Mr. K brings the Royals, and a World Series title, to KC

08/13/2014 12:02 PM

08/17/2014 7:11 PM

Mr. K and the fans

In 1968, Ewing Kauffman, encouraged by his wife, Muriel, purchased Kansas City’s expansion franchise in the American League. He’d worked as a pharmaceutical salesman and made his fortune after forming Marion Laboratories.

Kauffman was an innovator. He created the Royal Lancers, a team of boosters who were charged with selling season tickets. He started the Royals Baseball Academy, where athletes were trained in baseball. Future Royals star second baseman Frank White was its most prominent graduate.

But what former Royals and baseball reporter Del Black remembers about Kauffman was how he interacted with fans.

Yankee roadblock

With a 28-year postseason drought, cheering for the Royals can be a frustrating experience. But when Black covered the team in the 1970s, the letdown came in a different form. The Royals had conquered the division by 1976, but for three straight seasons they were denied a World Series appearance by one team.

“It was always against the Yankees,” said Black, 79, who worked at The Star during 1963-80, covering primarily baseball.

Seeds of success

But the climb was fun, especially in 1975, when Whitey Herzog replaced Jack McKeon. Herzog was the fifth Royals manager in the team’s first seven years, and two of the first four — Bob Lemon and McKeon — had winning seasons. But the Royals were constantly looking for the right formula. For the first time, in 1976, the search paid off in a division title.

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