The Royals celebrated Cookie Rojas Night with an 8-5 triumph over the California Angels on Friday night at Royals Stadium.
A crowd of 33,289 showed up to help honor the veteran infielder, who had announced his retirement as a player just a couple of weeks prior. Rojas was ending a 16-year career in the majors, with the last eight spent in Kansas City after he was acquired in a trade early in the 1970 season. To honor him, the team gave him gifts including a TV set, a stereo, a fur coat for his wife, and even a station wagon as part of a pregame ceremony.
When the game started, both teams were ready to hit. The Angels scored two runs in the first off Royals starter Paul Splittorff, who walked Bobby Bonds to start the game. Jerry Remy tripled and Mario Guerrero hit a sacrifice fly, and Splittorff only escaped the inning when Don Baylor, who had doubled, got caught between bases when Dave Chalk singled with two outs.
The Royals sent nine men to the plate in the bottom of the first. Facing California’s Ken Brett, leadoff man Joe Zdeb singled. Hal McRae doubled, scoring Zdeb. Amos Otis, who had gotten in an altercation with Brett when the two faced off in Anaheim just days earlier, singled to drive in the tying run. Al Cowens followed with a single, and Rojas walked with one out to load the bases. John Mayberry hit a sacrifice fly and Freddie Patek singled. This inning ended with another baserunning out, as Rojas was caught too far off third after a pickoff play at first. But the Royals still had a 4-2 lead.
McRae and Otis hit back-to-back home runs in the second, pushing the lead to 6-2. But Splittorff, who struggled all night, walked Gil Flores to start the fourth and then walked Andy Etchebarren with one out. After Remy picked up an RBI with a two-out single, George Throop replaced Splittorff, who had allowed seven hits and three walks in 3 ⅔ innings. Throop got the final out of the inning to keep the score 6-3.
The Royals added a run in the fifth. Cowens led off with a triple off Angels reliever Dyar Miller, who took over for Brett after the second inning. Chalk booted John Wathan’s grounder to third, allowing Cowens to score.
Remy tripled with one out in the sixth, off Royals reliever Marty Pattin, who had worked around two singles in the fifth. Guerrero’s single made the score 7-4.
But the Royals answered again, with help from another Angels error. Zdeb singled with two outs, then reached second when center fielder Ken Landreaux bobbled the ball. McRae’s double pushed the lead to 8-4.
California would score once more, this time in the seventh. With one out, Chalk drew a free pass. With two outs, Landreaux singled and pinch-hitter Tony Solaita did the same. Pattin retired Bonds on a fly ball to end the inning, then pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win, his 10th of the season.
After the game, Rojas celebrated by jumping in the fountains. That was a reprise of his celebration of the 1976 division title, when Rojas and Patek jumped in the water spectacular after the Royals clinched.
“I said two years ago that anytime we won the Western Division I’d make that jump,” Rojas said. “I’m just trying to keep my promise.”
With the win, the Royals improved to 101-59. They led the AL West by nine games over Texas.
Box score and play-by-play: