40th anniversary: Royals Stadium debuts

Forty years ago today, a new baseball stadium hosted its first game—Royals Stadium in Kansas City. (Okay, it’s now called Kaufmann, but we’ll stick with the original name because that’s what it was called 40 years ago today.) We’ve all become so accustomed to the Generation Camden Yards places that’s it’s easy to forget what a reputation Royals Stadium had—and still has.

To understand its reputation, we’ve got to put Royals Stadium in context. The first wave of real stadiums began over 100 years ago with the construction of Shibe Park. That’s when you had places like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Tiger Stadium, Comiskey Part et al go up.

After that, there were no new stadiums going up until the 1950s/’60s, when relocation and expansion opened a new door. By and large, this became the heyday of the multipurpose stadium—one facility that could host baseball and football games. By the early 1970s, even most of the surviving old line stadiums still in use were either torn down (Crosley Field and Forbes Field, to name two examples, were replaced by Riverfront and Three Rivers Stadiums) or reconstructed to the point of that they essentially were new stadiums (Yankee Stadium).

By and large the era of the multipurpose stadium has come under harsh critical assault. They’re seen as impersonal places that put the fan too far from the action. They lack the special little oddities that gave the old places their charm. Generation Camden, the third wave of stadiums, is largely a move away from then.

Okay, but a little known secret is that as much as people now like to vilify the multipurpose places, they actually had a nice reputation when they began. They lacked charm? Well they didn’t lack concessions and bathrooms like the old places did. Impersonal and too far removed from the action? Well the old places put so many so close to the action that they ended up with tons of obstructed seats from the overhanging upper decks. Eventually people got sick of the multipurpose places, but that took a while.

That takes us to Royals Stadium—the subject of this entry. Anyhow, while people prefer to pillory multipurpose places, Royals Stadium gets a pass. Of all the places that went up between Yankee Stadium in the 1920s and Camden Yards in the 1990, Royals Stadium is one of two places with a positive reputation. (The other is Dodger Stadium.) Not so coincidentally, Royals Stadium and Dodger Stadium were the only single purpose stadiums built in their era.

In fact, when the White Sox debuted the last of the pre-Camden places, Comiskey II (as U.S. Cellular Field was originally called), the club made a point to say that it was hoping to get a feel similar to Royals Stadium in the new place.

Aside from always being a baseball-only place, Royals Stadium has one distinctive feature: a fountain behind the fence in right. That’s a nice touch.

As for the game itself 40 years ago today, typical of the Royals of the day, it was a victory. In fact, it was a 12-1 drubbing of the Texas Rangers. Texas would have a terrible season behind rookie manager Whitey Herzog, who went on to considerable success with the Royals. (The Royals manager was also a rookie: Jack McKeon, who was still around two years ago.) It’s a good thing the Royals gave the fans something to cheer about, because the 39-degree weather wasn’t warming them up.

The Royals could warm them up and the new stadium could make them feel good—and it was a new stadium 40 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.


1,000 days since Padres pitcher Mat Latos makes the DL in embarrassing fashion—pulling a muscle while trying to hold back a sneeze. Really.

2,000 days since the Royals hire Trey Hillman as their manager.

4,000 days since David Eckstein hits the first of two career walk-off grand slams. Yes, that’s right—David Eckstein has two of them. This one gives the Angels a 8-5 win in 14 innings over Toronto.

5,000 days since Mark Grace gets his 5,000th career hit.

5,000 days since the Indians release Tom Candiotti, ending his big league career.

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5,000 days since Mark McGwire legs out a triple, ending a streak of 5,764 plate appearances without one.

5,000 days since Francisco Cordero makes his big league debut.

7,000 days since the Phillies send crafty lefty Terry Mulholland to the Yankees.

8,000 days since the Calgary Cannons belt three grand slams in a 22-7 win over the Tacoma Tigers.

9,000 days since Carlton Fisk enjoys his only five-hit game, a 5-for-5 night with a triple. Not bad for a 40-year-old catcher.

9,000 days since Jay Buhner becomes the first right-hander to homer into the center field stands at Yankee Stadium. It’s his first game there as a Mariner.

15,000 days since Hall of Fame third baseman Pie Traynor dies at age 72.

15,000 days since A’s phenom pitcher Vida Blue turns down a contract offer by team owner Charles O. Finley. An ugly and protracted hold out will begin.

