KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals are celebrating their 50th season this year. It all began on April 8, 1969 with a 12-inning victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Some of the pitchers from the '69 season were at Fanfest this weekend sharing their memories of the first home opener. It happened at the old Municipal Stadium at 22nd and Brooklyn.
Many of the original Royals have passed on, but there are three pitchers from that first season who made Kansas City their permanent home. They remember what happened that Spring day like it was almost yesterday.
The oldest living Royals player, Dave Wickersham, reminisces, "Wally Bunker started that game. Burgie down here pitched the 6th inning. I pitched the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th innings. Moe (Drabowsky) pitched the 12th inning and got the victory. Moe and I would have both loved to have won that game."
"It was pretty exciting just to get in the game," remembers Burgmeier. "I understand I had a chance to win it, but I gave up a hit or something and was out of the game. I won the second game. That was my firs win as a Royal."
Wickersham, Burgmeier and Al Fitzmorris, who was called up later in the season, thrilled long-time fans wit their stories.
Fitzmorris said,"You are confident that you can do your job, but coming from A ball in '68 to the big leagues in 1969 was a big jump. I trusted myself and hoped I was good enough to make that leap in that short of time. I was only 23."
Although the Kansas City expansion team ended their first year with a losing record, that victory against the Twins was significant, because they would eventually win the division and Royals Center-Fielder Lou Piniella would become the American League Rookie of the year.
Curt Nelson is the Director of the Royals Hall of Fame.
"In the bottom of the first inning, the very first pitch a Royals batter ever faced, Lou Piniella-style, he slapped it for a double. Then Jerry Adair came up behind him and drove in a run. That game would go into extra innings. We didn't have baseball in 1968, so we had extra baseball that day. We had 12 innings. Joe Keough would get a pinch hit single to score Joe Foy and win that first game."
Fifty years and two World Championships later, the three pitchers are still true blue, and you will likely see a lot more of them as the Royals celebrate a half-century of baseball memories this season.
As a matter of fact, Wickersham, Burgmeier and Fitzmorris will all be honored on the field on April 14th when the Royals will give away replicas of the old Municipal Stadium where it all began.