This Date In Royals History–1980 Edition: October 17

The first World Series game ever played in Kansas City was a thriller, with Royals first baseman Willie Aikens playing the hero. Aikens drove in the game-winning run with a single in the 10th inning, snapping a tie as the Royals prevailed, 4-3, on a cool Friday night at Royals Stadium.

After Philadelphia tied the game in the eighth on a Pete Rose single, the Royals wasted a double in the eighth and two singles in the ninth. The 10th wasn’t much better, as it looked for a while like Kansas City would not take advantage of a great scoring opportunity. Facing Phillies closer Tug McGraw, U L Washington led off with a single and Willie Wilson walked. Frank White attempted a bunt but missed, and Washington was caught off base and thrown out trying to make it to third. Wilson stayed at first and White ultimately struck out. With two outs, Wilson stole second, which allowed the Phillies to intentionally walk George Brett. Aikens then lined one into the left-center field gap, allowing Wilson to score easily and end a game filled with unfulfilled scoring chances.

Philadelphia collected 14 hits and six walks against three Royals pitchers, but went just 1-13 with runners in scoring position. Their 15 men left on base tied a Series record. Kansas City wasn’t much more efficient, picking up 11 hits and two walks and going 2-5 with runners in scoring position.

The Royals grabbed the lead first. Phillies starter Dick Ruthven retired the first two batters in the first inning, but Brett hit a solo home run into the right field seats for a 1-0 lead.

The Phillies responded in the second against Royals starter Rich Gale. With one out, singles from Manny Trillo and Larry Bowa and a walk to Bob Boone loaded the bases. But Philadelphia established the pattern that would plague them all night, as Lonnie Smith hit a grounder back up the middle. Gale was able to knock it down and throw Smith out at first. After walking Pete Rose, Gale got Mike Schmidt on a fly ball to end the inning with just one run scoring.

Aikens tripled with one out in the fourth and scored on a Hal McRae single, but once again the lead was short-lived. Schmidt led off the fifth with a home run into the Phillies’ bullpen in left field. After a one-out single by Keith Moreland, Gale was removed from the game for Renie Martin, who eventually got a double play to end the inning.

Ruthven retired nine straight hitters after the McRae single in the fourth. Amos Otis broke that string and the 2-2 deadlock with a home run to right-center field with one out in the seventh. 

And once more, the Phillies came back to tie the game. In the eighth, Bowa reached on an infield single with one out. With two outs, he stole second and then Martin walked Smith. Rose singled, bringing Bowa home and also bringing Royals closer Dan Quisenberry into the game. Quisenberry’s task was to retire the 1980 NL MVP, Schmidt. The power hitter tried the element of surprise, putting down a bunt that rolled foul. Two pitches later, Schmidt hit a harmless fly ball to center, ending the inning.

Quisenberry also survived leadoff singles in the ninth and 10th innings, getting Bowa to ground out with two men on to end the former and Schmidt to line into a double play to end the latter inning.

The win, the first Series victory in Royals’ history, cut Philadelphia’s lead to 2-1 and gave the Royals hope that they could come back and win the title. Just two years earlier, the New York Yankees had done it, and the feat had been accomplished seven times in Series history to that point. But no team had come back from a 3-0 deficit.

Box score and play-by-play:

Bonus YouTube video:

1980 news: As the polls tightened in the presidential race, Republican candidate Ronald Reagan finally agreed to a one-on-one debate with Democrat incumbent Jimmy Carter. Reagan had insisted for months that independent candidate John B. Anderson be included in any debate, and had debated Anderson in September when Carter refused to participate in a three-person event. Reagan’s large lead in the polls seemed to be shrinking, while support for Anderson had dropped from the mid-teens into single digits. The League of Women Voters invited both candidates to debate in Cleveland on October 28, one week before Election Day. Anderson responded by announcing plans to buy TV time directly after the debate.

Today’s birthday: Seth Etherton (1976) 

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