25,000 days since pitcher Jim Bibby is born.


1897 Ross Youngs, Hall of Famer who died very young, is born.

1908 Mike Griffin dies at age 43. He played outfield for the 1890s Dodgers, and led the league in doubles in 1891.

1913 Bill Carrigan manages his first game. He’ll lead the Red Sox to two world titles.

1913 Branch Rickey manages his first game. He’ll last nearly a decade in the dugout before finding his true calling in the front office.

1913 On Opening Day in Washington, Walter Johnson begins a streak of 56 consecutive scoreless innings. He allows an unearned run in the first inning and then Washington beats New York, 3-1. This is also the first game New York plays as the Yankees. They’d been the Highlanders previously. President Woodrow Wilson throws out the first pitch.

1930 Frank Lary, Yankee-killing pitcher, is born.

1932 Fred Pfeffer, 19th century Cubs infielder, dies at age 72.

1946 Bob Watson, who scored baseball’s millionth run, is born.

1947 The Dodgers announce they’ve purchase Jackie Robinson’s contract.

1950 Ken Griffey Sr. is born. He’ll appear in three All-Star games and father an even more talented player.

1956 Ginger Beaumont, good player for turn-of-the-century Pirates, dies at age 79. He led the NL with a .357 batting average in 1902. That was also one of four seasons he topped the senior circuit in hits.

1959 Sparky Anderson makes his major league debut as a player. I bet he looked old even then.

1959 Nellie Fox goes 5-for-7 with a game-winning home run in the 14th inning for Chicago’s 9-7 Opening Day win over Detroit. Fox didn’t hit a single homer in 1958.

1959 St. Louis releases former star NL pitcher Sal Maglie.

1961 There are now 17 teams in the majors as the new Washington Senators lose 4-3 in their debut. (Soon, the Angels will play their first game).

1962 Houston becomes the first new NL team in 70 years,beating the Cubs 11-2 in front of the 25,271 fans in Texas.

1962 Dick Radatz makes his big league debut. So do Joe Pepitone and Cookie Rojas.

1962 Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey makes his big league debut. As often is the case with debuting umps, he works third base.

1962 The Dodgers play their first game at their new home, Dodger Stadium. It’s the first privately funded stadium since Yankee Stadium.

1963 Bill Rigney manages his 1,000th game. His record: 489-510.

1963 The Cubs become the first team to hire an athletic director when they peg ex-Air Force Col. Robert V. Whitlow for the job.

1963 Ray Culp, pitcher, makes his big league debut.

1963 The demolition of the Polo Grounds begin. The same wrecking ball that was used for Ebbets Field is used here.

1967 Detroit signs free agent Johnny Klippstein.

1968 Don Money makes his big league debut.

1969 The Padres’ all-time franchise record peaks at three games over .500: 3-0. That’s not a bad start, given that they’ll lose 110 games on the year.

1970 Reds pitcher Don Gullett makes his debut.

1971 Veterans Stadium, maybe the most widely maligned stadium of that generation of ballparks and home to the worst turf in professional sports, makes its big league debut. It’s the largest crowd in Philadelphia history, 55,352. The Phillies top the Expos, 4-1.

1971 Willie Stargell swats his 200th home run. He hits three homers in the game for the third time in his career.

1971 Luis Aparicio sets a personal best with six RBIs in one game. He goes 2-for-5 with a double and homer but his Red Sox lose 11-10 to the Indians.

1975 Mike Norris makes his big league debut.

1976 Atlanta signs Andy Messersmith, the man who broke baseball’s reserve clause.

1976 In the bottom of the ninth of a Yankees-Brewers game, Don Money hits an apparent walk-off grand slam home run for a 10-9 Milwaukee win, but it’s nullified because the first base umpire says he called time just before the pitch was thrown. New York goes on to win, 9-7.

1977 The Red Sox and Indians combine to score 19 runs in one inning when Boston gets six and Cleveland 13 in the eighth. Cleveland wins, 19-9.

1977 Juan Bernhardt hits the first homer in Seattle Mariners history.

1979 The White Sox lose on Opening Day 10-2, and look so bad doing so—they walked 12 and made multiple defensive miscues—that team owner Bill Veeck offers free admission the next day to everyone at Comiskey on this day.

