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What became of the 1985 Royals?

9/17/2010

Ewing Kauffman, co-owner, deceased: It was the money, vision and energy of Kauffman and his late wife, Muriel, which brought Kansas City an expansion franchise in 1969 that almost overnight turned into a contender. The founder of Marion Laboratories -- which had annual revenues of $930 million before merging with Dow Pharmaceuticals in 1989 -- often tapped into his personal fortune to field a championship-caliber team. The Royals made their World Series debut in 1980 opposite the Philadelphia Phillies, but it was five years later that Mr. K, as he was affectionately known, would make a rare clubhouse trip for a trophy presentation and champagne soaking. Before his death in 1993 at the age of 76, Kauffman bequeathed his baseball team to a charitable foundation with two conditions: the foundation was to sell the club to an owner willing to keep the team in Kansas City and sale proceeds were to go to local charities. The recently spruced up stadium is named in his honor. And, in downtown Kansas City, the family foundation has done the heavy financial lifting on the $405 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, scheduled to open in the fall of 2011.

Avron B. Fogelman, co-owner, 70: The Memphis-based real estate mogul co-owned the club during the 1985 championship season. He arrived in 1983 as Kauffman's junior partner with the option to purchase sole interest in the franchise. At the time of his purchase, Fogelman was worth $120 million, but by 1991 the real estate market was in steep decline and to pay off huge debts he was forced to sell his interest in the club, as well as a golf course in Hilton Head, S.C., and other properties. The basketball arena at his alma mater, Tulane, and a section of an interstate running through Memphis are named in Fogelman's honor. For years he has maintained one of the largest individual sports memorabilia collections (soon to be permanently displayed at Rhodes College in Memphis), including the uniform worn by George Brett when he stroked his 3,000th hit, Barry Bonds' uniform from his 500th home run, a baseball signed by Albert Einstein, and one of two '85 World Series trophies. Fogelman maintains a Memphis condo, but spends most of his retirement days in Boca Raton, Fl.

John Schuerholz, general manager, 69: Along with his mentor, the late Joe Burke, and front office ex Herk Robinson, Schuerholz was the architect behind the Royals' championship seasons. His decision to go with young, relatively untested power arms -- Bret Saberhagen, Danny Jackson and Mark Gubicza -- paid immediate dividends in '85. Also key was the off-season trade for veteran catcher Jim Sundberg, as well as the early season acquisition of Lonnie Smith. Some trace the Royals' dramatically decline to Schuerholz departure after the 1990 season to become GM of the Atlanta Braves, where the NL East club won 14 consecutive divisional titles and the '95 World Series. Elevated to team president in 2007; penned the book, "Built To Win''; major contributor to his alma mater, Towson University, where the baseball facility bears his name; one of his former Atlanta assistants, Dayton Moore, is the latest Royals' general manager.

Dick Howser, manager, deceased: Howser guided the Royals with a confident, patient hand, finishing 91-71 to win the AL West in 1985 before an impressive post-season run. He was often described as soft-spoken, but Howser was a spunky character who didn't back down from umpires or players in his own clubhouse. Late in the 1981 strike-shorten season, the Royals hired Howser to take over the listless club from Jim Frey. Ironically, the year before, Howser won 103 games with the New York Yankees, only to be swept by the Royals in the ALCS -- and not be retained by the late George Steinbrenner. Howser became ill while managing the 1986 All-Star Game in Houston. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and never managed another game. He passed away at the age of 51 on June 17, 1987. The Royals retired his uniform No. 10. Each spring, the Dick Howser Trophy -- the equivalent of football's Heisman Trophy -- is awarded the nation's top collegiate baseball player.

Steve Balboni, first base, 53: The burly former prized New York Yankees prospect hit a franchise record 36 homers during the championship season, and his ninth-inning single keyed a comeback win in Game 6 of the World Series. He went on to play for Seattle, Texas and the Yankees before retiring after the '93 season. He lives in New Jersey and scouts for the San Francisco Giants.

