April 8, 1969: A special day in Royals history

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals have a special home opener on Monday. In addition to playing before the home fans, they will also be celebrating the team's milestone of playing for 40 years at Kaufman Stadium or the "K" as it has affectionately become known.

The Royals started as an expansion team in Kansas City 44 years ago after the Kansas City A's moved to Oakland.  Back in 1969, the boys in blue played at the old Municiple Stadium.

The story of that first game is posted on the pillars at the K.  Just like this year's home opener, it happened on April 8 against the Minnesota Twins.

Tom Burgmeier pitched an inning in relief.

"We all came from different organizations, because there wasn't any baseball in 68.  So in 69, being an expansion team, it was quite exciting," he told FOX 4 News.

When Dave Wickersham followed his teammate he called "Burgie: to the mound, the score was 3 to 3.

"I pitched the 7,8,9,10 and 11th innings.  Five innings of shut out ball and I wanted to get the first win for the Royals.  It didn't work out," he recalled.

The Royals decided to pinch hit for Wickersham and brought in Moe Drabowsky to pitch.  He was given the win in the 12th inning.

"Did you ever have a conversation about how he (Moe) stole that win from you?," FOX 4 News asked Wickersham.

"Only years after when we met at an old times game," he replied.

Baseball as a career choice was different for the 1969 Royals.  Many of the players did even make $20,000 a year.

"As soon as the season was over in the late 60's early 70's, you got a job within a couple of weeks.  My dad was an electrician, so I got a job one year working on a power plant here in Kansas City.  I also sold WD-40 one year," Burgmeier recalled.

Burgmeier went on to coach 19 years for the Royals and he predicts they will win at least .500 this season.

"Optimism is a glow in the off season and in spring training and they had a tremendous spring.  With all the talent they have and the improved pitching, I think they can very well contend for their division," he told FOX 4 News.

"They've got the most ability of any Royals team that we've had since the 80's.
With that ability, they have to have a lot of want to to bring that ability out," Wickersham explained.

With Monday's game being on the same date against the same opponent as the first ever Royals home game, Royals fans of all generations are hoping for a repeat performance.

Game time is 3:10 p.m. Monday.  The gates will open at 12 Noon.

FOX 4 News will bring live team coverage in newscasts throughout the day from the K.

RELATED STORY:
Carey Wickersham interviews her dad and former Royal, Dave, at the K

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