In addition to being one of the winningest pitchers in Kansas City Royals history, and a World Champion and Cy Young winner in his second season in the big leagues at the mere age of 21, Bret Saberhagen coached the baseball team at my son’s high school and is the dad of one of my his childhood friends. Bret began his major league career with the Royals in 1984 at age 20. In 1985, he led the Royals to their only World Championship (against the St. Louis Cardinals), winning the Cy Young with a 20-6 record and a 2.87 ERA and the I-70 World Series MVP as the result of his two complete games including a Game 7 shutout. He won his second Cy Young with the Royals in 1989 with a 23-6 record, a 2.16 ERA and a league leading 12 complete games. He made the A.L. All Star team twice with the Royals (in 1987 and 1990), won a Gold Glove in 1989 and pitched the Royals last no hitter in 1991 (on my birthday) against the Chicago White Sox. Bret was traded to the New York Mets after the 1991 season. He made the N.L. All-Star team with the Mets in 1994 in a season in which he had more wins than walks; a feat that had not been accomplished since 1919. He was supposed to be the ace of the Colorado Rockies in 1995, but struggled (as many pitchers do) in the high Denver altitude. Bret missed the entire 1996 season due to injury. He returned to the big leagues with the Boston Red Sox in 1997, won Comeback Player of the Year in 1998 and retired for the first time after the 1999 season. After sitting out the 2000 season, he had a short 3 appearance comeback with the Red Sox in 2001 and then retired permanently with 167 career wins and a very respectable 3.34 ERA. Bret was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 2005 and thereafter got involved in coaching high school baseball
“I didn’t start a whole lot of Opening Days, but in 1988 against Toronto at home, I gave up three home runs to George Bell. Actually, he had two off me and he popped one up right in front of the dugout. I ran over and misjudged it. It bounced off my glove and on the next pitch he hit his third home run off me. Another reason why that particular game was memorable for me is because after Opening Day usually is the Final Four championship game and that year it was in Kansas City. We actually went to watch Danny Manning and the Kansas Jayhawks defeat Oklahoma in what was a great game. So although we did not win, and I didn’t pitch very well, it was a great afternoon to watch the final game of college basketball. It seemed like on every Opening Day that I started, there was an instrument involved. In 1990, Sam Horn hit a home run off me on Opening day and another year Albert Belle did”.
Bret’s memory was quite good. On Opening Day 1990, Sam Horn hit two home runs and knocked in six to lead the Baltimore Orioles over Bret’s Royals 8-7, although not all of that damage was off Bret, and Bret did not get the loss. Albert Belle’s homer off Bret was the following year, but in that one Bret and his Royals prevailed over the Cleveland Indians 4-2. He apologized to me for only remembering what he called the bad ones, but I refreshed his memory on the good ones.
See you in two. Richie