Joe Beckwith, reliever, 55: The right-hander worked 49 during games the championship season, plus two scoreless innings in the World Series. After baseball, he retired to his native Auburn, Ala., where as a collegian he was a second round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He works in sales and marketing for a concrete company owned by Paul Bryant Jr., son of the legendary Alabama football coach, Bear Bryant.

Buddy Biancalana, shortstop, 50: The most unlikely of World Series heroes, Biancalana took over the shortstop job the final 15 games of the season and played error-free through the post-season. The lifetime .205 hitter batted .278 in the series and had the game-winner in Game 5 against St. Louis. His 15 minutes of fame led to a late-night seat alongside David Letterman. After a series of minor league coaching and managerial stints, Biancalana co-founded PMPM Sports, a firm consulting with athletes on the mental approach to the game. He lives in Fairfield, Iowa, and has a forthcoming book titled "The Seven Secrets of World Class Athletes.''

Bud Black, starting pitcher, 53: The lefty pitcher has emerged as one of the game's top managers since taking over the low-budget San Diego Padres before the 2006 season. Previously, he made his mark as pitching coach for the Angels, including a World Series title in 2002. Black was a 10-game winner for the '85 Royals, making five post-season appearances. He and fellow lefthander Charlie Leibrandt solidified the young staff.

George Brett, third base, 57: The face of the franchise, Brett enjoyed a monster '85 season -- .335, 30 HR, 112 RBI, as well as Gold Glove -- and was equally as productive in the post-season. He was MVP of the American League Championship Series against Toronto and went on to hit .370 in the World Series, highlighted by a four-hit night in Game 7. The numbers kept rolling after the Series, as Brett finished his career with a third batting title, 3,154 hits -- the most by a third baseman -- and induction to the Hall of Fame. In retirement, he and his older brother, Bobby, started a baseball equipment company -- Brett Bros. -- and have an ownership stake in several minor league franchises. He was part of a group that made a failed bid to purchase the Royals in 1998. He remains with the club, however, as a vice president and serves as a special instructor during spring training.

Onix Concepcion, infielder, 52: Signed as a 17-year-old out of Puerto Rico and later a member of KC's two World Series teams -- '80 and '85. Played 131 games during '85 season, but gave way at shortstop in the postseason to Buddy Biancalana. Lives in Deltona, Fla. His daughter, Dinelia, was a scholarship volleyball player at South Carolina.

Steve Farr, reliever, 53: Farr worked in just 16 regular season games, seeing action out of the bullpen in two playoffs games against Toronto. The second-year reliever went on to a successful career with the Royals and later the Yankees. His breakthrough came in '88 when he saved 20 games for the Royals. Over a three-year stretch in the early '90s, Farr saved 78 games for the Yankees. He lives in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Mark Gubicza, starting pitcher, 47: In only his second big-league season, Gubicza was one of the "Young Guns" and went 14-10 as an '85 starter. He pitched to the level of an all-star in 1988 and 1989, finishing third in '88 Cy Young Award balloting (20-8, 2.70). He earned a spot in the Royals Hall of Fame. He lives in California and is a member of the Angels broadcast team.

Dane Iorg, utility, 60: Iorg had only two at-bats in the World Series, but his second -- a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning of Game 6 against Cardinals closer Todd Worrell -- brought home the game winning run. Iorg proved a valuable reserve during the season, able to play both the field and outfield. He'd come over from St. Louis in the off-season and previously won a World Series ring in '82 with the Cardinals. He lives in Utah.

Danny Jackson, starting pitcher, 48: While the MVP went to Bret Saberhagen, there is no World Series title without the then 23-year-old Jackson. The Royals were down three games to one and facing elimination when he shutout the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 5 of the ALCS. Then, facing elimination again in Game 5 of the World Series, Jackson went the distance in a 6-1 win at St. Louis. Two years later, the front office had tired of Jackson's intense and at times combustible demeanor, shipping him to Cincinnati for Kurt Stillwell and Angel Salazar. It was a rare mistake for GM John Schuerholz as Jackson was an All-Star in 1988 [23-8, 2.73 ERA] and 1994. He earned another World Series ring in 1990 with Cincinnati and also pitched for Philadelphia in the '93 World Series. He resides with his family in suburban Kansas City and owns a local bowling alley/entertainment complex.

