This Date In Royals History–1980 Edition: July 21

When the game started, Royals outfielder Willie Wilson wasn’t in the lineup. He wasn’t even at Royals Stadium. Instead, Wilson was at a Kansas City hospital, where doctors were examining his sore right shoulder. When the exam was over, Wilson hustled to the ballpark and arrived in time to contribute a sensational running catch and score the winning run in the Royals’ 2-1 win over Chicago.

Wilson made it to the stadium in the third inning and didn’t expect to play due to his injury. But with Amos Otis out of the lineup with a minor injury, depth was an issue. And then catcher Darrell Porter was ejected from the game in the fifth for arguing balls and strikes. That meant John Wathan needed to leave left field to move behind the plate. So Wilson volunteered to play, although he knew he couldn’t throw the ball back to the infield. Rusty Torres moved from center to left field, and Wilson took over in center.

It didn’t take long for Wilson’s courage to pay off for the Royals. In the sixth, with Kansas City ahead 1-0, Chicago’s Lamar Johnson came to the plate with a man on second and one out. Johnson hit a drive to deep center, but Wilson ran it down. Although Wayne Nordhagen followed with an RBI single, Wilson’s catch kept Chicago from scoring more than one run in the inning.

White Sox starter Britt Burns had held the Royals to five hits through six innings, but Wilson started the winning rally in the seventh with a one-out single. Clint Hurdle drew a walk and U L Washington walked with two outs to load the bases. The White Sox called on their relief ace, Ed Farmer, but Frank White lined Farmer’s first pitch into center field to score Wilson for a 2-1 lead.

When Royals starter Dennis Leonard allowed a single to start the eighth and White committed an error with one out to put the tying run at second, Kansas City turned to Dan Quisenberry. The Royals’ closer got out of the jam with two grounders, then worked around a two-out single in the ninth to pick up his league-leading 20th save.

Leonard allowed just five hits in 7 ⅓ innings. He struck out five and walked one. Burns was almost as good, holding the Royals to six hits in 6 ⅔ innings. Burns walked three and only had one strikeout.

The Royals’ first run came in the second, as Porter tripled with two outs. He scored on Hurdle’s double. 

With the win, the Royals improved to 56-36. They held a 10.5-game lead in the AL West race.

George Brett watch: 2-3 with a walk. Season stats: .379/.445/.648

Box score and play-by-play:

1980 news: After 17 days of temperatures over 100°, Kansas City and the surrounding areas finally got a break. A cold front came through, dropping temperatures to the much more reasonable low 90s. Unfortunately, the high pressure area that had been parked over the Midwest was forecast to return after a few days.

1980 news: The Carter administration released a revised economic outlook, and it was grim. It included a projected $61 billion deficit for 1980, a projected $30 billion deficit for 1981, a 12% jump in consumer prices over 1979’s fourth quarter, and a rise in the unemployment rate that meant one million lost jobs, with no improvement seen in 1981.

Today’s birthdays: Moe Drabowsky (1935), Al Hrabosky (1949), Dave Henderson (1958)

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