Manager Joe Gordon had had enough. The Royals, 21-21 at one point in the season, had lost 19 of 24 since, and Gordon was tired of it. So before the Royals started a three-game series in Oakland, he held a closed-door meeting to read his players the riot act.
And for one night, at least, it worked, as the Royals took a 6-5 win over the Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum.
Kansas City scored first, despite not cashing in scoring chances in the first two innings. In the third, Mike Fiore hit a solo home run off A’s starter Jim Nash, the first baseman’s sixth homer of the year.
Oakland responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the third. KC starter Bill Butler walked Bert Campaneris to start the inning, but got a double play. However, a walk to Reggie Jackson and a Sal Bando triple tied the game.
The Royals regained the lead with two runs in the fifth. With one out, Pat Kelly singled and stole second. He scored on a Fiore single. A wild pitch advanced Fiore to second, and he scored on a Bob Oliver single.
Once again, the A’s responded, with the Jackson-Bando combination doing the damage. This run was unearned, as Jackson reached on an error with two outs and Bando doubled. That cut the Royals’ lead to 3-2.
But the Royals opened things up with a three-run sixth inning. Reliever George Lauzerique started the inning by hitting Juan Rios with a pitch. With one out, Jackie Hernandez homered. But the Royals weren’t done. With two outs, Kelly walked and again stole second base. Ellie Rodriguez delivered an RBI single for a 6-2 lead.
For the third time, the A’s answered Royals runs with a single tally in the bottom of the inning. Butler walked Rick Monday to start the sixth. With one out, Larry Haney doubled to left, driving in Monday. Haney also took third on Foy’s throwing error on the play. Butler got the second out, but Campaneris reached on an infield single to third, with Haney staying at third. Reliever Dave Wickersham finished off the inning with the Royals still ahead 6-3.
But Kansas City wasn’t out of the woods yet. Jackson and Bando hurt them again, as Jackson led off the seventh with a single and Bando doubled, with Jackson stopping at third. Wickersham got one out, but walked Monday to load the bases. Tommie Reynolds hit a sacrifice fly, and Haney singled to score another run. Reliever Don O’Riley got a groundout to end the inning with a 6-5 lead.
O’Riley pitched a perfect eighth, but surrendered a walk and a single with one out in the ninth. Moe Drabowsky entered the game and got two quick outs to end it.
After the game, Gordon shared some of what he had said to his team:
“If the guys think they are on a joy ride because they were drafted for $175,000 each, they’re mistaken. Too many of them feel they have their jobs cinched and we don’t have anybody to replace them. They are wrong. Nobody is safe…not everybody is putting out 100 percent. The players on this club are going to start producing or get out. Sure, this is an expansion club and we’re working for the future, but we’ve got to show improvement.”—Gordon, quoted by Joe McGuff, The Sporting News, July 12, 1969
“One thing we can’t tolerate is lack of hustle. If they don’t hustle for me, they’re going. I don’t care who they are. Omaha is very close. We’ve got some guys down there who would love to play up here. They’ll put out 100 percent. We’ve got some guys not hustling all of the time. It’s evident—all you have to do is watch. I saw Joe Foy pop up twice and he trotted to first both times. He carried the bat along.”
Then Gordon wondered if he shared some of the blame.
“A club has to improve. If it gets worse like ours has, something is wrong. Maybe I’ve been too soft, too understanding. I wanted to keep them loose, relaxed. Well, some of them became too relaxed. They can relax in Omaha and we’ll bring in guys who will hustle and bear down. The players made their own rules before and didn’t follow them. Now I’m making the rules and they will follow them or else.”
Besides the lack of hustle, Gordon had been irked by players eating immediately after a game, joking around in the clubhouse, and being only half-dressed mere minutes before batting practice.
The win lifted the Royals’ record to 27-40. They were in fifth place in the AL West, 10 games behind Minnesota.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK196906240.shtml
Today’s birthdays: None.