Lynn Jones, utility, 57: Bright, professorial-type who was backup outfielder and key bench player. Won another World Series ring as first base coach for the 2004 Boston Red Sox, which also ended "Curse of Bambino'' dating to 1918. He was elected to Thiel College (Pa.) Hall of Fame in 1987. He remains active as an instructor in the Braves minor league system.

Mike Jones, reliever, 51: The likeable left-hander appeared in 33 games during the season, all but one out of the bullpen. A former first-round pick, the 6-6 Jones was projected as a frontline starter, but he broke his neck in a one-car accident after the 1981 season and never met the expectations. He finished up his pro career in 1990 pitching for his hometown Rochester Red Wings.

Charlie Leibrandt, starting pitcher, 53: Enjoyed his finest pro season while solidifying a young staff in '85, going 17-9 with a 2.69 ERA. After a trade to the Atlanta Braves in '90, the lefty continued to pitch well and again mentored young hurlers in Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, both of whom went on to Hall of Fame-type careers. Leibrandt lives in the Atlanta area. He was the pitching coach on the Marist baseball team that won a state high school championship this spring.

Dennis Leonard, starting pitcher, 59: Leonard had been a dominant, staff workhorse in the late 1970s and early '80s before rupturing the patellar tendon in his left knee early in the '83 season. He missed the entire '84 season and began his inspirational comeback late in the '85 championship run with two appearances. He retired after pitching 192 innings in '86 and still lives in the Kansas City area.

Hal McRae, designated hitter, 65: The respected clubhouse leader could only sit and watch as the designated-hitter rule wasn't in play for the '85 World Series, though McRae's influence on veterans and young players alike remained immense. He helped define the DH role during his 14 seasons in Kansas City. Earlier in the '85 season, his son, Brian, was selected by the Royals in the first-round of the amateur draft. In '91, McRae stepped in to manage the Royals and posted winning records in three of his four seasons. His firing in '94, with the club standing 64-51, looms even larger in light of the franchise's futility over the ensuing seasons. McRae landed another managerial shot with Tampa Bay [2001-02] and also served as hitting coach with several teams after his playing days, retiring from baseball after the 2009 season with St. Louis. He earned another World Series ring as a coach in 2006 with the Cardinals. He lives in Bradenton, Fla.

Darryl Motley, outfielder, 50: Got Kansas City on the board with a two-run blast off John Tudor in Game 7 of the World Series. He later caught the final out of the series. His big-league career ended after the '87 season with Atlanta, though he hung around the game until he was 42 -- playing in Japan, Mexico and independent leagues. Lives in Orlando and works as a personal trainer.

Jorge Orta, utility, 59: His pinch-hit single leading off the ninth inning of Game 6, which the Royals won 2-1 to keep the Series alive, remains one of the most controversial plays in baseball history. First base umpire Don Denkinger blew the call, but overlooked is Orta's hustle down the line. Orta has remained in the game as a coach or instructor since retiring as a Royal in 1987. He's currently a hitting instructor in the Cincinnati Reds organization.

Greg Pryor, utility, 60: Key reserve infielder after joining the club in '82. He enjoys a place in baseball history as the last player drafted by the former Washington Senators to play in the majors. He owns a sports marketing company (Sports-Aholic Inc.) as well as a nutritional supplements company (Life Priority) in the Kansas City area. Best-known supplement customer is umpire Don Denkinger, remembered for his controversial World Series call.

Jamie Quirk, utility, 55: A former first-round pick, Quirk had only one at-bat in the '85 post-season, but he was a valuable utility man/backup catcher who played 18 big-league seasons. His name pops up occasionally as a managerial candidate. He began his coaching career in '94 as the Royals bullpen coach, a role he fills this season for the Houston Astros. He's also served as a bench coach in Kansas City and Colorado, with the Rockies for the 2007 World Series.