1979 J.R. Richard has a rough day, throwing six wild pitches.

1980 Harold Baines makes his big league debut.

1980 Milwaukee’s Sixto Lezcano hits an Opening Day walk-off grand slam. He becomes the first person to ever swat two Opening Day slams, as he’d also nailed one in 1978.

1980 Ron Guidry and Jon Matlack engage in a nice pitchers’ duel. They both throw nine shutout innings with zero walks and only five hits between them. (Guidry allowed two hits, three for Matlack). Texas wins in 12 innings, 1-0.

1981 Chili Davis makes his big league debut.

1982 Andre Ethier, Dodgers right fielder, is born.

1982 Rick Wise, the first pitcher to beat all 26 teams, plays in his final game.

1982 Minnesota trades Roy Smalley to the Yankees for Greg Gagne, Ron Davis, and a third player.

1982 Wade Boggs makes his big league debut.

1983 Eddie Murray collects his 1,000th hit.

1985 On Opening Day, Cal Ripken, in consecutive game No. 444, sprains his ankle. He stays in the game and x-rays are negative.

1986 Bobby Witt makes his big league debut.

1987 Gary Carter’s longest hitting streak peaks at 16 games.

1987 The Dodgers release longtime workhorse pitcher Jerry Reuss.

1989 For the fourth time in his career and third time in his last four starts, Dave Stieb has a complete game one-hitter.

1989 Ken Griffey Jr. belts his first home run.

1993 Tom Kelly manages his 1,000th game. His record: 530-470.

1993 Fernando Vina and Robb Nen both make their big league debut.

1994 Gary Sheffield becomes the first person in 32 years to hit a double, triple, and two homers—but miss the cycle because he never got that single.

1994 Michael Jordan gets his first hit with the Birmingham Barons.

1994 Rick Helling makes his big league debut.

1994 Randy Johnson endures his worst Game Score: -4. He line: 2.1 IP, 8 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 6 BB, 2 K.

1995 Florida signs free agent Andre Dawson. It’ll be the last stop in his Hall of Fame career.

1996 Roberto Alomar draws four walks in the game for the only time in his career.

1997 Ryne Sandberg suffers his only 0-for-4 with four Ks game. He has one other four-K game in his career.

1998 The largest crowd in the history of post-renovation Yankee Stadium—56,717—sees the Yankees outslug the A’s, 17-13.

1998 Mike Piazza belts a grand slam for the second straight day.

1999 Jim Leyland wins his 1,000th game as manager. His record: 1,000-1,044.

1999 Carlos Beltran belts his first home run.

2000 Ken Griffey Jr. becomes the youngest person to ever get 400 career homers. He’s 30 years and 141 days. It’s been just under two years since his 300th home run.

2003 Colorado pulls off the first triple play in franchise history.

2003 Craig Biggio sets an NL record with his 31st career leadoff home run.

2003 Tampa Bay signs controversial reliever John Rocker.

2005 John Smoltz ties a personal best by fanning 15 batters. He did it 13 years earlier. Today he needs just 7.1 innings to do it.

2006 Ex-Pirate Howdy Groskloss dies at age 100.

2007 Kenny Lofton hits his first leadoff home run in four years. It’s his 29th career leadoff homer.

2010 The Yankees’ CC Sabathia takes a no-hitter into the eighth, but Kelly Shoppach singles off him.

2012 The Miami Marlins suspend new manager Ozzie Guillen for his comments in Time magazine: “I love Fidel Castro.”

2012 Vladimir Guerrero, unsigned by any big league team, surrenders himself to authorities in the Dominican Republic for his involvement in a brawl.

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3 Comments on "40th anniversary: Royals Stadium debuts"

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Dave Cornutt
Dave Cornutt

I remember Bobby Witt, a hard thrower with questionable command.  He flirted with the line between effective-wild and scary-wild, and some hitters were afraid to stand in against him.  I once saw him in a spring training game throw a 45-foot fastball that hit the ground and bounded over the backstop.

Dexter Bobo
Dexter Bobo

You’d think Mark Grace getting to the 5,000 hit milestone would have been a bigger news story.


I don’t know if you’re only considering venues that have housed baseball games, but I’d like to throw out another stadium with a positive reputation that was built between 1920 and 1990.  Coincidentally, it is also a single-purpose facility:  Arrowhead Stadium, Kauffman’s fraternal twin across the parking lot.