At long last, Opening Day had arrived for the Kansas City Royals. While it certainly would have been memorable no matter what, the Royals made it special by capturing a 4-3 win over Minnesota in 12 innings at Municipal Stadium.
A cool, windy day with a threat of rain kept the crowd to a mere 17,688, but those people made a lot of noise when Ewing Kauffman was introduced during pregame ceremonies. After a long ovation, the new owner told the crowd, “If all of you do not believe I have been repaid in full for buying the Kansas City Royals, you are sadly mistaken. As long as I live, this will be your team forever and ever.” (quoted by Joe McGuff in The Sporting News, April 26, 1969)
Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri, whose threat to baseball’s antitrust exemption after the Athletics left had been instrumental in the American League’s decision to place an expansion team in Kansas City, gave a small speech in which he mentioned his hope for a Kansas City-St. Louis World Series (since he lived until 1988, he did see it happen!). Then, after another ovation, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
When the game started, the Royals wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Lou Piniella led off the first with the first hit in team history (a double), and scored the first run in franchise history a few pitches later when Jerry Adair singled.
Minnesota answered with a Graig Nettles home run off Kansas City starter Wally Bunker in the second inning, but the score remained 1-1 into the sixth inning.
The Twins took the lead then with two runs. The first was charged to Bunker, who gave up a leadoff single to Rod Carew before relief pitcher Tom Burgmeier took over. Two singles and a double later, the Twins held a 3-1 lead.
This time, the Royals came back immediately to tie the game. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Ellie Rodriguez doubled. Jackie Hernandez reached on an error, and pinch-hitter Jim Campanis singled. Piniella followed with a single to tie the game at 3-3.
Dave Wickersham came out of the bullpen and was something of an unsung hero for Kansas City. Wickersham, who had pitched four seasons for the Kansas City Athletics, tossed five shutout innings in relief as the game stretched into the 12th inning. Moe Drabowsky worked that inning for the Royals, getting three quick outs.
In the bottom of the 12th, Joe Foy got an infield single with one out and took second on a passed ball. The Twins intentionally walked Chuck Harrison, but with Bob Oliver at the plate, Twins reliever Joe Grzenda threw a wild pitch. With runners now at second and third, the Twins intentionally walked Oliver to load the bases and set up a force at any base. It backfired when pinch-hitter Joe Keough (another former Kansas City Athletic) hit a line drive over left fielder Tony Oliva’s head to score Foy and end the game.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA196904080.shtml
Today’s birthday: Jeremy Guthrie (1979)