Dan Quisenberry, reliever, deceased: Around the clubhouse, Quiz was an all-around good guy known for his dry humor and witty lines, while from 1980-85 performing as one of the game's dominant closers. He didn't overpower hitters with his quirky submarine-style, but led the American League in saves five times thanks to pinpoint control and deception. In '85, his last dominant season, he recorded 37 saves and worked a career-high 84 games. His performance soon went into decline and the Royals released him during the '88 season. Quisenberry began a second career as a poet, publishing three poems in 1995 and a book of poetry titled "On Days Like This'' in 1998. Later that year, in September, he passed away at the age of 45 from brain cancer -- the same disease that claimed Royals manager Dick Howser a decade earlier.

Bret Saberhagen, starting pitcher, 46: Things couldn't go any better than they did for Saberhagen in '85. As a 21-year-old, he captured the Cy Young Award (20-6, 2.87), the World Series MVP (two complete games, including a Game 7 shutout) and his then wife gave birth to his son, Drew, the day before Game 7. He was the toast of the sporting world and making the late-night talk show rounds. After another Cy Young in '89 and a no-hitter two years later, he was traded to the New York Mets and later pitched in Colorado and Boston, compiling a 167-117 career record. These days, Saberhagen works for the Pasadena, Calif.-based firm of West Coast Sports Management, headed by former L.A. Dodgers GM Dan Evans. His son, Drew, a former left-handed college pitcher is a grad assistant at Tennessee.

Pat Sheridan, outfielder, 52: The left-handed hitting Sheridan platooned in right with Darryl Motley. Sheridan hit two home runs in the playoff series with Toronto. After leaving Kansas City, he returned to the post-season with his hometown Detroit Tigers ('87) and played for the San Francisco Giants in the '89 World Series. The late Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell helped him land a post-baseball job selling property insurance in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Lonnie Smith, outfielder, 54: The Royals picked up the speedy, hard-nosed leftfielder and good luck charm in a May 17, 1985, trade with St. Louis. Smith had previously played on World Series champs in Philadelphia ('80) and St. Louis ('82), as well as later being a part of playoff winners in Atlanta. Against his old team in the '85 Series, Smith batted .333 and stole two bases. His career appeared over after the '87 season, but Bobby Cox signed him to a minor-league deal in Atlanta and he proved a key player as the Braves began their playoff run. He lives in an Atlanta suburb.

Jim Sundberg, catcher, 59: Regarded as one of the best defensive catchers of his era, Sundberg came in a trade before the '85 season. His veteran experience proved invaluable for a staff led by second-year starters Saberhagen, Gubicza and Jackson. Sundberg contributed offensively with a bases-clearing triple off Dave Stieb in Game 7 of the American league playoffs. The longtime Texas Ranger is a member of the team's Hall of Fame and serves as a senior executive VP with the AL club.

John Wathan, utility, 60: After several years as the regular catcher, Wathan, then 35, played behind newly acquired Sundberg. He had one at-bat in the Series and retired after the Royals victory. Late in the '87 season, Wathan was promoted from Triple A to manage his old club. He compiled a 287-270 mark over parts of five seasons. He's held several positions since returning to the Royals in '96, most recently the title of special assistant scouting/player development.

Frank White, second base, 59: With Hal McRae on the bench because the DH wasn't used, White hit cleanup and joined Jackie Robinson as the only second baseman to do so in World Series history. White earned a reputation as a defensive icon in winning eight Gold Glove Awards, but picked up his offense with 22 regular-season home runs in '85. He led all hitters in the Series with six RBIs. Today, White has his No. 20 retired and a bronze statue of him -- as well as Brett and Howser -- sits in the plaza beyond the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium. White is a Royals' senior advisor and color TV analyst.

Willie Wilson, center fielder, 55: Wilson, who played the game with an intense chip on his shoulder, had the best speed and raw athletic skills on the team. He turned down a football scholarship to Maryland after being drafted in the first round by the Royals. After a miserable 1980 Series highlighted by 12 Ks, Wilson hit .367 from the leadoff spot in '85. The Royals released him after the 1990 season and he retired four years later following stints with the Oakland A's and Chicago Cubs. He was elected to the Royals Hall of Fame in 2000. The '85 Royals unofficial social chairman, his Willie Wilson Baseball Foundation hosted a charitable softball game of ex-Royals and Cardinals in May.