Former Royals great Amos Otis — A.O. to loving Kansas City fans who chanted his name for 13 years — earned many accolades in his professional life, as a multi-year All-Star and Gold Glove center fielder.
But on Friday, A.O, now 70 and speaking by telephone from his home in Las Vegas, said that it touched him deeply to know that a single act of kindness that came naturally to him 40 years ago might have changed a life for the better.
“That put me on top of the world,” Otis said.
The act, recalled in a Kansas City Star story this week, occurred on Sept. 12, 1977, that day of the storied “Plaza flood.” It was the day 16 inches of water swamped Kansas City in 24 hours, taking the lives of 25 people and sending cars toppling down roads turned into coursing rivers.
On that night, with a game against the Oakland A’s canceled, Otis came upon eight wet, cold, hungry boys at the Holiday Inn near Royals Stadium. His decision to come to their aid — putting them in his white Lincoln Continental, taking them to eat and letting them crash at his home, even driving them to their parents the next day — was never forgotten by one of the boys, Richard Brown, who was 14 then. Now 54, he is a Missouri state representative from Kansas City who prepared a proclamation on the anniversary of the flood, thanking and honoring Otis as a Good Samaritan and humanitarian.
Brown, who had been a Kansas City public schoolteacher for 24 years, said he never forgot how Otis helped the children. He would have wanted someone to do as much for his own kids had they been stranded.
“I was doing what any other dad would have done,” Otis said Friday. “It’s just something I did as a father.”
Brown said he patterned his treatment of students on Otis’ example.
“You imagine, as years go by, you think people might forget about it,” Otis said. “One of the highs in life is to know you influenced someone like that.”
Otis said that he and his agent are trying to arrange a time, perhaps Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of the flood, when Otis might come to Kansas City to accept the proclamation and meet Brown and any of the other boys from that night, all of whom would now be middle-aged men.
Otis said he also remembered the night very well.
“Forty years is a lot of years,” Otis said. “To begin with, I know the game that night was canceled because of lightning and thunder, and it started to rain like crazy. I know, sitting in the dugout, it was raining so hard the scoreboard was a blur. … I decided to just go across the street to the Holiday Inn to have a drink until after the weather let up.”
His family, he said, had already returned to Virginia so his children could be back for the beginning of school.
“As I was going into the hotel, I saw these eight or nine kids sitting there soaking wet and cold and shivering and it was still raining. I tried to get them to come inside. Security wouldn’t let them in. I tried to go get hotel rooms for them, but they wouldn’t do that because I wasn’t their parents.”
“So, I decided to not have a drink and take them home with me.”
Otis talked about calling their parents to let them know and then driving to buy them some food.
At his home in the Candlewood Apartments near Interstate 70 and Woods Chapel Road, he let them watch television, play cards and stay up until 4 a.m. chatting. They slept on his floor, box springs, couch and mattresses. That morning he drove them home, or as close to home as the storm debris allowed.
“I would want someone to do the same for my child,” Otis said. “If he was stranded out there like that and couldn’t get home, I would be worried to death. It was just something, as a father, it struck me I should do it. And I did.”
Otis said, “I think I’ll probably show up and get the plaque. It will go right next to the one Frank White gave me last year.”
He called White, a former teammate and now Jackson County executive, one of his greatest baseball friends. White last year honored Otis and presented him with a plaque on Aug. 5, designating that day as Amos Otis Day.