He’s one of the original Kansas City Royals, a name in their late-season box scores of that 1969 season and eventually a go-to workhorse on the pitching staff.
Al Fitzmorris looks back and relishes those days. Sure, he just missed the opportunity to pitch for the Royals’ first postseason teams, having been acquired in the 1976 expansion draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. But he still knows he built what came to be.
“Cedric Talis ought to be in the Royals Hall of Fame,” Fitzmorris said of the former Royals general manager. “All of a sudden, we were a formidable ballclub from ’72 on.”
Fitzmorris offered those words Tuesday evening at Tiffany Greens Golf Course, where several names in the Kansas City sports community participated in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame’s Celebrity Golf Classic.
The event, presented by St. Joseph-based Hillyard Inc., had a heavy Royals presence. Among the names were Freddie Patek, shortstop on their great teams of the 1970s, and pitcher Tom Burgmeier, an original Royal who worked in relief of the season-opening victory of 1969.
These days, Fitzmorris is still giving back to the game. He’s coaching a team of 15-year-olds as well as his two grandsons. He’s also giving of his time to the Hall.
And, yes, he’s watching these Royals. Happy for them. They remind him those early Royals teams, just for their sheer grit.
Fitzmorris was with the Royals from 1969 to 1976, earning 70 victories, including 42 between 1974 to 1976. He freely admits that he butted heads with managers Jack McKeon and Whitey Herzog, but learned to compete thanks to both.
“These guys, like us, are coming into their own,” Fitzmorris said. “They finally figured out they’ve got a good club. They’ve got a lot of talent. I think it’s the best defensive club in baseball.”
Burgmeier loves these Royals, too. Of course, he was one of the first Royals, summoned into relief duty on that very first night and again the next. Both led to wins.
“This is a better team, no ifs and or buts,” Burgmeier said. “It’s good for the city. It’s not luck.”
The event also drew former Chiefs kicker Jan Stenerud and Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Kendrick is facing a big week, with the Salute the Negro Leagues weekend both at the museum and Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s been a wonderful 25 years,” Kendrick said of the museum. “It doesn’t seem like it.”