Note: April 10, 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium. Each week, I will look at one memorable moment in stadium history, with the top moment revealed on April 10, 2023. Missed an entry? You can find past ones here.
Of course, Kauffman Stadium wasn’t always Kauffman Stadium. For the first 20 years of its life, it was Royals Stadium. Nothing wrong with that name; to me, it’s much better than something boring like Municipal Stadium or Metropolitan Stadium. At least you know who’s playing there.
Ewing Kauffman was always a visionary. He started a pharmaceutical company in his garage and built it into a giant. He wasn’t a big baseball fan, but he understood how important a team could be to a city, so he stepped up when city leaders were looking for an owner. Knowing that, even when the salary scale in baseball was much smaller, his small-market team needed to depend on finding and developing talent, he led the team to start the Royals Academy. But in 1993, suffering from cancer, he didn’t need to be a visionary to know it was time to plan for the future of his franchise.
First, Kauffman announced a succession plan for the team after his death, aimed at keeping the Royals in Kansas City. Then he accepted the decision to place him in the team’s Hall of Fame. And finally, he consented to having his name placed on the stadium. The idea had been floated before, but Kauffman had always shot it down. But now, he agreed to it.
Still, the stadium name change was delayed a couple of weeks. The Jackson County Sports Authority approved a resolution supporting the name change in early June. The Jackson County Legislature, which actually had the authority to change the name, followed suit, and Jackson County Executive Marsha Murphy signed an executive order to change the name.
Seemingly on board at first, Kauffman asked for a couple more weeks to think it over. But public pressure, and probably a bit more pressure from Muriel Kauffman (“He said he never wanted anything named after him that had bricks and mortar,” she said. “I told him, ‘There’s a baseball diamond there, dear.’”) led to him relenting.
On July 2, 1993, the name change finally became official. The team held a brief pregame ceremony, but the guest of honor wasn’t there. His fight against cancer left him too weak to attend. Less than a month later, Kauffman passed away. But this night was a celebration of the man who brought baseball back to Kansas City and did everything he could to keep it there.
The team obliged. They had started the season 1-7, then climbed back into the race and held first place for a couple of weeks in June. They cooled off a bit, but still returned home from a 1-5 road trip just 1.5 games out (with a 38-38 record; the AL West was not exactly a juggernaut). Facing the AL East-leading Toronto Blue Jays, the Royals scored two runs in the first on a George Brett walk, Wally Joyner triple, and Mike Macfarlane single. Hipolito Pichardo scattered seven hits over seven innings, although Toronto scored two unearned runs in the second. With the score still tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Brian McRae led off with an infield single. Brett walked, and Gary Gaetti put down a bunt. Blue Jays third baseman Luis Sojo fielded it but his throw to first hit Gaetti in the back, and McRae raced home with the winning run. The Royals were 1-0 at Kauffman Stadium.