walk-off catcher’s interference call.
1971 Joe Torre enjoys his only five-hit game, going 5-for-7 in an extra-innings Cards-Phillies contest.
1972 Padres slugger Nate Colbert has a great day. In a doubleheader against Atlanta, he hits five homers with 13 RBIs.
1974 Ron LeFlore makes his big league debut.
1974 The Padres lose, pushing manager John McNamara’s career record under .500 (141-142), where it will remain for the rest of his career.
1976 The A’s steal 12 bases in 12 attempts against the Twins. The Twins win, though, 8-7 in 12 innings.
1977 Willie McCovey hits his 18th and final grand slam.
1979 Thurman Munson appears in his last game. After the game, the Yankees go on their bus, refuse to sign autographs for a little boy, but then enthusiastically sign a girl’s bare butt. The press will get wind of that, leading to a brief PR issue for the Yankees.
1980 Buddy Bell goes 5-for-5, his only five-hit game.
1980 The Yankees sign amateur free agent Jose Rijo.
1982 Ron LeFlore commits the rare four-base error, letting a fly ball knock off his noggin for a run. In that same game, Boston for some reason puts Carl Yastrzemski, just three weeks shy of his 43rd birthday, in center field. On a personal note, this was the first baseball game I ever attended.
1983 Minnesota’s Rick Lysander pitches a complete-game shutout despite allowing 11 hits.
1985 The Indians trade Bert Blyleven to the Twins for four players.
1986 Bert Blyleven strikes out his 3,000th batter. He fans 15 in the game, his personal best. In that same contest, Kirby Puckett hits for the cycle.
1987 Andre Dawson smacks three homers in one game for the second time in his career.
1987 Jeff Montgomery makes his big league debut.
1987 Lou Whitaker reaches base six times in one game for the only time in his career. He has four hits, a walk, and once reaches on by error.
1989 Kevin McReynolds hits for the cycle.
1990 Dave Stewart becomes the last big league pitcher to record over 30 outs in one game. He tosses 11 innings for a complete-game, 1-0 win over the Mariners. According to Game Score, this is the best pitchers’ duel of the 1990, as Seattle’s Erik Hanson tosses 10 innings of two-hit, no-walk ball with 11 strikeouts.
1990 Mel Rojas makes his big league debut.
1991 Former pitcher Chris Short dies.
1992 Paul Molitor hits two triples in one game for the second time in his life. The last time was 13 years ago. He’ll do it again in 1996, just before his 40th birthday.
1993 Royals owner Ewing Kaufmann dies of bone cancer at age 76.
1994 Cal Ripken plays in his 2,000th consecutive game.
1994 Owners withhold the $7.8 million they’re obligated to pay to the players’ pension fund.
1994 Marquis Grissom hits an inside-the-park, walk-off home run, the only such blast of the decade.
1995 Mickey Mantle announces that he has lung cancer.
1996 Scott Rolen makes his major league debut.
1996 The Mets win, 13-9, over Pittsburgh despite making seven errors in the game.
1998 The Angels retire Jim Fregosi’s number. That same day, their star young outfielder Garrett Anderson has his hitting streak end at 28 games.
1998 The Cardinals and Braves wear uniforms from former Negro League teams the St. Louis Stars and Atlanta Black Crackers.
2000 Scott Rolen belts his 100th home run.
2000 Wally Joyner gets hit No. 2,000.
2000 Mike Mussina sets a career best by fanning 15 batters in one game.
2001 Johnny Damon gets his 1,000th hit.
2005 Barry Bonds, at 702 career home runs, tells a reporter that his injured right knee will keep him from playing this season.
2005 Joe Gargiola Jr., the first and, at the time only, GM in Arizona history, leaves the team to take a job with the commissioner’s office.
2005 MLB suspends Rafael Palmeiro for violating the league’s steroid policy. Wow—has it been seven years already?
2006 Felipe Alou manages his 2,000th game. His record is 1,008-992, just over .500.
2006 Carlos Guillen hits for the cycle.
2009 Andrew McClutchen of the Pirates hit three home runs in one game.
2009 The A’s retire No. 24 for Rickey Henderson.