This Date In Royals History–1969 Edition: June 5

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The Royals had an off-day as they headed to the northeast for series in Boston and New York. Off the field, the big news was the amateur draft, held on June 5 and 6 in New York.

Kansas City held the 23rd overall selection (the four expansion teams were relegated to the last four picks in the draft order). They used it on shortstop John Simmons, a high schooler from Alabama. However, Simmons decided to go play football at Auburn University.

The Royals continued selecting long after other teams stopped. Under the rules at the time, they could select as many eligible players as they wanted. Kansas City, trying to fill out their farm system, ended up with 98 players between the main phase of the draft and the secondary phase, which was a draft of players who had been selected previously but had not signed with the team who chose them.

However, of all those picks, only seven made the major leagues, and four of those seven players appeared in fewer than 10 games. But the three who had longer careers did help contribute to the first successful Royals teams.

Drafted in the 75th round from Centennial High School in Compton, Calif., Al Cowens overcame the odds to play 13 years in the majors, six of them in Royal blue. A gifted defensive outfielder, he enjoyed his best season in 1977, hitting .312/.361/.525, making the All-Star team, and winning a Gold Glove, as Kansas City ran away with an AL West title.

The other player the Royals picked up in the main phase of the draft who had a decent career was pitcher Jim York, chosen from UCLA in the 16th round. He pitched for the Royals briefly in 1970 and had a nice season as a relief pitcher in 1971, posting a 2.89 ERA in 93 1/3 innings. However, his main claim to fame in Royals history is as part of a trade. After that 1971 season, the Royals sent him to Houston as part of a deal for first baseman John Mayberry, who would help power KC to three division titles in the late 1970s. York pitched for the Astros for four seasons but never quite recaptured his 1971 form.

In the third round of the secondary phase, the Royals selected pitcher Doug Bird from Mount San Antonio College in California. Bird reached the majors in 1973 with Kansas City and was a key part of the bullpen for six seasons, compiling 58 saves and also winning 12 games primarily as a starter in 1976. He remained in the majors through the 1983 season, pitching for four other teams.

Today’s birthday: Manny Pina (1987)

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